The Safest Holi Ever

Mar 14, 2014 by

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“One! Two! …” the children waited in anticipation, the excitement sizzling on the beach where we stood, brightly coloured powder held in cupped hands. “Three!” The final number was called, and the mayhem began. Colours flew threw the air or were gently touched to cheeks. Little legs went scurrying about weaving in and out and around, landing colourful blows to arms and necks and the occasional two-cheek smack. Faces were instantly and beautifully adorned.

 

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When the idea occurred to me to book a trip to India back in January, I realised that I might be in the country during Holi. Ever since, I had become fixated on experiencing the festival for myself. I was happy to find out that the school celebrates Holi separately from the masses, in a safe and (as much as possible) controlled environment. The children are given powder and strict direction regarding who they can and cannot touch with the colour. They are told to wait to start together and are always instructed to be gentle, but let’s be real. These are kids, and things always get a little excited and out of hand. I had been disappointed that I was so strongly advised (and actually, pretty much forbidden) to go out during the actual celebration, but then I learned why. It is already dangerous given the volumes of people participating and the fact that many of them end up drinking an intoxicant which I understand is often mixed with opium. A celebration that is meant to be a sharing of blessings has become a chance for groping, and apparently there are some people out there who are reluctant to give up their chance to grope a foreigner. If I had a male presence here with me, I might brave the streets, but then I heard more stories about people idiotically mixing the colour with things like acid and car fluids. Tania, who runs the school, has actually been splashed with acid.

Having had my Holi with the kids (and spending a good chunk of time trying to scrub the colour from my skin), I think I am satisfied. Walking back to the school after we celebrated and ran around like buffoons, I couldn’t help but smile. I had two girls holding each of my hands, and we were covered in pink and green and peach and blue. What’s not to smile about?

 

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Just a sidenote… the internet has been patchy here (and still is, so it will be amazing if I actually manage to publish anything tonight), and this is why my posting has been sparse. I have no shortage of stories or photos, that’s for sure! The spotty internet is also why I haven’t been able to keep up on all my favourite blogs, so don’t be offended, my friends, if I haven’t been around in a while. I’ve hardly had a chance to come online, pay a bill, send my boyfriend an email and post a photo to Instagram (and even the latter is a stretch!). Please be patient with me while I work with what I’ve got.

I’ve also got a pretty heavy post coming up… India is the kind of place that is meant to overwhelm, and while I was simultaneously experiencing Delhi belly and an emotional meltdown earlier this week, I kept hearing in my head, “But this is what you wanted,” and it still is what I want. I did not want anything glamourous or pretty coming here. I was worried that India might even feel over-travelled and artificial, but this hasn’t been the case, so everything has been hitting me – I just may or may not be processing everything as it comes to my senses. Just yesterday, I was writing in my journal about the Delhi belly since my will to live returned. Hours later over chai at Tania’s, my roommate recounted how we’d seen a dead guy being hauled away on our way to school. When we came back, I cracked open my journal and wrote, “Oh yeah, ps – I saw a dead guy today…” and went on to describe his rigor mortis, his arm and head sticking out of the tarp and his eyes wide open. How do you forget to write in your journal about seeing a dead guy? Well I did, and I guess that’s just India. It took my boyfriend commenting that this was disturbing for me to realise that it probably is.

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 Thank you for being kind to me and reading about my time in India. I would love it if you took the time to head to facebook and show me a little love by clicking like. Don’t forget the twitter and Instagram love too. 

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38 Comments

  1. Lauren Mulhall

    So you and dad have that experience to share (not Holi) – definitely not most North American peoples’ experiences, and definitely something to reflect upon for many years to come. Great photos of Holi and we’re glad you chose to celebrate in that way. Good job, Cleenster!

    • Colleen

      Thanks mum. I thought you would be happy to read about me opting for the safe version of something.

  2. How neat that you got to experience such an incredible festival! I only know a little bit about Holi but I’m glad to read you got to partake in a more “contained” environment, but more importantly with your kids. Very different experience but when I was in Mexico I got to witness Dia de los Muertos celebrations. They’re not known for being rowdy (like Holi is) and yet being able to be there amongst the kids was a wonderful thing.

    I hope you kick that Deli belly once and for all! Montezuma bestowed much revenage upon me while in Mexico as well 🙂

    • Colleen

      Celebrating Dia de los Muertos with your kiddies sounds like a lot of fun. I’m glad we both got to have an experience like that. It’s so special.
      Thanks for your well wishes, hun! I’m feeling LOTS better now.

  3. Betty

    I am loving your blogs about India! Such a fascinating country. Having travelled throughout Asia, I have yet to get to India. Blog when you can!

    • Colleen

      Thank you so much… India really is amazing. I’m so lucky to be here. Hopefully you can come to India one day soon. 🙂

  4. Oh Coll, this looks beautiful! Look at your smile! I can’t wait to see you and hear everything!!

    • Colleen

      Dawn, I love hearing from you on my blog. You are my writing guru, and I can’t wait for some writing and chatting until our hands and ears hurt. By the way, the writing energy is insane in this country. Hope you can take a major writing retreat one day to India…

  5. Zhu

    Oh, this is such a great experience! I have always been curious about Holi (I saw pictures in the news), it looks so…cool!

    • Colleen

      Yes, Holi was fantastic. You should come one year for the festival!

  6. Nice pics. its seems to be lots of fun. thanks for posting nice views.. Happy Holi!!!!!!!!!

  7. Happy Holi Colleen! This festival epitomises the reason why I want to visit India – the vibrancy – found in the dresses, spices, buildings, landscape, it must be an amazing feeling to get caught up in the chaos of India’s vibrancy. I’m looking forward to reading about the culture shock and your unglamorous bout of Delhi belly!

    I adore the last photo taken of you and the girl, you both look so happy and the way she’s cupping your face is so cute. It’s the perfect travel photo!

    • Colleen

      Oh, I think you would do really well in India. I would love to see your take on it. Not sure how much I am going to write about the Delhi belly… we all know what it is right? But yes, that was a component to a very bad day!
      Also, yes! That photo is probably my favourite one of the day. Probably going in a frame. 🙂

  8. Great photos, I love all the colour! I’ve never heard stories of Holi being particularly dangerous, through it makes sense with all the crowds. I still plan to risk it one day to experience it, I’ve been fascinated with it for ages – such an amazing way to celebrate! Really enjoying your stories from India btw 🙂

    • Colleen

      Thank you so much Charlie. If I had a strong man with me (like my boyfriend), I would definitely risk the streets. I think it is worth it at least once, despite all the stupid shit that can happen (like acid). Too bad people have to do that, but anyway. I hope you get to experience Holi too. It was a wonderful celebration.

  9. I hope you’re doing okay, chica. It IS what you wanted — an experience to learn and grow and immerse. It sounds like so far you’ve been doing exactly what you set out to do. Part of you probably hoped it wouldn’t be easy. Sounds like India delivers. 🙂

    • Colleen

      So remember that whole separated at birth thing? Yeah, that. You understand so well, and even understand things I haven’t written explicitly. Part of me did want this to be a challenge. Life at home was getting too comfortable in a bad way and I needed to be shaken up. Each time I feel like I’m “suffering” here, I am actually grateful for it. It’s the strangest thing, but yes, it’s India. India delivers.

  10. Ha, the only reason I immediately knew what you meant by Delhi belly is a close buddy of mine that I work with is from India. He’s told me about that…no fun! I’m glad you had folks looking after your better interests to avoid the horrors of the street celebrations. And your fun time here looks like it let you experience it all safely and completely with the locals. And look at those smiles. That made ME smile! I would totally do this though I would have to take my glasses off. Then the children would have a field day with me as a target since I can’t see much w/o them ha, ha 🙂

    • Colleen

      Oh man, Delhi belly is not something I would wish on anyone. Will to live was definitely fading.
      Glad this brought a smile to your face. It was a day that made me really happy too. I would love to see you in the middle of Holi with all these kids throwing colour at you!

  11. Hi Colleen,

    It gives me immense pleasure to read that you have enjoyed this festival of Holi so much! All Indian festivals have the same fervour and love with a riot of colors sprinkled all around in the form of decorations and dresses. I hope you enjoy all of them…the next one would be celebration of Baisakhi but for that you have to go to Punjab! Each state has its own attraction! I hope you have visited The Taj and The Golden Temple, two historically important heritage sites.

    There is so much to explore in India…hope you enjoy all BUT take care of your safety, please don’t get misguided by touts and cheats.

    • Colleen

      Hi Balroop, thank you so much for your comment! I am loving India and all its colours and festivals. There is no end to the interest of this place. Right now the Holi music is blasting outside my window. I can hardly hear myself think. 🙂
      Later in my stay here, I will be able to get around to some other travels, seeing more of India. I’m very much looking forward to it and will be sure to be careful of course.

  12. Another really great post on your time in India, Colleen. I don’t know many people who have been, so I’m really enjoying your posts. I’m pleased you got to experience Holi in a safe and meaningful way- with the kids from school. It’s such a shame that some people are out to spoil it for others.

  13. Emy

    Colleen I am so happy for you that you’re having all those great experiences and do things in a way that make you feel safe, happy and at home, as it looks like you’re really getting on well with the children and the people you work with 🙂
    xx

    • Colleen

      The people here that I am working with are really special. I’m very lucky!

  14. WAH the coolest! Cities all over the world are imitating this and you were there. Just incredible!

    • Colleen

      I know… It definitely is a cool thing to experience the real authentic version of a festival… There are even 5K runs like Colour me rad (or something, I’ve never participated because I hate running haha) and those kind of things just don’t compare if you ask me!

  15. What an amazing experience! We’re hoping to visit India around Holi next year! The dates are still in the works, but I have always wanted to take part. I didn’t realize that it can be so dangerous though! At least I’ll have Dan to buffer me, but still. It’s a shame just a few have to ruin such an amazing celebration for others. Anyway, so happy to hear and see your wonderful experience! The last picture is adorable.

    • Colleen

      You will love India – I’ll love to see your take on the country and read all about your experiences. It is good that you’ve got your man to take care of you. 🙂

  16. Oh, I’m really glad you did this at the school. That looks awesome! I love the 4th pic down, that girl on the right is about to unleash!! Shitty about the Delhi belly (like my pun there? 😉 ) hope you are on the mend now.

    • Colleen

      Haha that girl is one of my students. I was wondering if anyone was going to notice her in this post, and I’m glad you did. Actually, I’m not surprised it was you. Hahahaha, good eye!

  17. Happy Holi Colleen! 🙂

    Holi can be TONS of fun.. but as you say, it is important to play in a safe and carefree environment. Here in Delhi, where I am right now, things can get crazy very quick.. this morning going out I saw many people already way too wasted to be fun to play with. But doing it with your neighbors and friends is great!!

    • Colleen

      Happy Holi to you too! It’s nice to hear from someone who is familiar with the potential dangers of Holi. Everyone seems so surprised by this! Hope you had a good celebration. 🙂

  18. Aw, I know this might not have been the raucous Holi that you had been envisioning, but it actually sounds really sweet and lovely. I’ve read enough horror stories of travelers being groped our harassed during Holi that this actually sounds like perfection to me and is about the only way I’d want to experience the holiday! 😀

    • Colleen

      For sure… this was not the Holi I had imagined, but it was a Holi I was happy to have. The story is built of the situation, and this was the situation for me and thus my story. I am more than okay with that. I loved this day and had a ball with my kids.

  19. So true about the groping, I got groped in Goa on Holi this year! I chose not to write about it because it would upset my parents too much, but it was such an awkward moment because I wasn’t sure if I should get angry and yell (but everyone was drunk and smiling- so I didn’t want to make a scene if it was an accident?) Later, my bf (who pushed the guy off) told me it was no accident but in India as a foreigner you have to be VERY careful when you choose to make a scene around all Indian men as the only westerners. In Goa I didn’t see many women celebrating except in closed off party areas. Looks like yours was much more kid-friendly 🙂

    • Colleen

      I’m actually really happy I had the Holi that I did. It was a unique and special opportunity to spend it with my kiddies, and I don’t regret it for a second. I don’t mind not being groped at all!

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