The sound of drums thrum through the walls. The happy screams, yells and taunts of children rattle the windows as the morning sun streams through. Jaipur has awoken and it is Holi. The festival of colour. A celebration of life. A welcome to spring. There is only one thing to do. Join in.
We prepare as if for battle: our armour a crisp white shirt; our weapon: armfuls of paint; our army: a bunch of travellers who have no idea what is happening or where to go.
Time to enter the war zone: colour cul-de-sacs; luminous lanes; saturated streets. No sooner are we out the door then the drums roll louder through our ears, the childish screeches echo off the houses.
The streets are alive. Where Tarmac once lay black and dull, a tumult of blues, yellows and reds stain the surface. Young and old run past us, covered head to toe in colour and see we are ’too clean’.
We follow the sounds, just to see where our feet will take us. A left turn. A right. More kids. More Indians. Drenched in colour, wide smiles on their faces; bright white teeth shine through cowls of colour, where bare faces once resided.
Layers of colour build on our faces. We echo the sentiments and smear all who come close with colour too.
Suddenly my back arches sharply: cold tendrils seethe through the cotton and caress my skin. A water bomb. A laughing child pops up from behind a wall. His eyes just scream, ’Ha. I got a westerner’. I smile back and shout the words, ’happy holi’.
The day carries us away. Lost down alleys. Lost in clouds of colour. Lost in smiles and laughter. This is how to celebrate: with colour, with friends known and not known… And perhaps a beer or two in hand as well.
From neighbourhood streets, to Old Town, Holi is in full swing. No matter where you are from, skin colour disintegrates on this day; instead everyone is blue, yellow, red, purple, green… We are all the same.
Racing down multi-colour highways clinging to the sides of a tuk tuk we pass carts piled high with colour: westerners replenish their supplies alongside Indians who do the same. We dismount from our ride to the familiar cries and join in just as before.
The sun climbs higher in the sky and the heat rises in unison. We start to sweat and paint starts to run. More and more layers build on our faces, drying the sweat and further hiding everything but eyes and teeth.
In place of traditional drums modern hi-fi’s belt out Indian and international classics. Endless hands launch colour into the sky, arms extended to release the trapped multi-coloured mists. The music thrums, the bass low and deep, and everyone dances. Spins. Twirls.
And so the day continues.
Smear of colour back and forth.
A new friend made here. A new friend made there.
A beer. Another smear.
And smile after smile after smile.
Until we look like this…
But like anything, all things must end. And so it is with colour seeping into our skin; feeling light headed from too many beers and too little water; our mouths aching from too many smiles and everyone around us departing for home. We decide too… Time for a shower.