I am covered in brightly coloured powder. It was kindly done. Just my face, and I managed to take my leave before I was really covered in colour. I am in Jaipur at the start of Holi, the festival of colour.
The beginning of the festival is marked by fires burning in all the streets. I stood watching the fire in our street being prepared by a brahmin, a priest. All kinds of sweets, powders, rice, incence, little cakes of cow dung and
colour was sprinkled on the pyre, then set alight from the pyre higher up the
street. The heat was amazing. Flames roaring up into the darkening sky. All around, children, grown men staring at the fire and women in their colourful saris. Two huge elephants, all painted from the elephant festival, made their
way nervously past the pyres. Then Happy Holi. Powder everywhere.
I left the hotel in bright sunshine this morning and decided to walk to my first meeting. It was hot and bright and the smell of India was so instant. The mixture of urine, dung and petrol. I forget so quickly each time. All my nervousness at coming had evaporated during the flight. I sat in the car on the way from Delhi wishing I could remember forever how light and positive I was feeling.
The drive is long. 4 hours. At first it is an ugly motorway under construction, but after about an hour it becomes the most achingly beautiful farmland. Watching the small boys with their sticks, chasing the goats, and the women milking the buffalos. The exquisite houses nestled in amongst the fields, something ancient and long forgotten uncurls inside me and I feel overwhelmed by the beauty and simplicity of it all. Yes, yes, I know they all long for what we in the developed world have, but I want what they have.
I am not sure I would go as far as swapping, but I sit looking out of the window and feel such a connection, separated by the glass, by my skin colour, but my experience, but none the less I can relate.
I spent all day in meetings, but with kind people. And now am calm and quiet. It is a good place to be. I had so much fear before coming, but I think the closeness of death, it’s sudden appearance, recently, has made me less trusting of life. I remember I felt the same after the two experiences with my daughter in intensive care. It took me a long time to trust again. Trust what? That things would be how I wanted them to be. But who to talk to of these things? Who really wants to talk about death? No one, it seems apart from the beautiful young man in make up who I spoke to the other day. All the rest of the world shivers and turns away. Yet it is so close. All the time. Certainly it rests in my thoughts so much.
Tomorrow is full Holi. Colour everywhere. Drunks everywhere, then thursday is Bhung day. Bhung is marijuana. All will be stoned. By all, I mean the men. Women don’t get to join in these things. Would I want to? No, but I will be spending the day in the house of an infamous drunk. Fortunately he has a divine wife, and I go there to see her