Illustration by Prianka Jain
Holi may be that one day on which grubby hands smearing gulal (coloured powder) all over your face alongside being attacked by water guns, is socially acceptable. But let’s face it: The best part about this attitude of acceptance is that it extends towards ‘bhang’, a cannabis-based product that is legally sold in certain parts of India. The marijuana mixture is most commonly consumed on this holi-day as a milkshake called thandai with nuts, spices and herbs mixed together for max intoxication.
While cannabis continues to be illegal in India, there’s a legal loophole when it comes to bhang. Since it is usually made of the leaves of the cannabis plant and not its bud, it gets away with being a government approved substance as also being socially acceptable in the name of religious fervour. Whether you’ve come across it in amazing scenes and songs, or seen random colour-soaked uncles dance while tripping on it at your neighbourhood Holi party, bhang is almost an inseparable part of every Holi celebration. But being bhang-ed up is no joke: The trip is different from most drugs and perhaps most closely resembles an experience on edibles. Shit can get weird: You can laugh for hours, feel a sense of disassociation with your body and may even stay high for hours or days after. Here are stories of trips that will truly make you say, “Holi shit.”
My cousins and I did it at their home. We tripped together, laughed together and even threw up together. I was laughing so hard while puking that at one point, my uncle came to console me because he thought I was crying. I was then convinced that I was a tree and every time I stretched my arms out, I would see leaves and branches emerge from them. Meanwhile, my cousin kept climbing stairs, without realising she was already at the top. My cook had to help me drink water because I thought my hand would simply go through the glass. I felt like I was in an old ’70s film and that my hand could go through anything as if even solid things were translucent. We ran around my colony like zombies. The next day, I kept giggling throughout—even while at work. —Nandita, 32
I WAS CONVINCED I WAS A TREE
In my second year of college, my friends and I—who had never done any drugs—tried bhang-based thandai for the first time. I must have drunk about 100ml, but the high hit me hard and lasted for some 48 hours. All of us began to experience time dilation, as if each second had slowed down. I even drove for about a kilometre, except the drive took an hour and a half in my mind. We stopped at a grocery store to buy munchies and were chewing quite loudly, so I got paranoid and thought we were yelling and being too conspicuous. Then there was dead silence, which also felt too suspicious to our bhang-fucked brains. So we decided to talk a “normal” amount to not get caught, without realising that since it was Holi, no legal action would be taken anyway. —Abhijit*, 27
I DROVE FOR A KILOMETRE BUT IT TOOK AN HOUR AND A HALF IN MY HEAD
I tried it at a Holi party in college and since I don’t smoke up, the high was incredibly unfamiliar and intense. It hit me during a random rain dance event I was attending and suddenly, the water I could catch in the palm of my hands seemed like forms of plasma. As the high progressed, I started believing that each breath of mine was coming out solid, and that I needed to swallow to be able to breathe. I could even taste colour, and I don’t mean the Holi colour that everyone was rubbing on each other, but I could literally feel the colour of each food item in my mouth. —Sanjana*, 21
I COULD TASTE COLOUR
My friends and I were going for a Holi music festival, so we decided to gulp down a few glasses of bhang before going. We were underage and couldn’t get alcohol at the music festival so the bhang was our only hope to keep spirits high. Except it never hit and I left the festival, feeling disappointed. I was heading home in a rickshaw when all of a sudden, the driver crashed it into a wall, and the rickshaw overturned. And as luck would have it, the bhang hit me just around that time. My knee was bleeding a lot and I was even rushed to the hospital, except that I had erupted into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. I continued laughing hysterically, even while I was being given an injection and being stitched up. Meanwhile, the doctor, who had no idea that I was as high as a fucking kite, was showering me with praises for being a “brave girl” and not crying. —Shanaya*, 22
I LAUGHED HYSTERICALLY WHILE IN A HOSPITAL
In 12th grade, my friend and I went to Varanasi for national-level athletics training but also with an added agenda: to try bhang for the first time. We had no idea what bhang was and what effect it would have on us, just that it smelt like fresh cowdung. We didn’t even know how to roll or smoke it, but decided to fuck the technique and try it at a team dinner at a McDonalds. I placed my order at the counter and had to go pee, except I just couldn’t find the toilet and walked around the mall in circles for an hour. I was so high that my eyes rolled back into my head, and I felt like I was falling. When we got back to our hotel, my friend reminded me that I still hadn’t peed. I ran to the toilet, took my pants off and just stood there, realising that I had forgotten how to pee! Meanwhile, I thought my friend had fallen asleep, even though he was actually awake and just whispering shit at me. I whispered back and we had an entire conversation while weird Nokia ad jingles played on the TV in the background. —Chucky, 23
I FORGOT HOW TO PEE
In my early days as an actor, my make-up artist gave me a bottle of bhang and said I must try it. As someone who had only just begun drinking alcohol, I was quite shut off to trying it. But it looked like masala milk, so I thought he was bullshitting me and drank the whole thing. Next thing I know, my mind was playing games on me. My mind and body got detached and I started hallucinating and seeing a lot of scary things. Even my bed and table became distorted objects. I tried to sleep it off but had weird dreams and kept waking up with an uncomfortable feeling. My trip lasted three days, or so I thought. I had an important shoot with Govinda and since it had been days, I decided to go for it and even learnt all my lines properly. But every time the camera would start rolling, I would totally blank out. I decided to stick to alcohol after this incident. —Simran*, 57* Names changed on requestFollow Shamani Joshi on Instagram.
I HAD A TRIP THAT LASTED THREE DAYS