On most days Ketki Shah and her husband Shailesh are immersed in their furniture business. Except for the last Sunday of every month. That’s when they wake up at the crack of dawn to join a group of people known as the Bombay Hash House Harriers. The day’s agenda: to run about seven kilometres and celebrate the success of that effort by guzzling vast quantities of beer (or any other beverage of choice).
For those not in the know, the Bombay Hash House Harriers (BHHH) is a branch of The Hash House Harriers, an organisation that was formed in Malaysia in the 1930s. The BHHH was founded in 1983.
The group has since grown and accommodates people from a wide variety of backgrounds, age groups and professions. For instance, the oldest ‘hasher’ in the Bombay chapter is an enthusiastic 85-year-old.
Mind you, the hashers are not just beer fans who will do anything for a drink. They don’t take their running and drinking lightly.
“For me the hash run is a priority,” says Porus Chinoy, who has been with the group since January 2003.
Chinoy avoids taking on any engagements on run days if he can. In fact, he is the official ‘hash horn’ and ‘hash cash’ — he blows the bugle to assemble everyone before the run and is in charge of the group’s finances. He’s part of the ‘mismanagement’, hasher-speak for management.
But don’t let such amusing terms mislead you— hashers may have fun names and funnier monikers but they are serious about hashing. “You have to be serious about being part of the group,” points out Ketki Shah, whose two sons were also part of the group till they went abroad.
For one, being a BHHH member means requires you to be committed enough to wake up early on weekends and go for long runs. It also requires a love of the outdoors and a sense of humour.
When they join the pack, hashers are christened with names based on their personality. Ketki was named Bonsai, due to her diminutive size, Shailesh has been dubbed ‘shining’ due to his bald pate. And Chinoy? “Baby d***,” he says without batting an eyelid.
The hashers also have traditions —they have an anthem they sing at every hash run, and a collection of hash songs they like to sing aloud. “We have what are called ceremonies,” explains Shah. One of these includes selecting certain people to sit on an ice block and drink their beer. The group may include ‘virgins’ (first-time hashers) or SCBs (short cutting b*****s who choose to run a shorter route than the one laid out).
Though drinking beer is part of the tradition, it’s not a die-hard rule. “We have a mix of juices, water and beer. You can drink whatever you please,” says Shah. This is probably what enables the BHHH to become a family hash. “This way everyone can run,” says Shah. Besides running, Mumbai’s 250 hashers also meet to party and celebrate festivals.
So how does one join? Contact the BHHH, pay a nominal fee and join them on their next run (on October 25) . “But we don’t want just anyone to join. The person should be ready for fun and be a dedicated hasher too,” says Shah.
Want to hash? Get out your running shoes and beer kegs. As the hashers like to say, “On… on!”
(To contact the Bombay Hash House Harriers call Ketki Shah on 9821431566)
This weekly column examines the diversity of urban communities