As much as I hate to admit, I’ve mostly spent my childhood as a goody-two-shoes girl, barely toeing the line. Well almost. My parents are hardworking Catholics with a stiff upper lip that have mellowed a centimetre over the twenty odd years. My friends have always been under close scrutiny and because I studied in the same school where my mother was the primary headmistress, I’ve pretty much had to put on a polite and good front to be held up as an example of a perfect student, a teacher’s daughter. So basically I’ve barely had a private life that escaped my parents, and was always carted to tuitions back and forth with them. In short, I had zero freedom.
Cut to my first day in hostel, bidding my tearful parents goodbye. Away from home, from family, I spent my first night in a strange city alone in my room. Yet I never felt homesick for the four years I lived in Pune. Except when I craved for my mum’s homecooked food. So effectively, at a rather late stage in life, I found an iota of freedom. At the end of the first year, my first Holi (festival of colours) in college, I decided to tread unchartered waters. Bhang, an edible form of cannabis, is widely consumed in India during this festival. It’s ground into pakoras (fritters) or thandai (milk-based drink) mostly. My mum had warned me not to accept anything to eat or drink on this day, but I thought differently. So on this blessed day, I holed up with a few friends who had a PG accommodation, and we filled an entire bucket with thandai, and tumbled in a number of Bhang pellets. What we didn’t know was that bhang doesn’t kick in instantaneously. It takes time, that can be sped up by consuming sweets. With our adrenaline buzzing, we lapped up glass after glass, hoping for some effect to produce itself. Disappointed, we trudged off back to the hostel. Lunch and a shower seemed so promising at the moment.
As is wont to happen, on festivals we were treated to sweets at the hostel mess, and luck behold, we found ourselves face to face with gulab jamuns. Greedy at the sight of food, we hogged like never before. I had four gulab jamuns, my friend R managed only two before she started to feel dizzy. We couldn’t stop laughing while she took a serpentine walk back to her room.
When I was safely ensconced in mine, my roommate was busy taking a shower. Her own sweet time. Grr. Well, I decided to oil my body hoping the barrage of colours would leave my skin unstained. The minute I was done oiling myself, my head gave a quick spin. My eyes lost their focus and it felt like I was on a merry-go-round, with bursts of psychedelic colours prancing about in the background. I clung on to my wrought iron bed. The cool metal felt good against my sweating hot skin. My roommate S stepped out of the shower. I couldn’t wait for her to leave so I could get the entire room to myself. To strip naked and bathe in peace. But that was not to be. S probably had a lunch date, she put on a white tennis dress and kept hogging the mirror. ‘Does this look good?’ she kept asking, while I sat hunched next to my bed. Oh heavens. I felt so sick. But S probably didn’t realise my predicament. Maybe, she too was high. Preening before the mirror, and taking excrutiating time to get done, I clung on to the bed a little tighter. I felt so angry at her. I felt like shoving her out of the room. My hot roommate didn’t need me to tell her she looked hot. Even if she were dressed in a pillow case like Dobby, she’d still look hot. But I just clung on, feeling like my world was spinning, and trying to not scream at S.
By the time she left, which seemed like forever, I managed to have my bath. My hands worked slower than normal, my reflexes definitely in slow motion, sitting on a stool with a bucket in one hand and the other propped against the wall to steady myself. Fresh, towelled dry and in clean clothes, I threw myself onto my bed and drifted off. It was late at night when we regrouped in the hostel mess for dinner. Trying to feed our exhausted bodies, we spent the night laughing at each other’s antics, definitely a memory to keep thinking about, getting nostalgic, and laughter bubbling up on the inside.