Madness. Utter Madness! Let's start with the beginning. I woke up at 6 am. Barely had time to brush my teeth and put on some pants when three to eight young women travelers (such as myself) came barging into my room to stow their belongings and began to change into their Holi clothing. White Saris, cream colored Kurtas and Salwar pants flew through the air as the comforting babble of excited talking girls filled my room. I let myself soak up the girl talk, I laughed and presumed, I listened to dramatic statements and shared knowing glances. It was over before it began and I flowed down the stairs to the kitchen and began helping out making Pudi for lunch. I spent most of the morning sitting on the floor with four Indian girls (three from the Orphanage and one was their matron) rolling out little balls of dough and listening to the background noise of people interacting at a party. I'm realizing as I write this how important the presence of others is to me, and the comforting presence of my native language. My active brain might not be listening to all the conversations in the room, but my subconscious soaks up the background noise like a sponge.
I've heard it said that before a battle there is all this hype and energy, and it seems as if the wait before the storm will last an eternity, and then finally when the battle begins it is really only 10 minutes of mayhem and then the clean up begins.
Well, Holi isn't like that.
It all began around 8:30, and ended around 12 noon.
The sounds that you aren't getting with these pictures are the shrieks of my host sister and the orphans from Little Stars, the laugh of the older kids and the splash of water balloons smacking true on a surprised target. I can taste the chemical dye on my tongue, staining my teeth, I can feel it burn in my right eye; the collateral to the colored water fight I just had with my flatmate. I run to rinse my hands under the tap, the water that pools there is a dark pink. I cup my hands and throw it on the face of the person closest to me. The cry of "Happy Holi!" is everywhere. Below us on the street, young boys are challenging us to a water fight, we dump a 5 gallon tub of bright purple water on them.
My hands are no longer my hands, they are dark green, deep purple, the nails stained red. My arms have disappeared and left a psychotic rainbow in their place. My feet are the manic pallet of an artist losing herself to schizophrenia, each toe a different personality. I look in the mirror and see a bird of paradise run over by a bull dozer. The whites of my eyes look wrong and out of place in the depths of all this insanity, and the irises have never been so green. My teeth are outlined in blue, almost dripping like strange alien saliva. I spit in the sink and was pink down the drain.
The madness goes on and on and on. More and more people arrive, and just when I think we have used up all of the color or all of the water, there is more, more balloons, more powder, more pictures to take and more laughter to share. Eventually I escape to the bathroom and begin the arduous process of finding my skin again. After 45 minutes of hard scrubbing and washing, I still have blue hair....
My bathroom is a new type of dirty, and I have a feeling it will be a while until I can take a shower without seeing blue wash down the drain with my soap, but it was worth it. It was a blast. I am exhausted, blue and happy.