Burrabazar is to Holi what Eden Gardens is to cricket in Calcutta. That’s where it all seems to begin and end.
Reason enough for me to find out more about the preparations on Holi eve. As I entered the heart of Burrabazar, there seemed to be so many different ranks of stores, starting from those selling very cheap blocks of powder, alongside very cheap squeezi-bottles and water pistols.
These seemed to be very much for the novice; the frequenters of these shops were certainly not the sort to go prowling around the streets looking for somebody to soak pink.
No, the real specialist shops were buried far deeper in Burrabazar, where the blocks of powder got bigger, and the colour more garish.
The real centre of this whirling maelstrom of colour greeted us when I looked at the shirt of one of my colleagues to see that it was entirely splattered in pink.
Where on earth could that have come from' I would surely have noticed somebody splashing paint on his back.
And then I looked down and realised that my favourite T-shirt had also taken on a new hue. Where on earth was this coming from'
It dawned on us when we heard a shuffling above the din of the ground. Some enterprising (or would that be annoying/delinquent') kids had bought a load of powder, and decided to bathe all passersby in pink dye.
Because of the rain drops, one was unaware that anything suspect might be hitting your head, until the raindrops trickled, and betrayed what was happening. But nobody really seemed to care.
There is one shop that holds a special place in the Holi trade, and that is Partabmull Gobindram, on Purushottam Roy Street. When we approached the shop, it was very evident that we were approaching the Holi Mothership.
All the ‘dye-hard’ pros were inspecting the goods on offer, with every colour imaginable (and some) being sold.
The highly-enlivened shop assistants enthusiastically asked us if we wanted a sample. An uninspiring dark green blob was placed on my palm. With a bit of water, the green blob ran that familiar deep purple, and then, to my surprise, took on a golden characteristic.
The shop has been around for a mere 108 years, selling dyes and medicines throughout the year, save a few weeks in spring, when it completely changes gear in the run-up to Holi. Each colour varies in price, starting from Rs 80 for 100 gm for the greens. Liz Hurley would be happy to note that the most popular pick for Holi remains pink (the theme colour for her wedding).
How many tonnes of colour will the shop sell' “We can’t tell you how much, but it will definitely be 70 per cent of the city market share... Happy Holi, sir,” mumbled a shop assistant, audibly and visibly on a pre-Holi high.