Published: March 25th 2008March 22nd 2008
Little did we know...
This is us; the new volunteers just after arriving to play Holi. We thought we were already pretty great for getting stuck in with the paints - WE HAD NO IDEA!!!
Fitting with the emotional rollercoaster theme, today I’ve had a great day. I’ve been looking after myself really well, and although my constitution remains less than happy, I did finally produce a stool today! Let me tell you, this is a very noteworthy and joyous occasion, and, in its own right, enough to make my day great, but no, there’s more… By the way, sorry to go straight in there with the poo-talk, but really, it is in fact the number one topic of conversation amongst VSO India volunteers - there are some quite ‘special’ stories as I’m sure you’ll imagine - anyway, many of you have very young families and so I’m sure your daily conversations rarely fail to feature poo and all its intricacies. In case you’re interested, number two and three conversations amongst the volunteers are where to get the next beer from - in a country that has quite restricted access to alcohol - and just how poor we all are in Delhi, but more of that another time
Anyway, back to greatness. As I said before, today is the festival of Holi. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed so much pure unadulterated childish
abandonment. As you’ve had a dearth of photos thus far, and as a celebration of my new found techiness, I thought I’d treat you to a few pics of the proceedings. Hope you enjoy… Eight of us and numerous other VSO volunteers who are already working in country, all descended upon a colleague’s flat which was just perfect for Holi. It was in a small community of very tightly packed housing, and everyone has balconies. It is also on the third floor. All of these details particularly relevant for this festival as the aim is basically to get your neighbours as wet and as covered in paint as possible, be that by water bomb, water pistol, bucket or any other inventive technique. Cars, laundry, small children were all hit in the cross fire, there is no mercy! As time goes on, the tactics get increasingly hostile, people will invade your home, get hose pipes out, use spray paints and so on. We had a couple of guys on the neighbouring balcony who had an impressive aim, and so it wasn’t long until we were so caked in paint and utterly drenched that the only thing for it was to turn
on each other to continue the frivolities. 4 hours later!... we still hadn’t run out of paint, but our dedication to the cause began to flag. Wearing white was definitely the way forward as it just looks so beautiful, sadly, I went for a dark t-shirt, but was none-the-less colourful for it. I’m told that I looked quite devil-like, which is a little unnerving. It was someone with red paint who was particularly keen on soaking me. I wish I could have taken even more pictures, but really it was an effort to keep the paint and water off everything and I was nervous for my camera’s well-being. Indeed paint became so invasive that the boiled egg sandwich I had for lunch was very pink. I’m pleased to say that only one of us had an allergic reaction to the paint - a very common occurrence - and she managed to wash it off and stay relatively clean after that, so no harm done. It was so wonderful to be around Delhi on the way home as almost literally everyone who is out has a bag of paint on them and will come and rub some into your cheeks. The
whole city is of the most vibrant colours today, but absolutely nothing natural about it. Mostly the colours are florescent and they stain walls, ceilings, rickshaws and anything else they hit for months to come until the monsoon comes to ware them clean - there are several bright pink trees in our neighbourhood! Sadly the paint also stains skin - well the green and florescent pink ones seem to anyway! My pink toes-nails make an ‘interesting’ sight. It’s amazing to see just how free people feel during this festival, not an ounce of preciousness, as I say, cars are totalled and toddlers are not spared, yet still the caste and gender divisions so visible and inherent in this society hold hard and fast. I think much of this is about the fact that Holi is also traditionally accompanied by a subsequent day of intoxication - paint throwing is a morning thing - and this would not be allowed for any men who had women in the group, unless you’re white of course! They have an alcoholic marijuana drink here and to say it’s consumed widely today would be an understatement. There have been all sorts of warnings about violence, aggression
and other random crimes this evening, hence all of us being safely tucked up - to be fair, the fun has been had. It was so nice to meet many of the other VSO India volunteers in country; more great people and some useful insights.
So, I've obviously been up to loads more things, but will tell you all another time. This was just a quick burst of Holi joy to share with you all (Sophie your messages of joy are quite inspirational and make me smile very much, thank you). Lots of love. xx
There are more photos below