Celebrating Holi in Delhi

Time to celebrate Holi! And while I’m not sure exactly what Holi celebrates, the minimal information required is that it’s the spring time festival of colors and people will be throwing colorful powder at you.  What that has to do with burning an evil god to the ground and saving a devotee of Vishnu is beyond me (thank you wikipedia), but it made my list of biggest parties in the world so here I am.

dressed in kurtas and ready to go
dressed in kurtas and ready to go

The morning of Holi we woke up nice and early to a phone call from Bose.  He told us he wouldn’t be able to join us for the debauchery as originally planned and gave us some bullshit excuse about the birth of his first nephew. I know, completely unacceptable.  Now, left to our own devices we had to look up directions to Holi Guns and how to get there.  And despite the nice hotel, we were still cheap asses and took the first available tuktuk from north Delhi to south Delhi. As our tuktuk putt putted along I noticed 2 things.
1) The road was almost empty as compared to the days before
2) Every one of the vehicles on the road, including scooters was moving faster than our tuktuk

Regardless, we trudged along making a stop at what I guessed was the half way point to get some gas.  When we stepped out of the car to let the driver fill up, a guy jumped out of his car covered in red powder and beckoned us over.  Doing things the “nice way” he rubbed some powder off of his red stained face and gently put some on our faces as Rafiki would do to Simba.  The king has returned.

A few minutes later we were back in the tuktuk and slowly cruising southward.  We eventually reached the area where the party was supposed to be (thankfully Mark had mapped everything out before hand) but couldn’t find the actual party.  While I could hear beats coming from somewhere, we were under the train tracks and the echos were making it hard to tell where the music was coming from.

As we rolled along the road, my aggravation with being so close, yet so far made it seem as if time was slowing and the tuktuk was barely moving.  Oh no wait, the tuktuk was  barely moving and had essentially come to a stop on a sketchy looking side road.  The driver hopped out and started fucking with the ignition wires and then came around the back and started messing with the engine or whatever.  Fabulous. Half a damn hour later we were back on the road going no more than 15 kph and eventually pulled up to the club which happened to be across the street and maybe half a kilometer down the road from where the tuktuk had broken down.

As soon as we got in line I noticed something about how we were inappropriately dressed.  The girls behind us were in short shorts and t-shirts while the three of us were in traditional Indian garb.  So basically we looked like those asshole tourists who want an “authentic” experience so we tried to dress like the locals to ineffectively assimilate.  I hate us.

The best solution to discomfort of that sort of course is to hit the bar.  Hard.  Our entrance had come with a bunch of drink tickets so I immediately headed for the bar and got a vodka mango, no ice, because I was still not a victim of Delhi Belly and wanted to keep it that way.  Having successfully obtained social lubricant, I started to take in my surroundings.  Everyone was covered from head to toe in colorful powder and was drenched from the guys standing in the fountain shooting everyone with the hose and water guns (hence, Holy Guns).  We were pretty much the only non-colored people (RACIST!) so we started gently tossing powder at each other, which effectively just slipped off our clothes since it was the dampness that retained the color.  I also noticed that there were quite a few other white people (for all intents and purposes I’m going to consider myself white here) milling around that had brought their children to the party. While bringing kids to a color festival sounds like a fun child-friendly activity, the prevalence of alcohol, hash, bhang and the drugs associated with the heavy trance music blaring from two stages might be an indication of this not being a place for your 10 year old children.

By my third trip to the bar in 10 minutes I was feeling left out of the color wars and decided it was time to make friends.  The guy standing next to me was covered in turquoise and I told him he needed some purple powder in hopes that he would reciprocally throw some blue powder on me.  His response, “Where are you from? You’re not from here.”  No shit, how many slanty Asians have you seen in India (hint: not many).  As it turned out, the dude was from California.  Leave it to me to go through a festival full of Indian people and meet someone from the same country as me.

In any case he ended up being really cool and we all ended up getting drunk together and from out of the blue, a hash cigarette appeared.  I have no idea of the legality of hash in India, but it appeared to be everywhere at the festival so sorry parents, I took a drag of the cigarette.   When in Rome, right?

On the other hand, lesson learned don’t know if I’ll be smoking hash again.  After the drinks and the hash, my memories get a little hazy (get it!) and I’m pretty sure the conversation turned into the guy telling me that he would like to date someone like me and me saying, “well that sounds like a horrible idea.”  And then him planning out our entire future together including future children.  Then I changed the subject and somehow the story of being in NZ and eating grubs came up.  To which he responded “Ew gross, now I don’t want to try to kiss you anymore.”  Mission accomplished.  After that I wandered for a bit.  Danced.  Met a bunch of random people and got more colorful.

delhi 013
“Is that color going to give me lead poisoning?” “Probably…” “But it’s so shiny and pretty – cover me in it!”

delhi 012holi

Hours later, it was dark, the music was blasting, the drinks were flowing but somehow I was aware enough to know that we had to be up at 7 the next morning to go to the Taj Mahal – which would involve a 2 hour car trip.  So responsibly we decided to head home to get some sleep.  Easier said than done.

Apparently no one wanted to pick up three wasted foreigners covered in color going to the opposite side of the city. I have no idea why.  After being turned down by several tuktuks and cabs, half an hour later a car finally pulled over and offered us a ride.  We asked him if he could take us to North Delhi or even anywhere in the direction of North Delhi so we could get another cab that would take us home.  Our savior told us it would be no problem.  We got in the cab, and then we had to ask the kicker – how much money will this cost us?

“Nothing, I’m not a cab.  I’ll just give you guys a ride.”

Oh shit. Did we just hitchhike…in India?

The answer is yes we did.  And no we did not get out of the car.  And the further conclusion is I lived to tell about it so all is well and good.  Even though when I related this story to my Delhi friends they unanimously agreed that hitchhiking in Delhi = not cool.  Fortunately the guys who gave us a ride ended up being super nice university students who happened to be going in our direction anyway.  Sometimes I’m much luckier than I deserve to be.

5 thoughts on “Celebrating Holi in Delhi

  1. Holy crap! What an experience that must have been!
    Congratulations on utilizing the vodka to get over the fashion faux-pas,
    and on managing not to die on your hitchhiking escapade!
    I am also very glad you managed not to get married to the guy at the bar,
    and I hope your luck continues to serve you well so I can read about more

      1. Lmao, well I’ve had many a date with my Dear friend “Morgan,” and he seems to treat me just as well as Smirnoff. But I agree, be bold, but when in doubt- drink.

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