Cut to me sitting in the grass, swiping at the purple pooled in the corners of my mouth, the rainbow powder-turned-paste now clogging the nasal mucosa…my friends, in line, waiting absurdly for coconuts.
I am content and lazy, full of unidentifiable mash I paid $12 for at the lunch line. Three different smashed vegetable concoctions, all spicy and wonderful, comfortable in their consistency, their spreadability on the naan. My eyes are closed, head tilted to the sun, emboldened by the lingering effects of the tequila and orange soda we got from the liquor store down the street. The liquor we drank in the parking lot like high school kids. The kind that comes in min-bottles which brings to mind airplanes which brings to mind travel which brings to mind now.
We are at a Holi festival in Norwalk, California. Holi is the ancient Hindu festival of love and color primarily celebrated in India and Nepal. It marks the arrival of spring and is a joyous occasion. There are a few different stories from which the holiday seems to arise. The first is your rousing good vs. evil tale. The second, of course, is a love story.
Enter our hero.
“Excuse me… ‘Scuse me. Hello?”
I squeeze one eye open to see a young Indian man standing before me.
“Are you like me?”
The question was so confusing it prompts both eyes open before I can make the conscious decision to ignore him.
He repeats his question and then cocking his head to one side he answers himself with a negation. As an after-thought he explains to me that it is difficult to tell with the colors.
I finally understand that he is asking if I am also Indian, and as if following a cue, I shake my no, but clearly he is so I ask him to tell me where he’s from…
His delight at having finally arrived at the question is obvious.
He tells me he’s from _____ near _____, and I nod my head sagely as if I have a clue. The only part of India I have any real relationship with is Kashmir thanks to my ongoing love affair with Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown.
After a few more get-to-know-you’s he circles back to his original assertion that it is difficult to tell anything about me from my skin, covered as it is with green, blue, purple, pink, and yellow powders. This is the point of Holi, he says, to see the real person by not seeing the person. He is sweet and earnest, and I, of course, begin to fear he is trying to paint me the Radha to his Krishna…
Enter the love story.
As the legend goes, young Krishna despaired of his dark blue skin color, (the unfortunate result of being poisoned by a she demon’s breast milk) and his desire for the fair skinned Radha made him bemoan his dark skin so often that his mother finally told him to just go paint Radha whatever color he liked. He followed her instruction, Radha and Krishna fell in love, and they lived happily ever after. Well not really, but that’s a loose paraphrase of the lover’s version of how Holi came to be.
Of course it wasn’t really that simple (nothing in love ever is) but the various interpretations all lead back to that never-ending L word.
So cutting back to the present, with my would-be Krishna in front of me, I wonder how to handle the possibility of this being a pass… I decide to ignore the assumption, (thankfully) and get a beautiful explanation of what Holi means to someone who is actually a part of its heritage. He was even kind enough to share this on video for us. Enjoy!
HOLI IN NORWALK, CA
Dousing perfect strangers in multi-hued powders
Yoga and mediation classes
Live band and DJ spinning Bollywood beats
Aforementioned delicious Indian food!
Interesting vendors… Arts & crafts and even a psychic!
The opportunity to celebrate universal LOVE by engaging in a traditional Indian festival
**Takes place in March.