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Holi days at school

chandigarh Updated: Mar 07, 2015 10:32 IST
Rakesh Chopra

I'm not a big fan of Holi but today I can't help going back to my boarding school days at Sujanpur Tihra in Himachal Pradesh where the celebrations are still a grand affair.

The grandeur associated with the Festival of Colours in this nondescript town situated on the left bank of the Beas is not without reason as it has a bit of history attached to it. Sansar Chand, the ruler of Kangra, would descend on the majestic chaughan of Sujanpur from his nearby Tihra fort atop a hill and celebrate the occasion with his family and courtiers. A huge tank of coloured water was filled and the royalty would mingle with the common man on this occasion.

To keep alive the memory of those days, a state-level Holi fair is organised in the town every year. And that is what we used to look forward to during the seven years spent at the school in the '80s. Our routine at the Sainik School was pretty hectic. We got opportunities to unwind but they were few and far between. So the four-day fair was a godsend for us.

We would have our classes, followed by lunch in the school mess, and then were free to visit the fair. The town has a 1-sq km lush ground in the centre and the fair would spread to almost half of it. There used to be shops of all hues, giant wheels and merry-go-rounds and a mini-circus besides different stalls where you could put your skills to use and win a prize or two. At a small lottery, one could win a hundred rupees, a princely sum in those days, by spending a few paise. Though I never got lucky, the moment gave me ample respite from the humdrum life of school.

Those few moments on the fair days were our happiest hours. In groups of two to three, with a few rupees in our pockets, we would start from the school situated in one corner of the chaughan and mingle with the crowd on the other. We ate to our heart's content, had repeated gos at the merry-go-round and bought an odd souvenir. In the evenings, there would be musical nites where lesser-known singers from Bollywood performed.

Now, I work for a newspaper, where we have a day off on Holi. I don't like playing with colours and prefer to stay indoors but the memories of those Holi days will always be special. And I owe them to the great Katoch ruler. rakesh.chopra@hindustantimes.com (The writer is an assistant news editor with Hindustan Times)