Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Holi: The full story

Varanasi is one of those places people flock to for the rambunctious celebration of Holi. The main day for celebration was March 4th, and was divided into 2 distinct methods of celebration, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I was warned continuously from many days before not to go outside the guesthouse during the morning. On the streets during this time the men cut completely loose - no woman would dare to step outside her house until after 2 PM, when all is declared safe, and people take to the streets with their finest threads.

If you've never seen a large group of Indian men at a festival, many of whom are drunk or otherwise intoxicated, it's difficult to convey the enthusiasm. It all starts with water fights, but these waters are infused with industrial strength dye. No part of the body is off limits, and in fact the face is the first target.
When water stops being fun, some groups took to using the piles of trash (which can be found every 20 feet in any Indian town) and tossing them into the air, each other's faces, and down each other's shirts/pants. When the novely of discarded plastic and food wears off, it's on to cow shit, which is no less plentiful. I'm afraid I can't tell you what comes after cow shit, as I don't know any eye-witnesses who dared to stay within the line of sight once the shit storm started. I did hear rumors of water balloons spiked with rocks, and there have been cases in the past of acid being mixed with the water.

As for me, I enjoyed the revelry from the safety of my guesthouse rooftop and ventured out only in the afternoon. I must be loosing my sense of fun. I'll take a good clean S.E. Asian "water only" Songkran over this orgy of madness anyday.

Took the night train to Kolkata and arrived at 8:30 AM today. It's novel and refreshing to be in a major metropolis again. More on my activities here as they develop.

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