July 07, 2020
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Colours Of Peace

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Colours Of Peace
I had last visited Shantiniketan during my student days in Calcutta, which was long ago. Ever since, every time I planned a visit, something went wrong. This time I thought that if I landed on friends and relatives in Calcutta around Holi the timing would be perfect, because they all hot-foot it to Shantiniketan for what Bengalis call Dol. The cultivated Bengali (aren't they all?) calls it the most civilised Holi in India. Academics, artists, writers, sedate housewives—Calcutta doesn't yet have Page 3s—but their equivalents from its society, all make a dash to Shantiniketan for Dol. Like Delhiwallahs who used to go to Goa for Christmas before they discovered the Maldives. "None of your getting doused with permanent colour by louts out in the streets, or stones flung at the windows of passing cars," said my relatives, "Of course, it's a little mild and even precious, the girls act as if they are dancing in Chitrangada before they respectfully spray you, but it's just right for a weekend. The drive is only two-and-a-half hours and the langchas (a favourite Bengali sweet) on the way are out of this world."

I have a knack for missing the bus, in this case a friend's car which didn't have an extra seat, and started biting my nails in frustration as my sister and friends set off in high spirits one afternoon with a long list of presents to bring back for my friends in Delhi. Shantiniketan's gawa (cow's milk) ghee is, of course, the best in the world. I can personally vouch for that. You can still get genuine Bengali folk art, and even their leather jholas with fussy patterns—which once used to be the rage of Janpath—have been updated to sleek modish ones with just a dash of colour here and there. "Good enough even for evenings," promised my sister. "Bring half-a-dozen for my women friends," I shouted, as the car drove off.

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