On Monday, we had just one day off to recover from our excursion before getting back into the swing of things. On Tuesday I attempted yet again to procure an interview for my research paper, but to no avail. Believe it or not, making phone calls in India is even more stressful for me than it is in the States. The next day, we had our final Hindi exam of the semester. (I prepared by getting a full eight ours of sleep). On Wednesday my friend and I tried to go do another interview for our paper, but failed yet again because we didn’t realize that Holi had already started.
On the bright side, that night I got to experience the first night of Holi. At 6:30 PM sharp, my Host-Mom and I walked down the block to see a large bonfire that was being lit. This bonfire represents the burning of Holika, the daughter of an evil king, and the salvation of her brother Prahlad. These bonfires are all lit at the same time on just about every other street corner in the city. Later that evening I went with my host family to a Holi dinner celebration. The food was delicious, and it was fun to have a night out on the town.
Thursday was the festive day of Holi. This day is known as the festival of colors, and is meant as a celebration of good triumphing over evil. I visited some of my classmates whose host families had plans for the day. Although we began with our dry powder on our faces, (the kind we use when we celebrate at Whitman), when we left the house we were immediately doused with buckets of wait paint. It was surprising to say the least, but got me in the mood to get messy. After piling into a paint-proofed car, we arrived at the same location where we attended a wedding the previous month. There we began our all-out water war.
At our next location, paint-covered men began filling up a huge tub of water. Everyone grabbed buckets or halved soda bottles with the intent of getting each other as wet as possible. A few men at the celebration could throw the water so aggressively that it felt like you were being whipped in the back every time you got hit. No mercy was given, with the exception of the ceasefire that was called when it was time to have drinks. By the end of the afternoon I was soaking wet, stained with color, and entirely exhausted. I went home and scrubbed myself, but some of the paint still remained. It was entertaining to walk around the next day and see the colorful remnants of Holi on the faces of passersby.
On Friday, still stained slightly pink, I was finally able to complete interviews for my research paper. I interviewed two women who work in development, specifically in regards to issues of women’s empowerment. I talked to them about the complexities of transnational feminisms, and that night I felt very professional transcribing our conversations. It was hot, (I later found out it was 100 degrees that afternoon), everyone was stressed out about schoolwork, and we had a workshop planned for the next day. Miraculously, I made it through the week.
That weekend we were to begin our workshops. These trips would happen in four different locations, with five of us in each group. I chose the workshop in Dharmasala that dealt with issues of women’s empowerment. Although we were originally supposed to take a fourteen-hour train ride, our itinerary suddenly changed and we drove to Delhi to take a flight instead. It was surreal being in an airport so unexpectedly, but nice to be traveling with such a small group for once. We found a Starbucks in the terminal and couldn’t pass up the chance to stop for a familiar drink. (When in Delhi…right?).
We arrived in Dharmasala on Sunday and were immediately struck by the lush greenery, the snowy mountaintops, and most of all, the fresh air. As we were driving through town, we could already tell this was going to be a good trip. Even the dogs looked happy to be there. Currently we are staying at a lovely place filled with beautiful gardens and feminists who do yoga. Tune in next week to see if we achieve our goal of meeting the Dalai Lama.
Until next time,
A tinted traveler