March 22nd was stained in vivid contrast against all others of the past year in Nepal. The country once again descended into the state of unmitigated chaos which is all too common here. Gangs roamed freely, some containing even young children, heavily armed with a variety of firearms and explosives, some homemade and some brought across the Chinese border, brutally attacking anyone who dared venture into the streets. The police were out in full force to curtail this menace, but were largely outnumbered and outgunned. Some of them even defected, whether for ideological reasons or simply from fear we shall never know. I suppose it doesn't matter now. Two of us were caught outside when a gang entered our neighborhood. As they unleashed their unholy barrage upon us, I managed to run inside and bar the door in time. My friend was not so lucky. I peered out through a crack, and I could only see a growing pool of red where he had stood before.
Of course, I mean to say that the day was stained in vivid contrast by a various dyes, that the gangs' arms consisted of water balloons and super soakers, the growing pool was colored by vermillion, and that all of this occurred in celebration of Holi. Unlike the Protestant holidays of the United States, in which we compensate for the undeniably dull prescribed worship by appropriating Pagan rituals such as decorating the floors of our homes with dried pine needles and searching for the leavings of a particularly anti-gallinacean rabbit, all the while trying our best not to ask questions about how it all flies in the face of the predominately exclusivist outlook of the Church, Holi is unabashedly nonsensical.
Depending on who you ask, it celebrates the coming of Spring, the victory of good over evil, or the universal chaos that we futilely spend most of our time trying to quell. However, much like the Protestant holidays of the United States, most people aren't concerned about the religious underpinnings of Holi and really just want to have a good time.
The day begins when someone smears dye powder all over your face. The day continues when everyone else comes and smears dye powder all over the rest of you. After that, everyone gets drunk, dances, eats tons of good food, and has an all-around fantastic time. One of the things that I admire most about Nepali people is their seemingly boundless ability to relax and enjoy themselves regardless of the pace at which the world is disintegrating around them (sometimes literally - immediately after the first big earthquake last year, many people of Khandbari gathered in the bazaar and, thinking that they were all going to die soon, had a big dance party - not a bad way to go, in my opinion), and it's rarely more appreciable than during Holi.
|9th graders trying to get some work done|