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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:

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(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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I for Imperfection

Almost two years ago I moved to Paris. I thought it would have been the most inspiring place for a wannabe writer, but it turned out to be a little too wonderful to be written about. There is a mistake, I discovered, in the syllogism at the basis of my happiness: I love living in places that I find – at some level – perfect. I want to write. I can only write about imperfect places.
Well then, if Paris would do for the living part, Delhi is doing for the writing.

India is the land of imperfection. Everything, from small to large scale, is built in a way that isn’t quite right. On the floor of every room there is at least one tile that is not cut straight, the baseboard always is too short and leaves a empty inch in the corner, the steps are not of the same size, the broom handle is too short and forces you to bend your back to clean (causing rapid and severe ache), the hole they drill in your wall is – always, always! – too big for the light fixture, the mattress slightly too small for the bed. And so on, and so forth.

I’m actually being a bit unfair here, because not everything is like that. It is just everything that tries to be western that is not done quite right. Traditional stuff works fine, it has done so for centuries, and one should be happy to stick with it. The problem is that this New India thing is out there, with all the promises of western-like development that it carries along, and it is just very hard not to try and get what you are used to. It will – no exceptions here – turn to be just looking like what you are used to, and so you will constantly end up very, very disappointed.

I tried to understand the reason behind this incapacity of being exact when it comes to “westernized” stuff, and the only explanation I could think of has its roots way back when the Brits were still around.

When India was a colony, western stuff would somehow be cool, because it would belong to the boss, it would be what the boss liked, and everyone always wants what the boss likes. As the British finally let the country free, people kept liking what the old boss liked, and, now that they could, they begun making it by themselves for themselves.
Copying.

Which is way everything always looks like a counterfeit bag: the general shape is ok, and it looks authentic, but you can’t ask for refined details.

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