It’s real, and it’s something I’ve found worrisome everywhere I’ve been. I’m talking here of countries discriminating against their own people, to the advantage of foreigners. In some places, it’s justified by higher entry prices, though foreigners can’t queue for lower prices.
And in some places, it’s just preferential treatment. For a large hindu festival in Kathmandu, Helen and I were ushered ahead of the two hour queue, for no immediate reason, other than being white. Treatment by officials, whether the police or border guards, also means that I get away with more, get treated faster, or simply just get help.
For Holi, I was buying powder at a street salesman, when the police ran up, and started beating everyone with sticks. Everyone but me.
It’s an odd and alienating feeling. No, I didn’t want to wait hours to enter Pushipatinath, but it gives off the impression, that they’re second-class citizens in their own country, and I find that disturbing (except for when they skip in line like there’s no tomorrow).
I’ve no solution to present, but if such activity took place in Denmark, I’d take issue with it. When we travel, we act as ambassadors not only of our country, but for our entire concept of living, which is why it pains me so to see rude and inconsiderate foreigners.
Do as the locals, eat their food, give as they give, and take as they take (though don’t drink their water).
And then on top of that, add Western sentiment and surplus; don’t haggle too hard, help those in need (you should see locals giving to disabled, female and children beggars), don’t pollute as they do (if I see another tan Aussie in a wifebeater and reversed cap throw a bottle on the ground), but make an effort to help. Have you tried, instead of giving money, to take a beggar to a restaurant or street stall? I have, it’s a fantastic feeling. Sure, it’ll usually cost more than you might otherwise give, but once you’ve tried it, you’ll get hooked. I know I am.
If we get special treatment anyway, let’s at least earn it.
It’s loud, dirty and very poisonous. It’s joyous, colourful and… I’m coming up short for a positive opposite to poisonous… Cheap? At 10 Rps per bag, it’s a very cheap blast.
On the 27th of March, I found myself in Vrindavan, notable for being where Krishna (as in “Hare Krishna”) grew up, spread his ideas, and did whatever gods do on their off time.
Vrindavan itself, seeing few tourists out of season, is quite underdeveloped as a destination, and as such, don’t expect a ton from the hotels, the service or the restaurants (Kridha Residency, I’m looking at you). But even out of season, it would register as charming, small alleyways, grand temples, and friendly local people. I didn’t see Mathura, but it’s supposed to be more of the same.
To Indians, the Holi festival, which is the Hindu festival of life, to herald the coming of spring (in 35C), is inextricably linked to the life of Krishna.
Krishna’s hometown theb, a sleepy little town of 60.000, becomes for a few days per year, home to a wonderfully massive, loud and chaos-like celebration. And really, the locals know how to make that happen.
But no matter how it may be described, Holi is most of all likely to shoot through your ceiling, and surpass all expectations, you simply can’t expect it. It’s not like a show being put on, or something requiring painstaken preparation.
It’s very difficult for you to prepare for, in large part because it’s difficult to properly describe. It’s a spectacle, a lot of happy adult Indians letting off steam, overexcited children causing havoc, and those playing it safe, throwing powder and liquid from rooftops (and if you’re unlucky like me, tubs of icy water).
It sounds like a salespitch, and maybe it is, but really, I just want you to go on blind faith. Go without googling to many photos by pro photographers, and let your mind absorb it.
On a small sidenote, be careful of where you go. Vrindavan was a great destination, it wasn’t touristy, so the locals don’t expect it. People I’ve talked to who celebrated it in Varanadi though, mainly girls, talk of being groped and kissed against their will. So go in a group, or go somewhere like Vrindavan.
A new, and better, photo of me after Holi has bern found. I hope that on seeing this photo, that you wish that you had been there too. There ought to be a spirit of adventure in everyone.
Holi has now been experienced. Definitely not a checklist item.
So… Taj Mahal happened.
I’ve now been joined, for the duration of Easter, by my mother and sister.
They brought offerings of sweets from home, and a budget that allows for less dangerous food, and hotels without rats or cockroaches. Success.