A few and many moons ago I met Maria Flores, free-spirited adventurer, writer, artist, and photographer. When I saw some of her photos from a recent trip to India, I asked her to write something for this blog. Above her lovely photographs, and below her story. She is available via e-mail at: manninoflores (at) yahoo (dot) com.
Thank you Maria for your contribution!
India: A Color-Loving Traveler's Love
Sometime during the economic downturn, I was fortunate enough to lose my job at a well-known art museum in the City. This led to another even more fortunate opportunity for me to do the unthinkable and travel to India just like I'd always wanted. My long-awaited destination isn't the kind you should visit on a two-week paid vacation. It is one you slowly relish for months (or even better, years) at a time. So, naturally, I took my pittance of a savings account, exchanged it all for rupees, and got on a one-way flight to New Delhi.
Landing in that mad yet mesmerizing place was just the start of them, my sweet little love affairs. As the months passed, I officially consummated my loves with: all nationalities of fellow male travelers (yes, way, but I don't kiss and tell!); an ancient culture that thrives in every recess of the crusty, shit-smelling streets; and, above all, the COLOR that permeates the entire subcontinent.
Arrival was just the beginning. At first, the onslaught of vividness was too much for this Midwestern girl, accustomed to the grays and beiges of corn fields and sprawling highways. After the first frightened week, a wicked bout with Delhi Belly, and the realization that one must give oneself over to the madness and beauty of it all, I noticed that the tropical and musty light isn't like it is in the States. Sure, the air is thickly polluted, the Taj Mahal just a Moghul skewer stuck in gelatin-thick smog. The pavement is strewn with inconceivable amounts of droppings and dregs, cracked and straddling the open sewer below. The beds may already or soon will have bedbugs. But there is no millimeter of that country that isn't celebrated, made sacred, or hand-painted with color.
One can travel 200km by railway and de-board in a new state with an entirely different language, alphabet, and cuisine. Aside from being mad little nuances to keep long-term travelers on their toes, these worlds apart are stunning marinades of over 9,000 years of fast-paced cultural ups and downs, political invasions, and cluster fucks of Reality. I'd go as far as to say that the only commonality between the widely varied chaos that is Hindustan is its revered appreciation and skilled harnessing of color. A large part of the Indian consciousness, color not only marks daily life, but it influences it too. Goods carriers, rickshaws, chai stalls, dhabas, saris, temples, matchboxes -- you name it -- everything is colorful. Each suggests a unique sensuousness and intimacy between the people and their objects. Demanding attention from the countless Hindu gods and goddesses, and the color-loving traveler alike.
So, gather one billion people with their own love affairs with color, pack them into overcrowded litter-laden streets, pummel them with harsh monsoons for six months of the year, and then put purely toxic and brightly colored powders and dyes in their impassioned hands. The result: Holi, arguably the coolest, most raucous celebration ever sanctioned by a culture in human history, and is perhaps the only festival of its kind to utilize the power of color.
A rowdy annual hue-and-cry parade of vivid earth tones, classic pastels, and clamorous neons, this phenomenon is a springtime festival celebrated mostly by Hindu and Sikh practitioners, but can be enjoyed by anyone with a love for the coming of spring and, of course, color. Fresh of the plane and hating the fact that my visa expired just before the actual Holi day, I celebrated in Richmond Hill, Queens. See you there next year.