Holi

Holi, what an incredible celebration. Possibly a day in which every child is granted permission to what could perhaps be a favorite hobby. A hobby that on any other day, is frowned upon.

Terrorizing people- friends as well as strangers. The piece that makes this day slightly better, even, is that it’s done with color-BRIGHT ones.

We woke up late, and as I got out of bed and walked into another room, I was immediately surrounded by loud music and screaming-happy screaming of course. My focus was drawn directly to the open window, and I peered outside to see where these sounds came from.

Eight floors down, the sidewalks and parking lots had been painted an array of color. Not in any beautiful design, completely done with spontaneity and poor aim. Children ran around a playground throwing colored powder and water balloons at one another.

The previous day Diya and I had been hit by a number of water balloons while traveling via auto. Gangs of kids stood by the roads hitting cars and autos. Not maliciously, under hand tosses mostly, followed by a lot of success. Attempting to find the apartment, we drove and then walked through what felt like a mine field- a huge group of kids covered head to toe with color, all holding balloons and buckets. These kids, however, were playing together and targeting no outsiders (which was appreciated!). The guys had cooked dinner for us, which was delicious, although the Veg food was store bought- still incredible (way better than mess food!). We went on a walk after eating, and there was a mass walking around a huge pile of sticks that had been set afire.

One explanation for the holiday: “There are many legends given as the reason for celebrating ‘Holi’. There is one popular legend that is reputed to bring about the birth of ‘Holi’. It seems that long ago there was an evil king named King Hiranyakasipu. His son, prince Prahlad however was very holy and often prayed to God and this infuriated his father. One day, the wicked king ordered his sister, the demon Holika, to kill his son. The demon Holika, who was immune to fire, captured prince Prahlad and entered a fire furnace. She had done this to kill the prince, however it was her who was burnt to ashes. Prince Prahlad was safe and was not burnt at all. The legend goes that before the demon aunt died, she begged for prince Prahlad’s forgiveness and the prince forgave her and announced that her name would be remembered once a year. Thus the festival ‘Holi’ was created.”

This fire was part of the celebration. We walked down the road to prepare ourselves with the necessary supplies for the holiday. Greeted by an array of intensely colored powders with labels reading off unfamiliar chemical names, we piled bags of greens, blues, purples, yellows, golds, silvers, pinks and reds into a plastic bag, along with a water gun or two, paid, and headed home. I fell asleep on and off while everyone hung out (it was very odd- I am convinced that the abnormal exhaustion was due to my constant distraction by everything I passed on the street, a new landscape, new rules, new situations, and the desire to absorb everything).

We slept and we had Chai in the morning while waiting for everyone to get up. I sat and watched a show about inventions with one of the roommates. Out the door- autos- to a friends house. Staring out the window- everyone had spots of color (at least). This includes the cows, dogs, business men and women, autos, cars, and all the roads. Gangs of kids roaming- completely covered and dripping with purple water.

Upon arrival, we found a Holi party taking place on the first floor, and were greeted with a lot of attention, being the only people in the place with clean clothes and recognizable skin tones. In telling someone “Happy Holi”, a person must be prepared with color in one (but preferably both) hand(s). The words are not enough, and the rubbing of colored powder all over the head of the next person gives it meaning. Very friendly water balloon fights took place between people of all ages, and it took less than 2 minutes to be covered in water and color.

Bhang, a drink traditionally consumed on Holi.

Diya and Shiparna,

This was just the beginning.

The Holi party we went for was on the roof of an apartment center. Friends of these two played hosts. A young girl joined us who. I am fairly confident she was an avatar, for she was thin with long dark hair and dyed completely purple/blue. There were huge metal containers which are generally used for cooking huge amounts of Briyani on the streets, but today found themselves full of colorful water, reloading water guns, and helplessly dunked people.

All ages, music, drinks, and terrorizing. This went on for a long while, all morning in fact. We eventually ordered food- pizza. Being the only vegetarian (which everyone was-again-very startled and confused by), they ordered me my own mini veg pizza- which was lovely!

Finally, we got exhausted and retreated into an apartment. An apartment that had been prepared to receive us (note the sheets on the floor and the upside down mattress). We had our pizzas (mine had beautifully places mushrooms, baby corn, and peppers neatly set across its surface).

We listened to music, watched a short movie, and relaxed. Their dog hung with us, as well. He had suffered very minimal Holi damage to his beautiful white coat.

Today was incredible. The holiday, could potentially be a new favorite.

The only things bought are colors, food, and drinks. The day is spent with friends, color, and sun. There are no presents, just playing and then relaxing. Incredible. I WILL be back for Holi, and Corey and Mike have both already promised to join me sometime- so thats an open invite- you guys (at home) don’t want to miss this.

Eventually we went back to the apartment and too the longest cold shower I have ever had. I can take long showers, but never I have I spent the whole time scrubbing. A constant stream of purple ran from my hair, and color (in lucky scenarios) off and down my skin. Permanent colors, however, were involved, and those have still stuck (its been three days!). My hair looks like I tried to dye it purple, and my nails and my fingers are all a dark pink.

March 4, 2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

February 27, 2010

We visited the Gateway of India, speckled with clusters of tourists, cameras out and clicking. The Taj hotel to our backs, and in front of us, the ocean. The ocean with its many boats and polluted shores. The ocean, providing refuge from the intense heat of the Indian sun.

The Taj hotel.

Still under construction from the terrorist attacks. The girls all told me stories of families that were there, and many were indeed supposed to be there that evening, and for whatever turn of events, a sore throat, an impatient man, hadn’t made it.

Carnival on the beach.

This was unlike any beach or any carnival I have ever seen. My first instinct, obviously, was to go on all the rides! I changed my mind however, and retained my position in the scene as a bystander, a tourist.

The sun, the beach, the carnival.

The carnival on the beach was something. The sun setting behind the crowds of people, the vendors, families, tourists. I saw a man with one leg walking across the beach with a large stick which he used as his replacement. While he made his way across the sand, slightly behind the group he had arrived with, I watched him pause, and begin digging in his pocket for something.

His cell phone. It appeared as though he had recieved a text message which was urgent, and needed to respond immediately. Upon placing the phone back deep into his pocket, he continued on his way.

I can’t get over the mix of wealth and poverty, the mix of people in designer suites, sunglasses costing hundreds, and macbooks by their sides, walking past the children with no pants begging at every intersection and the people sleeping in the train station and on the side of the road.

I can’t get over the sounds, the sights, the smells, of the street coupled with those just a few floors up.

There is nothing like it.

March 4, 2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

March 1, 2010

First of all, Happy Birthdays to mom and Mark!! Wish I could be there to celebrate with you!!!

Secondly, Bombay.

(to the left, a man in a horse drawn metal horse drawn carriage, waiting in traffic)

On Thursday morning I bought a flight to Bombay, time to get out of Yelahanka. I left Friday morning, after Surgam set me up with her taxi driver. At 9:30 I waited, drinking chai on the curb outside school. Chai here is 4rps compared to lovely Coffee Day’s 20rsp cup.  I waited, watching people slowly make their way to class.

Once in the cab, I worried about time-thanks to my dad, and watched out the window. I had one little backpack which was half empty, and I was on my way. For some reason, anxious, to be traveling alone. Silly, considering I have flown alone from Peru and again all the way to India. I have been flying alone since my 9th grade summer camp at UCLA, but what would travel be with out a little anxiety?

I arrived and was charged 300 rps, a normal fair to the airport, and a large man in uniform and a machine gun greeted me, looking at my passport, my face, and attempting to pronounce my name. Upon approval, he smiled, I passed. Searching the overhead for my airlines, I was again, greeted and very efficiently given my boarding pass and a free voucher for coffee at Coffee Day. I indulged before entering the security check point.

A sign read “ladies”, and I became immediately aware of the divide. About five lines were open to the men, and only one for the women. This was no problem, for the ladies line was not too long. The men went through the metal detector and were wanded down in public, where as the women were provided the privacty of a closed off room. Only women worked this sector, and the women in line had attitude, ready to fight each other for cutting line, for taking too long setting down their bags, for not wanting to set their bag down before directly entering the metal detector.

I explored the airport, checking out the cafes, the book stores, the perfumes and expensive clothes. Still not too expensive, I can’t allow myself to buy much at the airport just off of principle (and price). I did buy a magazine about technology and inventions for the trip, and sat down to read while I waited to board.

The plane, medium in size, welcomed very few passengers this morning, allowing each the luxury of his or her own row. The flight was short, I had to give in and buy food since I hadn’t eaten, but was graced with a delicious veggie sandwhich-also which came by means of coffee day-ON THE PLANE- I am fairly confident they own at least a large chunk of the world.

I arrived in Bombay and called Diya, who told me to meet her at Bandra Road. As soon as I took my first step off the plane and inhaled, I could smell the ocean. I took another expensive auto-which broke down- and was completely distracted with everything I passed. A new landscape, still an urban one, but very different. People everywhere, sleeping everywhere, begging everywhere. There were groups of people sleeping on the side of the highway-how-I have no idea, but this was no rare occasion. I passed an auto graveyard, and street vendors of all sorts. The auto turned the corner, and there was the ocean-and the smell of dead fish.

Diya and I sat down for some food- a REAL paratha. I thought the ones in the mess were good but this was incredible! It is a chipati of sorts with potato inside it. We went to a number of markets, yet I found myself paralyzed and unable to buy simply based on the overwhelming quantity of products. We stopped for a “million dollar brownie” at theobroma, and eventually found ourselves on the terrace of the Strand Hotel, looking out on the ocean. From the roof of the hotel, and in the closing of the day, the ocean looked nice, somewhere I would love to swim. Diya reassured me that this was not the case, and that I should wait until daytime, then re-evaluate. She was right.

We met her friends and went to a restaurant called Koyla. Walking past a handicap bicycle peddled by a hand device by a man with legs unsuitable for walking, we rode the elevator up to the top floor, and settled down in a beautiful rooftop restaurant. White sand floors, low lighting, large hookahs, and low couches presented themselves in the diminished daylight. A view of the city, the ocean.

We spent a lot of time up there, and eventually returned to the street level of

Bombay. The street level of crowds, of dogs, of people and autos. We stepped into a beautiful air conditioned car with a driver who took a bunch of us girls to a beautiful apartment. Huge, four bedrooms, bathrooms in each, a large kitchen, many balconies, and a beautiful view of the ocean. We had chocolates before leaving with Diya’s sister and her boyfriend. We took the sealink and talked in the car before returning to her sister’s beautiful apartment, where we stayed up talking before falling fast asleep

March 3, 2010. Tags: . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

public transit-Bombay

Debo’s list declared, forcefully, that we MUST ride the trains while in Bombay. Who knew, what this would involve.

Diya and I approached the ticket counter. An old sheltered platform with two windows situated below two television screens playing a news station.

We stood in line. To my right, sitting in between the two windows, a very badly burnt man sat on the floor with a hand out in a silent plead for money. Movement was slow, and he sat with a small newspaper laid out in front of him where a few rupees had been collected from earlier in the day. On the opposite side of this man, and on the other side of the fast paces line sat a small girl in dirty clothes, asking for the same. Now, your the person, looking at a man who is burned through the skin, with only pieces of fingers making up his two

hands, and a very young girl covered in dirt doing the same, what does a person do? How fast does it take a person to leave neither with money, void the thought from his or her mind, and continue onto the train and move on through his or her daily rituals? Very fast. How impossible for a person living in Bombay to stop and feel for each individual in need of help? How little would get done, how distracting, and draining, how unmanageable.

We took the trains a few times. I loved every second of it, and Diya spent most of the travel laughing at me-bouncing from one side of the train to the other, sticking my head out, watching the faces pop out of compartments behind me, ahead of me. Embracing the cool breeze and the occasional view of a cricket field or the ocean.

Huge apartment buildings,

colored by drying laundry, dirtied by old age and by over use.

The trains in Bombay, busy, crowded, faces- stare out from passing compartments. Separated by gender and by class.

Carrot Juice-8rps

March 2, 2010. Tags: , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.