Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Holi Moly! India's annual Festival of Colors.

The much-loved and much-dreaded festival of Holi just swept across India on its annual pilgrimage, reeking rainbow-licious mayhem, delighting Indian youth and terrifying saner people of all ages. Most tourists I know go outside on Holi on their first trip to India, but on subsequent trips take the local's advice and stay inside their hotels until its over. It's called the Color Festival because on this day you throw powdered colors and colored water on friends and strangers alike. You can imagine how exciting that is for a kid - I know it would have been for me. Young men are beside themselves with delight at the prospect of throwing colors and water at a tourist, who are off limits every other day of the year. But it can also get quite aggressive, with young men frequently drinking, and feeling up of Western woman is pretty normal if you go out into the streets.

So we thought we'd play it safe and stay inside the hotel compound. The hotel staff and a few enthusiastic guests had other ideas!

These 45 images, plus a few more, are here in larger sizes:


This is Sanju, who's worked at the hotel for 12 years. When I left last year just before Holi, he was so sad he was pouting. "I want to make colors with you," he said. When I told him I was sorry that I had to go, he said, "Sometimes for the heart, sorry is not enough." How could you not love a place where men talk like that?

That isn't a mask - it's a thick layer of the likely-toxic silver paint.

Bustin' a serious move on the dance floor.

Torsten from Switzerland, who I know from a trip to France some years back, gets pummeled by Whitney from the Bay Area.

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This little boy, a son of one of the staff at the hotel, just broke into dance periodically.
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I've been coming to this hotel in Varanasi since 1995, and there are always lots of Japanese and Korean travelers staying here.
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Sanju, in his element.
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Francois, the crazy Frenchman, and principle provocateur.
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A successful green powder attack, and the infrequently-use "bucket defense." 
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The "bucket defense" in its full glory. 
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The photographer and his expensive camera were largely spared. But that silver paint smelled nasty - like gasoline fumes!
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Sabina, another crazy trouble-maker - in the best way. "Watch out for my camera!" I said as she's aimed a bucket of water at someone. She said, "Zen don't take peek-tures!!"
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The place is destroyed. Sanju declares it a complete success!
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This is Madanji, the hotel manager since I came the first time. When I called last year after a three-year absence I said, "This is Mr. David from the U.S.," and he says, "Yes, yes." I said "I've been there lots of times," and he says, "Yes, yes, I know." Either he really did know or he faked it well! This, by the way, is his only facial expression:
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I love this kid.
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This reminds me of that famous American soldier photo from Iraq. Taking a little break after the battle...
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This plastic chair was white when the party started.
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These 45 images, plus a few more, are here in larger sizes:

(The End)