Our Un-Holi Night

by Pam

The beauty of being in a new country is that seasonal events aren’t fraught with the weight of memory: Diwali doesn’t take you back to the soul crushing family dinners with the relatives whose default dinner discussions are always politics, religion and illness; Janmashtami doesn’t remind you of the time that that asshole surfer dude stood you up, not only ruining your night, but giving you an annual holiday to relive the emotions. But that doesn’t mean that as Holi approached we weren’t weighted with expectations.

They said it would be messy. We were warned that upon leaving the house we’d be bombarded with fistfuls of colors. We’d seen the pictures of pigment-smeared people crowding the streets, ecstatically dancing to pulsating rhythms, moving as one, colors bleeding together, humanity united. This is what we heard and this is what we wanted.

We donned our whitest whites and hit the streets in search of rainbow-streaked adventure. We saw only the occasional group of young men covered with sprays of colored dust, and learned that expectation creates disappointment in any culture: where was the chaos, the music, the drift of colored smoke? Where’s the party dude???

We tried to go to a nightclub that advertised an evening Holi party, but got there just 5 minutes before closing time, and the police were already lined up to with their lathis to clear out the lollygaggers. So we waited in the parking lot for the all the multicolored people to pour out of the club, positioning ourselves so we could pelt them with our secret stash of color.

When the first clubbers stepped into the parking lot, we held our fire: they were all dressed in their best westernized evening wear, devoid of any errant color splotches. At that point we realized we were no longer wannabe Holi players; we were just four stupid white people in a parking lot.

SO, we did what any stupid white people would do: we began hurling the colored powders at each other, right there in front of the homebound nightclubbers and the club-wielding police officers. If this was a holiday for teenagers, then damn it, we were going to behave like teenagers! Then, before we completely exhausted ourselves and our supply of colored powders, we crammed ourselves into a tuk-tuk and bombarded midnight strangers with streaming clouds of color, from one end of Bangalore to the other.

It was the best Holi we ever had… ;)

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4 Responses to “Our Un-Holi Night”

  1. OK, so what WERE you guys up to? Painting party? Indoor paintball fight? Sacrifice to the pantone gods? More info please. :)

  2. cara zoe says:

    At least no one threw any acid-tainted colored powder at you. Apparently sometimes that happens, and then you’re colored and burned.

  3. Dave Story says:

    Sounds like you had a true experience….glad you’re there and able to have even the (missed) expectations tested.

    Hang in there, and no reason not to enjoy a private Holi-day later…heck, bring some powder back on your next trip and let me know. I’m up for it, even if I’m not wearing white that day! :)


  4. womannextdoor says:

    Holi isn’t a big festival in the southern states – it is more a north Indian tradition of welcoming spring with colors. In Karnataka some sects celebrate it as Kamana habba (the festival of Kama – the God of Love)and throw colors as well as burn an effigy of Kama.