Monday, March 12, 2012

A white girl's first Holi

My sister (Papaya), myself (Mango) and my brother.
So I know Holi has already passed, but a belated Happy Holi to everyone. :) For reasons I can't even begin to guess at, Holi celebrations here in the U.S. are always delayed. Holi was Thursday, but yesterday (Sunday) was the local Tampa celebration, which — you guessed it — I attended! :) (And interestingly, Holi celebrations in other parts of Florida are next weekend and the biggest celebration in the U.S., which is in Utah, is in two weeks.)

Now getting to celebrate Holi was bahut, bahut exciting for me. I've wanted to celebrate Holi since even before I got into Bollywood; it's actually one of the few things I knew about India prior to the Bollywood obsession and studying India. The only problem is the area where I'm from is very desi-sparse, and to the best of my knowledge they haven't celebrated it in my college town.

I didn't have any friends in the area who could go with me (I really only have a handful of friends in the area, none close), but my sister and one of my brothers have always wanted to do Holi too, so they came for a visit and we made a family outing of it.

We went in with the expectation that it was going to be somewhat awkward — outings into the desi world usually are for us. Not only do we not know anyone (a situation none of us are particularly good with), but we're also very clearly out of place to say the least, haha. And sometimes…large groups of desi people are sadly not very welcoming.

Things were somewhat awkward on the approach. We didn't quite know how to get into the fray of water-slinging that we came upon. Because, yes, it wasn't just colored powder; this is Florida: There were buckets and hoses and water guns involved.

Luckily on our approach, a group of guys with bags of color came up, asked if we wanted to join and smudged our faces up and said "Happy Holi!" I hope just saying Happy Holi back without returning the color is appropriate because that's all we could do (we didn't realize color wasn't provided).

And eventually we just got caught up in the water and color slinging. We got doused in powder, soaked in water and doused in powder again.

It was mostly kids (like I'd say 12 and under) and some of their fathers/30-something guys. There were a few groups of guys who seemed in their 20s too, but they were more selective…and flirty, I suppose. ;) It took me a while to realize that they were being so selective and flirty. I'd forgotten Holi is seen as a rather uninhibited chance to flirt (though thinking back to my freshman year of college, I remember reading a short story about a Holi celebration among university students that included rather inappropriate touching).

But anyway, I got some leftover color and a nice lady offered me a bag, anddd it went from there. It was still kind of awkward because we didn't know anyone and who it was appropriate to sling with color, especially if it'd be considered forward of me. I ended up just throwing it on whoever hit me with water.

And there was a little boy about 4 or 5 whose dad kept telling him to go put powder on a little girl's face, but the little boy was shy. So I walked up and smeared his face. The look on his face was so cute. And he smeared my face right back. So cute.

I almost embarrassed myself by dancing when music from Om Shanti Om played over the speakers, but I kept it to a minimum and just a lot of lip synching. :)

And about 24 hours later, parts of my skin are still dyed as is my hair (see: my back this morning), and some of my clothes (partially by design) are hopeless. I wore a white shirt with the expectation that it'd have the best effect (and that it's somewhat the thing to do; that's what they do in films!). And I didn't bother bleaching it. It's now a beautiful mishmash of colors that are not white. Haha. But note to self, do not wear a white bra next year! Wear a swimsuit! (If it wasn't so inappropriate, I'd show you a picture of my bra that was once white and then multicolored and still was even two bleaches later.) Even my right contact lens didn't escape Holi; it's now permanently dyed red and no longer usable.

All in all, Holi was, despite the awkwardness, every bit as fun as I hoped. There's always something liberating about slinging water and dyes like a kid. And something that just feels fabulous about celebrating color, especially as winter turns to spring. I hope I get to celebrate again with more people I know (or at least more people my age!) so I have a better idea of whom I can hit. :)

Happy Holi, everyone! May your life be filled with color.


  1. Happy Holi to you too! I would love to do Holi, but would feel rather out of place, like you did at first. I don't even know where I would go to look for Holi celebrations. Maybe it is just a family thing now here. Of course, it wouldn't be quite as exciting as it is in the movies, because there'd be no fantastic soundtrack, like there is here!

    1. Oh, but there was a fantastic soundtrack! They played music from movies — like Rang Barse from Silsila (an actual Holi song) and music from Om Shanti Om. And you're probably right; it probably is a family-oriented thing. The one I went to was, but it was still fun.

      So fun, in fact, that I'm doing it again tomorrow, if you can believe it. They're celebrating it in my former college town, which is only about two hours from where I live now, and one of my friends from college wants me to go with her.

    2. I've just found this now. How did you get on? Did you wear an old bra, did you wear your contact lenses and was there any inappropriate touching? Hmmm... those things don't usually go together!