Last week it was the Holi festival where people throw colourful powder and drench each other with water. I took a cycle ride through the Mehrauli area near the Qutab Minar monument just as the festivities were peaking in the morning. Most people were stained from head to toe a shade of purple which resulted from having been pelted with every colour mixed together. Like God's hand had slipped and knocked the paint pallette over.
The narrow and pot-holed streets were flowing with purple and green water. I cycled tentatively along, but at a speed which meant it was difficult to pelt me with colours. Secretly I wanted to be pelted but I also only have one pair of trousers. Groups of mischeivous kids looked like colourful aliens descended from other worlds. Grasping luminous green water cannons and taking pot-shots at me. At one point the scenario was reminiscent of the film Patriot Games with Harrison Ford when the car convey is in the narrow alleyway and gets ambushed from above as a red water balloon launched from the rooftop hit my back wheel.I smiled and enjoyed this surreal experience. Smiles and exclamation of 'Happy Holi'.
Thank God for India is all I can say... This festival should be worldwide. Imagine politicians playing Holi with each other. Not so easy to stay straight faced then- wars fought with coloured powder instead of bullets? Andy says, having just early read a news alert on his mobile phone - 'American seals historical $1.2 bn record weapons sale to India... Oh dear- will they ever learn/change? Motorcyclists speed past me and friends walk arm in arm looking happy to be free for the day.
Holi is the perfect expression of the Indian spirit. An opportunity to be silly with friends and go wild for a day. But then the next day everything is back to normal and the only evidence it ever happened is the stains on the road and people's finger nails. I cycle over to the parent's of my host Priya's house and after I arrive I'm promptly inaugurated fully into the proceedings, thus sporting a big yellow beard and comical glowing red cheeks. Priya's parents, respectable and accomplished in society's eyes (civil servant, lawyer) as they are, sit looking like they've just been involved in an explosion in a paint factory. My mind struggles to adapt to the muddling of the general colour pallette of everyday life that it's accustomed to.
Akin, I imagine to taking magic mushrooms. Although India is known as the most colourful country in the world, the Holi festival well and truly stamps it's claims to this title. I can only praise India's ability to, without the use of mind-altering substances, change the way one looks at the world. It's a rabbit hole and when travelling by bicycle there's no limit to the depth of it. One entire lifetime could easily be consumed pinballing between experiences amidst the reams of people in this planet of India within planet Earth. India is like a experiment in the human race amongst the rest of humanity.
We followed up the colouring process with a traditional Holi feast tasting delicious savoury cakes in a white sauce with sweet and tangy sauce, vegetable sabzi, and special puri bread. My lasting feelings are of wanting to be a part of it again, I hope so. Photos to come...