Archive for March, 2009

Holi hai.

And then, it was Holi.

Holi is the festival of colors, which of course is way too innocuous as a definition.

Sure, colors, how sweet. To celebrate the arrival of the spring, how cute. Except there is nothing cute, or sweet, about Holi.

Holi is primitive, animal. But purely, supremely, insanely fun.

Holi is wild. It’s a huge street-fight in which colors are the weapons. People throw colored powders and liquids, made of god-knows-what, at each other. Buckets filled with yellow, red, blue, green (often mixed together in a nice brown)  liquids become the shower, of the day. A shower everyone ends up taking way too often.

Better be prepared. You don’t want to be covered in blue and have nothing to fight back with, because nothing more than that would make you feel a loser. You’ll regret, I know I did, not to have invested in that water gun connected to a backpack/tank.

Most people add insanity to Holi by drinking bhang lassi, a milk based drink thickened with fruits and enriched with cannabis. Yes, laves and flowers from female cannabis plant. Which here is sold as a mouth freshener. That makes people high. And Shiva happy (people drink it to honor him).

In Indian families, even grannies drink bhang. And they play holi. Dancing in their perfectly plited saris, high, even old ladies throw colors at each other. Old ladies play, in a restrictive, male centered, judgemental society. Which of course is one of those “in India only”inconsistend and truly wonderful things.

So what happens on holi is you cover youself in oil (colors stain the skin), put on your clean and hopefully disposable clothes, and get out. And a few hours later, you, and all the people around you, look like this:


(Thanks Emilia for the picture)

Which, of course, doesn’t mean it’s over.

This picture has actually been taken quite early in the day. After that there have been baths in a swimming pool in which every swimmer had discarded a bit of color (you don’t want to see that). Mud fights (thank-god-not-me). A few kilometers walk to hop on a rickshaw at the end of a congested road. An expedition to a neighboring state because Delhi is dry on Holi. And more, more, more colors. More dancing. More screaming. More running. More laughing. Did I say more colors?

And then, finally, there has been the longest shower I’ve ever had. After which, thanks to the riddiculous amount of Vaseline that was covering my hair since the morning, I had only a few red and green wisps. Being blond on Holi is no easy business.

Now, a week later, even the last fuchsia stain is gone from my back. And even the green that was contouring my nails has disappeared.

My whole body is back to white. Ready to be stared at for the next twelve months.

It’s funny, isn’t it, the the only day I haven’t caught anyone’s attention has been the one I was going around with my face and hair covered in blue and red color?


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Z for /zɛd/

India, English is British English.

Colour. Analyse. Fulfil. Centre. Catalogue. Mediaeval. Cheque. Licence. Judgement. Excelling. Pyjamas. Spoilt. Aubergines.

It’s not weird, it’s refreshing. For 1.2 billion people, American spelling, and words, and -in the end- language count nothing. And the language has a nice vintage and classy feel. Just like vests. Or polo. Or a gentleman (he’s not a man, nor a guy).

British English – of fifty years ago- just makes people sound nice, and polite. Just like /zɛd/ sounds so much better than /ziː/. It’s more proper, in a way.

Of course, the truth behind this /zɛd/thing is that I have nothing to say about Z.

Z for nothing. No ending. No closure. Call it imperfection. I call it potential.

It took me almost one year, and the whole alphabet, to walk my way to a scary, wonderful love for India.  A love that’s lucid and fool at the same time.

I should have known better. Yet here I am, thinking this place is just beautiful, in a way that has nothing to do with pretty.

And I am glad, oh so glad, that there’s no Z. That my India is still open ended.

Just like this:

A to Y. Why?

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