It was my first time ever experiencing Holi, and lucky me, I was in Jhansi. 😀 What a playful bunch of people I met. 😀 Now, I know other cities in India are well known for their Holi festivities, but little credit is given for the smaller cities celebrating… Like Jhansi. 😀
Before I dive into my story, you should probably know a little about Holi.
To sum it up, Holi is a Hindu festival, celebrated in honor of Lord Krishna. It is known as the festival of colors, or the festival of love and also the festival of food. 😀 On the night before Holi, people gather for a Holika bonfire. The next day, the festival of colors truly begins! People play with friends and family by throwing colored powder at each other, or colored water.
Okay, that’s my introduction. Read more here.
Now… I woke up early on Holi. I got ready and waited to hear from my bodyguard. I waited for some time, before I decided to lay down and rest again. After all, I knew I would wake up to the sound of my phone ringing. I woke up every now and again to the sound of music and laughter coming from outside. It seems the fun had begun, but I was still waiting.
I woke up suddenly. I guess I slept pretty hard, because the music outside was really loud and I had 2 missed calls on my phone. ‘Aw crap,’ I thought.
I got out of bed and turned the light on. (I usually open the windows for light, in the day, but I wasn’t ready for sunlight yet.) I saw something out of place, out of the corner of my eye, and looked down. A rat was huddled up next to my wall, just laying there. I could see it breathing, but it did not care that I was standing right next to him. I could tell he was dying. :'( “Poor thing…” I said. “I’m glad you could come here to rest, but why did you come to my room to die?” I turned to the bed, grabbed my phone, and called Bodyguard back. He told me he would be coming to get me in 30 minutes, and to be ready. “Don’t be afraid,” he warned me. “My cousins threw color on me. I’m green, so don’t be afraid.” I laughed. “Okay,” I responded, “But I’m going to need you to help me with something.”
“What?” He asked.
“A rat is in my room, and… I’m pretty sure it’s dying.”
“Oh, okay… I’ll take care of it.”
We hung up. I continued to talk to the rat as I got ready. “What happened to you, Rat? Did something crush you? Did something attack you?” I searched the room for an empty bottle of Sprite, and filled the cap with some water. I set it down next to the rat, very carefully. It looked at me with fear for a moment, but only focused on its breathing. It looked calm again, when I pulled my hand away. It didn’t go for the water. “Oh… You poor thing.”
I went to the bathroom to fix my bedhead, and put my shirt of choice on. The once-yellow shirt belonged to my sister. It was a little big on me, but it was the only shirt I had, that I knew the colors would show up on. Any other shirt might be ruined. 😀 (A beautiful example of sisterly love.) I walked by the rat again, whose condition was unchanged. I sighed, sad for the rat, and went to open the windows and the doors. Bodyguard would be showing up any minute. I unlocked the gate and just waited by the door, watching people walk and drive by. Some were soaking wet and covered in colors. Others just looked as if they had been blasted with pink powder. Pink and blue and yellow. I saw these colors the most.
Bodyguard turned the corner. I laughed. 😀 He was indeed green. “The gate is open,” I said, and gestured towards the gate. He came in and I pointed at the rat. He grimaced. “Is it dead?”
“No,” I said, “It’s not dead, but it’s dying.”
I noticed the rat has crawled a few feet towards the open door. ‘Oh poor thing…’ I thought.
Bodyguard stood over the rat, trying to decide what to do. “Do you have anything to scoop it up with? …Newspaper?” I handed him the little bit of newspaper I had, but he was still unsure. “Let’s wait.” He said, “My jiju will be here in a few moments to get you. I will ask him to remove it.” I couldn’t blame him. As bad as I felt for the rat, I didn’t want to touch it or move it either.
Bodyguard explained that his jiju (brother in law) would be driving me to his cousins house, where we would play Holi.
Suddenly a voice was calling Bodyguard’s name. We turned to the door and his jiju came around the corner. When Bodyguard explained the situation, his jiju came in and promptly removed the rat by its tail and walked outside. ‘Sorry, Rat. ♥’ I thought, a little sad that the Rat couldn’t die somewhere peaceful and cool. I was also a little relieved. Death (of the rat) and disease didn’t seem appealing either.
I grabbed my purse and locked up on my way out.
I climbed in his jiju’s car. “I’m coming right behind you,” Bodyguard assured me. In the passenger seat sat his jiju, and in the driver’s seat was another man about the same age. It seemed as though neither of them spoke English.
We started driving. On the way, I could see that everyone we passed was very colorful. In front of us, two motorcycles were carrying two men each. Both passengers were throwing fistfulls of powdered color at eachother and laughing. I giggled. This is awesome. We made it through a roundabout, took a left and navigated the small passageways. Cars, cows and piles of bricks were blocking our path, but we found an alternate way around each. As we waited for a cow to pass, I could see into an alleyway. A bunch of boys were laughing and throwing colored powder at eachother. The entire alley was a pink fog. I smiled again. I started to recognize the area, moments before we arrived.
The driver put the car in park and both men got out. I got out and immediately searched for Bodyguard. Luckily he was right behind me. I felt relived. 😀
Suddenly droplets of water came falling down on me, from above. I looked up, and men were spraying us with water from the rooftop. We laughed and went inside the gate. Bodyguard said, “One moment,” and turned and walked away. I took my shoes off at the door, said “Namaste” to Aunty and stood there, a bit shy. Aunty guided me to a chair, speaking Hindi. I was a bit amused. Even when people know I can’t understand them, they still speak Hindi to me. 😀 I said hello to Bodyguard’s cousin’s wife and Janu, the baby. Janu still seemed bewildered by me.
Aunty left the room and returned with snacks. Bodyguard returned with a collection of colorful men, eager to say hello to me. I smiled. One man came to shake my hand. ‘How nice.’ I thought. Then I looked down at my now-blue hand. ‘Oho… I see what you did there.’ 😀
Everyone laughed. People were speaking Hindi and laughing more. I admit that it’s not easy having no idea what’s going on, though I am used to it. Someone approached me with a silver plate of pink powder. ‘I know what this means...’ I thought. I quickly removed my glasses and stuffed them in my purse. I couldn’t identify who was marking me, but someone gave me a pink tika. I laughed, as I could feel the powder falling from the mark and onto my nose. Everyone else laughed too.
Shortly after, I handed my purse over to Bodyguard’s cousin’s wife, handed my camera over to Bodyguard, and we made our way up the stairs to play Holi. When we got to the rooftop, I could see few others on their rooftops. I looked down and the rooftop was covered in blueish green water. Someone started the music and the party began. It all started with water. 😀 Everyone took turns splashing eachother with buckets of water or the hose. The first color we played with was pink. I was a bit shy at first, and because I am familiar with him, Bodyguard is an easy target. 😀 I warmed up after awhile, and even engaged in war, with a boy who didn’t seem interested in playing. I could tell that some were nervous to play with me, but I would like to think that I made them comfortable. 😀 We danced to music also, and even danced to Balam Pichkari! 😀 It was a nice introduction to Holi and I had a lot of fun.
Holi 2014 in Jhansi
When it was all said and done, and everyone was leaving and tired, Bodyguard and I stayed on the rooftop to dry in the sun. We sat, mostly in silence, enjoying the sunshine.
When we were almost completely dry, we made our way downstairs to leave. I collected my purse and said goodbye and we made our way to Bodyguard’s house. When we left, two young women who had been peeking out of their doorway at me were watching us drive by. I smiled and waved, but only one girl saw me. Her eyes lit up and she smiled so big, waving back. ^_^ It’s a good feeling.
We drove for about 10 minutes… Bodyguard seemed a bit nervous, as we approached his neighborhood. I reassured him, by telling him I wasn’t going to judge his home.
His cousin parked the car, and we all got out. We walked down a short alley. The buildings on either side were fairly tall and had many windows. I looked ahead again. Bodyguard was much faster than me, but at least his cousin waited for me. When we neared his home, we passed men and women sitting outside on their front steps, and children playing with eachother. I could feel them staring at me as I passed.
We walked inside, passing a small room before entering a courtyard. ‘So this is the courtyard he’s been telling me about…‘ I thought. I smiled. ‘Cool.’ There was a room to the left, a room straight ahead and a staircase leading to an open room, on the right. “Come.” Bodyguard said.
I followed him up the stairs… The steep, no-railing, scary stairs. These stairs wouldn’t normally bother me… but I’m clumsy sometimes, and I felt as though that would lead to certain death with these stairs. When we reached the room, I met Bodyguard’s mom for the first time. She was very sweet. I said, “Namaste” to her. She laughed. Everyone laughs. 😀 Do I say it weird?
Bodyguard offered me a place to sit. We sat quietly for a few moments. I also met Bodyguard’s sister, his brother and his niece (for the second time). We had chai and some snacks. Guzia is a traditional Indian snack, served on Holi. It’s filled with nuts and shredded coconut. It was so yummy! 😀
I played with Bodyguard’s niece for awhile. At first she was too shy, but eventually, when everyone else left the room, she was comfortable enough to say her ABC’s (Yes, the English alphabet) and count to 20 (yes, in English). She could even perform “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and other nursery rhymes. What a smart girl! ♥ She brought a play-phone in and started answering it. “Hello?” She would say. Bodyguard asked me to ask her introductory questions. So I did. “How are you?” I asked. “I’m fine, thank you.” She said. SO CUTE! “What’s your name?” I asked. She answered. Bodyguard gave me a hint for the next question. “What’s your mother’s name?” I asked. She seemed stuck on that question. She thought it was amusing that I wanted to tickle her, and she kept trying to talk to me in Hindi. What a sweetheart. ♥
As dinner was cooking, I got the tour of the rest of the house. I got to see Bodyguard’s brother and his friends watching a movie on the projector. I bet his friends thought it was really strange, some American chick poking her head in the doorway, saying, “Huh, cool,” and leaving. 😀 I like leaving strange impressions. I also got a tour of Bodyguard’s niece’s playroom. She was excited for me to see. She showed me a box of toys. I smiled when I saw a teapot. “Tea?” I asked, as I pretended to pour tea from the toy teapot. She smiled.
We went back up the death-trap stairs and made our way to the rooftop. We passed the kitchen. Bodyguard’s mother and sister were hard at work. I was hungry and I could hardly wait!
The rooftop was beautiful. I could see so many other rooftops, and even the sun setting behind all the colorful homes. Bodyguard’s niece followed us up the stairs to the rooftop. She was making both of us nervous, coming so close to the edge, so I held out my hand and she took it. We walked hand in hand, to the other side of the roof, gazing at the sunset. So lovely…
We decided to head back downstairs when a couple of kids called out to Bodyguard’s niece, asking: “Who has come to your house?” She replied, and apparently said, “Ma’am has come to my house.” I giggled and asked the children for their photo.
We went downstairs, just in time for dinner. Dinner was paneer (Indian cheese) sabzi with puri, some kind of pumpkin dish (so yummy!), a salad (chopped onions, tomatos and peppers) and homemade chips. It was delicious!
After dinner I said “Namaste” to his mom, and goodbye to everyone else.
The ride home was quiet and uneventful and when I arrived home, I was so happy to finally take a shower and relax!
What an awesome experience, all together! I can’t wait for next Holi! 😀