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Indiaries, Part Five: Colors, Lights And Rain

14/08/2015 8:16 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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India, people in front of temple during Holi festival

Spectacles.

Holi.

Holi has, in recent years, gained some popularity in the western hemisphere, meaning that at music festivals people would throw a handful of color at each other and then take pictures. The original Holi is a little different. Being the festival of color, it takes place in the day - it wouldn't make much sense at night. People get up in the morning and prepare bhang, little pre-packaged balls of sativa. So you take a few of these packets and add them to milk with a curdling agent, some spices, nuts, sugar, give it a good stir and drink it. It tastes really great and all but the point of the exercise is that for the duration of the festival you are high as a kite, along with everyone else. You go to joyous parties and people throw balloons of water and buckets of color at you, and as the sun sets everyone goes home looking like what children imagine walking through a rainbow results in. The cars, ground, walls, cows, everything is coated in color. Holi here is something you can't imagine but need to see. But really, all of India is.

diwali

Diwali.

The by far biggest celebration in the Indian calendar year, Diwali, is the festival of light and truly incredible shindig to witness and partake in. Starting preparations five days before the actual festival, Diwali concludes the darkest new moon day of the year by flooding it in manmade light. By the second of the five days leading up to it, I have to admit, I was exasperated with the ruckus - in broad daylight, people would ignite pointless firecrackers that made a lot of noise and me very unhappy. So, getting more and more frustrated as the days went on, I was no longer all that excited about the actual festival. Boy, was I wrong. Imagine a firework, over a city of twenty million people, that lasts all night. Imagine knowing it's close to midnight but feeling like it's daylight. Imagine fire everywhere. I expected it to be wild, sure, but not like this - I was catapulted into pyromaniac paradise. Children dancing the light fandango around what looked like ropes set on fire, without a care in the world. Truly, describing it is futile, but I will tell you that the day after the festival the city was enveloped in a cloud of graphite grey pollution from the fireworks - it looked like the London sky on a particularly broody November day. Even though my Diwali ended on a slightly unfortunate note wherein a box of 100 fireworks we had strategically placed on a roof terrace tipped over from the recoil of the first one shooting out of it and bombarded me and my friends with the remaining 99 in an incredibly dangerous mess and singed my hair along with my mental health, it was one of the brightest days of my life.

mumbai rain

Rain.

I like to divide the monsoons into ten emotional stages:

1 - It's too hot.

2 - I see clouds!

3 - It's raining a little, how refreshing.

4 - Wow, it's really coming down, this is exciting!

5 - I did not realize it was going to rain this much... but it's nice, really.

6 - Oh it's still raining, look at that. Rain, rain, rain...

7 - It could be a little sunnier now.

8 - How long did they say this is going to last? It can't rain forever, can it?

9 - Maybe it can?

10 - Make it stop.

The monsoons, as the rainy season in a tropical climate is known, are a big deal over here. The perhaps worst thing about the monsoons is that they make everything wet. Now this may seem like a dumbly simple statement, but bear with me here. Because I don't mean the fact that the rains drench everything in their path until entire cities stand knee deep in stagnant brown water - I mean the film of moisture that forms on everything outside and inside. Everything will feel... clammy. The floors, the clothes, the screen of your phone will all be irksomely moist whenever it rains, which is most of the time, and there is nothing you can do about it. Which comes with its own little reward: the smell in your clothes. You know the one - when you're too lazy to empty the washing machine at night and think you can do it in the morning - a sour smell, something like locker room meets that one kitchen towel we all have. Also, if you don't run your air conditioner constantly, which you won't, because it will get chilly, it will collect an incredibly pungent, smelly and just as unhealthy amount of mold that is dispersed across your room and lungs the next time you turn it on.

The rains aren't all bad, though - the first drops of rain are welcomed by screaming children and the first downpour celebrated by young and old taking to the puddles to dance. But this initial rush of joy is quickly washed away by the constant and thus soon unenjoyably large amount of water, the monotony of grey skies and oddly chilly humidity that at the same time somehow feels too warm. It is coming down wholesale, with no end in sight, and obstructs city life to an amazing degree. The best you can do is, as previously mentioned, accept and deal, and, very importantly, prepare as best you can. Because soon you will realize that the rains should be renamed the runs for their intensity and unappetizing tinge. The most important thing to keep in mind when preparing is that no matter how much you do, you will get frustrated and you most definitely will get stuck, at some point or the other, in some place or the other, but mostly in many different ways in many different places. The traffic in this already chaotic town, for instance, will come to a screeching halt - there is no way around it, you see, in a city that has no drainage system to speak of.

Most people would tell you that the first and foremost thing is to be dressed appropriately, but let me let you in on a well-guarded secret here, my friends: there is no appropriate dressing for it. First of all, the only acceptable footwear in this case, barring the local's choice of flip flops which seem to me unfit for wading in astoundingly dirty water, are rubber boots. But there's a catch: there are no rubber boots. You might be able to find them at select stores even though I have yet to do so, but they definitely aren't easy to come by. Secondly, umbrellas are all but useless in the certain event of a splashing or knee deep water. Plus, more often than not, the rain comes down with such ferocity that you can't see a foot in front of you so it's not only physically straining and rather irritating to hold one but also of very little help. My point is that no matter what you wear, it (along with every single inch of your body) will get drenched in water, even when you're just hopping across the street (which is a feat in and of itself), so it really doesn't matter what you wear. Brownie point, whatever gets wet (everything) will take 3 days to dry properly, by which I mean "dry down to that bit of smelly moistness" mentioned above. But then you see the usually bare city flourish with green all over, hear children's laughter and it is all quite wonderful sometimes - besides, it can't rain forever, can it?

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