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Avengers vs E.Ts in Kolkata! 

(Written during Dol/Holi or the Color Festival)

Today I was set upon by the Avengers! Well, a smaller, local variety of the famous Marvel Comics group of superheroes. I wasn't surprised, since the Avengers do have a 'Calcutta' connection in the form of Dr Bruce Banner or the (in)famous Green Hulk. As I've mentioned, these were smaller (less than 4 ft) versions of them.

In the thick of the 'Holi' war, when colors flew fast and erratic, and no piece of garment/skin/moustache or eyebrow was left intact in its original hue, I had dared to enter a neighboring territory. I was already unrecognizable, looking like a macaw in shades of blue, purple, orange, green, red, yellow and... and... Well, I hope you get the picture. I was accompanied by my own group of neighbors, and the 'Avenger's probably thought I was Loki!

Until then, my attire was dry, albeit color smeared. For the battle had been mainly fought with Abeer (colored, fragrant powder). But the Avengers changed all of that. In a few seconds of concerted attack, I was left dripping, sputtering and in a shade of deep purple. And half-blind too, since my specs weren't spared either.

They were wearing water tanks on their back, connected by piping to sinister looking water guns. And these were loaded to the brim with colored water. There were about five of them, three boys and a couple of girls. The girls were the tallest of the group, and I estimated none were over the age of eight. The  youngest was probably four. Two were wearing specs, and one had a large gap between upper, front teeth. Surprisingly though, apart from this 3.5 feet guy who had a touch of green abeer down his face (I presumed he was Green Hulk),  they looked remarkably 'clean'. I soon realized why.

I took off my specs and attempted to make these transparent again, wiping on my shirt. They got further smeared in wet abeer. The rest of my group, the Chitauris or the hostile extraterrestrials the Avengers seemed to bent upon exterminating, weren't in great shape either. We were all sputtering and dripping, and blindly groping about, even as the Avengers gleefully watched our plight. 

However, I did recover after a while. Slowly and deliberately, I took out my own ammunition - a little pouch of red abeer. The Avengers looked visibly impressed. Another pouch, in which I had secretly stashed sweets I had received at my neighbors', fell out.

During 'Dol Yatra', we visit the neighbors. Not being a gated community, there's no central place to assemble and play Holi. The group gains in strength as more join us. At each door we are plied with sweets. Sweets of all color, shape and make. Of course, its impossible to eat it all, and not wanting to hurt sentiments, this was my secret solution. But now, the secret was out.

Undaunted, I looked at my enemy, withdrew a bit of that fragrant abeer (from the other pouch) and stepped forward. In a wild cacophony of piercing cries, the enemy turned and fled - chicken! No Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow... not even the indomitable Green Hulk, stood their ground to fight the invading Chitauris. Ha!

But even Avengers have their bosses. The modus operandi so far was to hit and run, and then hide behind parents - the rear guard. This explained why the Avengers still looked relatively clean/recognizable. Until then, these neighbors were standing and smiling. Now they stopped the fleeing superheroes, turned them around, and sternly instructed - 'Jao, jao, kakuder theke abeer niye esho!' Translated: 'Go and take abeer from the uncles (and aunts)'. So the little troop of Avengers had to return (somewhat deflated), and literally 'face' the abeer :). They did it with true superhero fortitude, I have to admit. Afterwards, the Avengers became our friends.

One of them even showed me his awesome arsenal - an orange-colored, tri-chambered plastic tank tied to his back, connected to a water gun. He explained the dual control mechanism. It can shoot water jets in parallel. At the turn of a lever, these jets become divergent - lethal! Probably what got my poor 70 year old neighbor straight in the mouth!

However, it was all in good fun, and after some more 'secret stashing' of sweets, and neighborly bonhomie, we departed Avenger-land.

Kolkata, Mar '15



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