Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Holi festival of colors, Batman!

And then suddenly it was Saturday. Luckily I'd done a great job going to the gym that week and taking lots of water so I was up and at 'em early in the morning. This was wonderful because I had a busy day ahead of me that Saturday: it was planned to the nines. Just the way I love it. In fact my entire weekend was planned. But I'll get to that later.

I cleaned my house just long enough to rush out the door and make it for the opening bell at the farmer's market. I actually made it at the opening bell! Finally I can say with pride that I'd made it once. I can stop feeling ashamed when I say I go to the farmer's market for all of my produce goods and thinking silently to myself that I'd never actually made it there for the best goods when it first opened. This time I'd made it. I got the quality goods that hadn't been picked over by more zealous farmer's market shoppers. I was officially "one of them." Yes, pride.

Anyway, I went through it quickly (plus a quick stop at Lidl) and was back at my apartment 40 minutes later. Record time for grocery shopping.

I made myself a quick sandwich and packed my shoulder bag for the day's festivities. I was meeting Books and her friends for the Holi One festival - a traditionally Indian festival where you throw colored powders at each other. It's world famous. Fortunately for us (but maybe not for Indians), a bunch of German guys had gone and commercialized it, taking the religious connotations out of it, and now Holi festivals are celebrated around the world during the summer (instead of the first of spring). Non-toxic cosmetic powders are shipped 'round the world for just this purpose. They probably made millions of euros on this venture.

Anyway, Books had bought early bird tickets awhile back and I happened to be in contact with her regarding something else when I asked her what she was doing on Saturday (I was checking in with her because unfortunately her apartment had been robbed earlier that week...oddly they only stole her brand new shiny red wellies/rainboots and some euros...we're thinking it was a druggie) and poof, the rest is history. One of the best happenstances of my life.

The reason I was rushing out the door that morning was because you're told to wear white clothing to this festival. The colors show up the best that way. And it's possible the colors don't always wash out, so you're told to wear clothes that you don't really care about. Unfortunately for me all of the white clothes that I really didn't care about had gone out the door when I sold all my clothes to the third world country charity months ago. So...I didn't have any more "spare" clothes really sitting around. I tried a few things anyway to see if I could get them to work but nothing really seemed to fit. Damn, would need to go out and buy something. Well, I'd try to make it worth my wardrobe and re-wearable, despite being cheap.

So I rushed out the door and went to Primark, that wonderful store that Sweden introduced me to a few months ago. The one I described as the Walmart-like clusterf*ck. Luckily I'd been telling my coworkers about this at the pub quiz the day before though so I was recommended a Primark location that was supposed to be a lot less crowded. The one on Tottenham Court Road instead of the one on Oxford Street. So I went there instead. As luck would have it, even at noon on a Saturday it was more than manageable. I don't think I stood in line more than 5-10 minutes. I could deal with that.

And I found my outfit for literally less than 6pounds. I paid 5.50pounds for a white tshirt and white jeggings (yes, jeggings...they're like pants and leggings had a bastard child...I figured I would actually rewear them, should they wash clean).

Boom, white outfit done. I also brought a spare change of clothing just in case I wanted to change later and not ride the tube crusty with powder and paint later. Just in case. And cheap sunglasses to protect my eyes from flying colored powders. Just seemed sensible.

I had several hours to kill after that so I wandered around the shops and things that were around the place where I'd be meeting Books. We were going to take the train together for the last leg before we hit the grounds at Battersea Power Station, where the festival was being held. I ended up treating myself to some nice things and even bought a gift.

And then we were waiting for her friends to arrive. There was Abs, a ridiculously wild and gorgeous half-French half-Japanese girl with the most killer set of stomach muscles I've seen in a long time, as well as Instagram and her boyfriend Sandal. Lovely people all around though it took us awhile to get in with the lines for everything - lines to get your ticket checked, lines to buy the colored powders.

By the time we really got in I was starving, having only had that sandwich. I immediately bought a cheeseburger with grilled onions and snarfed the entire thing with huge amounts of ketchup and mayo. Really, snarfed. It was the biggest burger I'd eaten in a long time and it was absolutely glorious. I didn't eat again until we stopped for dinner around 7pm. It was perfect.

And then we started throwing colored powder.

We soon realized, however, that because it was so windy and dry, the powder wasn't sticking. Water was going to be necessary. And I, being the strategist...wasn't going to let this go easily.

We already had a few water bottles. We emptied them halfway and poured colored powder in. Eventually we had enough bottles for each color of powder. Boom. Liquid paint. This worked a lot better. And success. Lot messier though.

Needless to say an extreme amount of fun ensued. It was like being a kid again.

And once an hour there were official powder-throwing sessions that were guided by the MC/DJ on stage (they were playing oddly repetitive and subtle electronica up front). So we participated in that as well...once.

It was fantastic...but we realized after the one time we did it that we could only do it the one time because...

...it was like breathing in nut powder because it was so thick. A few smart people had brought doctor's masks and that would have been perfect...but no one had thought of that ahead of time except them. And oddly they weren't selling them at the venue.

It was like being in a rainbow sandstorm. That's the only way I can describe it. It would only last for about 10 seconds before the extremely strong winds would blow it away. Absolutely breathtaking. I've never been in anything like it. Makes me want to experience the real thing in India though. Amazing.

A note about the wind - when we first got there we thought it was a terrible thing, since it was blowing the powders everywhere, generally wreaking havoc. But then we realized it was a blessing in disguise because it was clearing the air. Imagine what would have happened if there was absolutely no wind. And the temperature was perfect, somewhere around 26degrees C. Lovely weather and sunshine for this. Imagine if it had been raining. Pure disaster.

Naturally though, the combination of alcohol, paints, and water (since the event organizers had tried to wet down the ground before we all got there, but due to the dilapidated nature of the place the ground was fairly uneven and made huge puddles), made some people (*cough* the "youf of today") go a little nuts. Eventually we were watching people splash around in these nasty water puddles. Wearing thin white clothing plus lots of dirty water plus high winds = trashy. I mean that in all possible interpretations. Oh honey that outfit is basically your second skin now. And that puddle you're swimming in is covered in trash that has been blow in from the wind.

The organizers also failed to put trash bins around until the afternoon, meaning the entire thing was littered with plastic bottles (water bottles, soda bottles, beer bottles, wine bottles (all plastic)), plastic bags from the powder and the plastic bags that the plastic bags of powder came in, and dirty paper food containers. High winds just makes these things blow around until they find something to stick in...like large puddles of water...which collect all that high-flying colored powder that everyone's been throwing. Rainbow-muck water.

I think you get the picture.

Eventually we used up all of our powder (5 color sachets for 10quid...not bad really). And as a slightly older crowd decided it was time to go and eat somewhere real.

So we left to find a restaurant. We were curious to see who would let us in, considering we were completely caked in paint (including faces), and unfortunately Sandal had lost one of his shoes somewhere (he was wearing uncomfortable flip flops and one of them was oddly pushed away from our group during a time of lax observation).

Needless to say our first attempt at a restaurant was...fruitless. The host looked at us, looked at the restaurant (which had three people seated and the rest of the tables were empty) and declared that the restaurant was "fully booked." Should I have wanted to be eloquent here I would have launched into a diatribe about how we were coloreds and being refused service. But I won't.

The next attempt was much more successful. We saw a pub a block away and recognized some of "our people." In other words: other people who were clearly painted and already enjoying the fruits of food and drink. We'd found our place.

We found a table near the back and made ourselves as comfortable as one can, covered in paint. My first trip was to the bathroom, where I washed my face and hands.

Then I ordered the most awesome marinated beet and goatcheese tart this world has ever seen:

Covered in gorgeous rocket salad. Lovely, absolutely lovely. I need to buy beets whenever they come into season. I will I will I will. I love them to death. This thing was amazing.

I also burned my mouth so badly on a hot potato wedge that I think it's now blistered and popped. Lots of blood and unpleasantness. But I'll not get into that.

Needless to say everyone partook of more wine and drink and we had good conversation. The food was fun and the atmosphere was light and friendly.

Eventually we parted ways and took our own routes home. I would have to say riding on the tube covered in paint is an interesting experience.

I had my outfit described by my group as a Jackson Pollock. Gorgeous.

Unfortunately I'm a little too OCD to keep that kind of memory around though, and so the next morning, extreme laundry was done.

And surprisingly...it did all wash out. Completely clean.

Who would have thought? Oh well. All art is temporary anyway.

And thus concluded one of the best times I've had in a long time. Debatably the best time I've had since moving to London. First time I've really been able to just let it all go.

Here's to many more of those.

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