Today is the Holi Festival, celebrated widely and wildly in the the country. India as a whole is a kaleidoscope of colors but this becomes very literal in this festive Hindu occasion where colored powder, colored water and lately, colored sprays from aerosol cans are thrown and sprayed at each other amidst blaring music, dancing and drinking. From homes to the streets, everyone's in a huge party mood.
More than the partying itself, Holi festival heralds the arrival of spring. As this change in season brings along a host of illnesses like cough and colds, the Hindus have in the past resorted to throwing natural coloured powders prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors who believed in their medicinal effects. Unfortunately, as times have also changed (along with the economy), more synthetic colors and chemical dyes have been used - which raised the issue on its adverse effects to humans. For now - whether the powders used are safe or not, the party continues.
I arrived in Agra as the maelstrom of colors was underway. Mukeesh, happy to be finally back in his hometown, introduced me to his boss Anil who excitedly invited me to his rooftop party. Loud Indian music greeted me as I stepped in while men whose faces are already caked in powder taking turns embracing me as a sign of welcome. No sooner have I been introduced when kids started smearing my face with their hands full of the colored stuff. I was brought to the dance floor where we did pelvic thrusts, rolled our heads and eyeballs and flailed our arms like they do it in Bollywood movies. I'm now officially in party mood myself. Just not sure if this powder on my face will not cause me blackheads. Yay!
Mukeesh and I drove very early this morning from Jaipur , stopping enroute in Fatehpur Sikri to view this ghost city carved entirely from red sandstone. Considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this architecturally magnificent buildings and courtyards were built by Emperor Akbar in 1571. It was inhabited for only 14 years before being deserted due reportedly to water shortage.
This is where Samran the guide goes into commission-drive: he tells me that I should buy silk covers, petals and a set of 3 threads from one of the men to offer to the tomb as the saint is purportedly able to grant at least 3 wishes. More importantly he says, the proceeds of the sale go to the education of poor children in the village of Fatehpur. In my ignorance and desire of following the good deeds of Mother Teresa, I happily obliged and was told it costs 1100 Rupees ($22). As I offered the silk and the petals on the tomb and tied the threads as instructed, I wonder if the money really goes to the kids. Who knows if that silk just goes back for sale after my visit?
I tried to vanish the thought immediately and try focusing on the Holi festival. Mukeesh drove carefully as we drew closer to Agra and the streets are filled with young men determined to spray our car with colored water. I was also excited not just for Holi but for one that is India's iconic symbol: the Taj Mahal. I couldn't wait to see this eternal symbol of love and lucky for me, I'm here during the full moon. I'm viewing it tonight. For now, I'm getting a sneak preview from my hotel room at the Mandakani Villas while I try to cleanse my face and get rid of this horrible make-up off my face.