As I write this, it’s 9:30pm and I can hear drums, horns and singing in the streets mixed with dogs barking and a plane taking off in the far distance.
Today is a Hindu holiday, Happy Holi. The festival celebrates the victory of good over the devil, the arrival of spring, the arrival of the upcoming rains, the celebration of old and new friendships and embracing joy. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?!
Since most residents do not work today, everything was closed and no one was interested in meeting with us. We accepted an invitation from our young hotel owner, Saajan, and his brother, Swodesh, to go celebrate the festival with them.
The morning started by Saajan’s and Swodesh’s mother coming to my room and joyfully putting colored pigment on my face. A couple hours later, we were walking to a location where most of the holiday celebrators were congregating. Along the way we had more pigments applied to our faces by happy strangers and periodically got soaked by water balloons being tossed by young snipers in apartment buildings.
We could hear the music of the venue from blocks away. When we arrived, there were hundreds of residents dancing to the music coming from huge speakers. The crowd was outside what looked like a hotel and inside the hotel was a large pool filled with gray water. The color was probably a result of the polluted tap water and a mixture of pigments being washed off the people in the pool. I have never seen so many happy people celebrating without the influence of alcohol. That’s not to say that a few might have been under the influence, but there was no one staggering around, out-of-control or acting in an angry manner. There was just clear-minded joy and celebration. This was a part of Kathmandu that I had not seen. Amongst the hardship and losses from the earthquake, the people remain in touch with their ability to embrace the good and joy in their lives, in their family, in their friends and in their culture.
We left our guests at the celebration and started the long walk home to get cleaned up to meet Dr. David Gillette at Kilroy’s in Thamel. I’m not sure if I have mentioned that David grew up in Fredonia where Jason and I live now. We spent our dinner enjoying each other’s company and discussing how our lives brought us to academia and our love for teaching and research.