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HOLY HOLI

Written on: Saturday March 22nd, 2008

A journal entry from: ASIA PART II

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Hotel Peacock

Back in Jaisalmer, on the rooftop of our guesthouse, we prepare ourselves for an afternoon of colorful mischief. Camel caravan meets Gokarna gang. There were seven of us altogether and each one of us was armed with several litres of watered-down gulal (colored powder used during the festivities). This was our choice of ammunition and we were soon to find out what the day had in store for us.

According to the Hindu calendar, Holi also known as the great Indian festival of colors, is observed in sync with the full moon. A unique and vibrant celebration to acknowledge the changing of seasons. The entire nation takes the day off and everyone takes special delight in throwing colored powder and water at each other while spreading spring cheer - HAPPY HOLI!

The pandemonium is contagious as everyone contends to be the first to apply color onto one another. The streets become an open playing field and all is fair game. Nobody is spared, from the young to the not-so-young, even the dogs and cows are to be covered in bright shades of pink, magenta, red, yellow and green. By the end of the day, it looks as though a technicolor tornado ransacked its way through the streets leaving not even a square inch untouched.

On the morning of Holi, I barely made it pass the front steps of the guesthouse, before falling victim to the merrymakers. Outstretched palms smeared the bright pink gulal all over my cheeks and hair. It was absolute madness by the time our entire crew took to the streets. I hear a shriek and feel a purple blast of coolness to my back. I whip around just in time to see a young boy armed with a water pistol pull back into a window. There was no holding back now, after all, we were there to celebrate Holi along with everyone else.

Cultural norms are placed on hold, as both genders mingled freely and bhang confectionery was being sold on the streets. The atmosphere was colorful and the crowd became quite rowdy. While many took part all in the name of fun, there were those who became shockingly inappropriate. Women foreigners are forewarned as to the lewd conduct of these perverts and as the fistfuls of gulal exploded in my face I went from shouting 'Happy Holi!' to 'Don't Touch Me!'

Looking back at the day and the festivities, it was overall a mixed experience, probably quite different from Tom or Alex's encounter. There will never be another water fight that will live up to this afternoon and I will always remember literally, how vivid it was.

Happy Holi to all. Enjoy the colors of life!