I actually have quite a few blog entries to make up for – I still haven’t written about going to Coorg again or my experiences in Pondicherry for the third time, or our trip to the beautiful Varkala, Kerala – however, yesterday was Holi and since it’s still so vivid, I decided I would write it about it instead this week.
Chances are that even if you think you don’t know what Holi is, you actually do. Just google it and you may realize just how often you’ve seen the archetypal “Indian” image – in movies, TV, music videos (my personal favorite is Regina Spektor’s “Fidelity”), even going to so far as to inspire events like the Color Run, a marathon wherein runners coat themselves in colored powders very, very similar to those seen in Holi celebrations in India.
Holi was on a Wednesday this year, which coincidentally happens to be the one day a week I don’t have classes! We had a leisurely morning, got coffee and followed stereotypical Indian time (constantly late) to a T, wandering around 4 neighborhoods and walking a good 2 or 3 km before finding Holi powders. Holi isn’t nearly as big of a holiday in the South of India as it is in the North, so it was more of a struggle to find celebrations – they happen on side streets where smaller communities of Northerners live instead of in public amongst the general population. After finding our powder, we set off with over 40 bags of it, in 7 different colors, wearing white t-shirts that would not be white for much longer.
Our first destination was NGV (the gigantic apartment complex where our batch lived last semester), where we had plans to meet up with our Indian friend, R, and all of his and S’s friends from college. Half of our group had arrived there earlier with their own colors and as soon as we saw each other from a good 500 yards away, we had a perfect Bollywood moment, all of us sprinting down the middle of the (empty) road, ripping open bags of color and upon impact, dousing each other in plumes of neon pigments. After ensuring everyone was thoroughly coated in a new layer of rainbow skin, we moved on, walking our standard 3 km to a lane near our college, picking up friends as we went along and creating the funniest sight I’m sure many of the Bangaloreans passing by had ever seen. All the children laughed at us as we walked, a troop of 6 Indians and a dozen Westerners making up our motley parade.
There’s a neighborhood just a few blocks from our college full of “Ladies’ PG’s” which stands for “Private Guesthouses – basically just apartments for women to live together in close to their college. Most of the women that attend Christ with us live there. AND most of them are from the North – West Bengal, Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra – ALL of the places where they celebrate Holi the most. Therefore, the lane attaching all the PG’s was THE place to be in Bangalore at Holi – the closer we got, the more people we saw, caked in Holi powder, drenched in water and grinning from ear to ear. Once we reached the alley itself, we entered an entirely new India and total chaoes ensued. Within seconds we were soaked in colored water and another 4 layers of pigment. Within minutes, I had 4 eggs cracked on my head and 3 tomatoes rubbed on me – definitely the most unexpected forms of paint. The eggs started drying, transforming our heads into (very colorful) birds’ nests, complete with caked on eggshells that would later clog our drains as we attempted to clean up.
After hours of this, spent in two more side streets and with friends from places as widely varied as Mauritius, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Ghana, Indonesia, France and of course, Canada, the U.S. and India, we moved on to our final destination – the outside of our friends’ building where we commenced with more frenzied color throwing and added the props of a construction project across the street to our artillery. The construction workers were wonderful, letting us use empty paint buckets and adding a surprise element when two of our friends snuck up to the top of the building, where they found a hose out of nowhere and sprayed us down below while we blasted M.I.A. out of the apartment building. The whole neighborhood got into it, people driving their 2-wheelers past yelling “Happy HOLI!” at the top of their lungs.
Following the glorious madness, we all returned home, soaked to the bone, and attempted showering, accidentally using so much water from our million scrubs each that our apartment building temporarily ran out of water! Not that even an hour of scrubbing did much to help our situation – my skin is still tinted neon pink and there’s a huge shock of my hair that I’m pretty sure is permanently mauve. But what a memory to have.