We had been warned for days about Holi (pronounced "holy"), today's Hindu festival of colors. How could something that sounds so saintly and vibrant bring so much fear and alarm?
On the day of Holi, people in Kathmandu celebrate by peppering each other with colored water balloons and powders.
You'd think this is fairly harmless, but opinions diverge. We heard from some fellow expats (who advised us to stay indoors all day) that the dyes and powders can be toxic and potentially dangerous if not merely indelible on clothing. Others encouraged us to wholeheartedly join in the fun, especially because marijuana in the exotic form of bhang is a part of the revelry for some adults. Seeing these approaches as either too cautious or racy for our tastes, we considered whether one could take a middle approach. No, said another, "Holi is kind of an all or nothing deal." Hm.
Tipped off that most of the action happens in the morning, we adopted a careful approach at first. From our home, we heard shouts and squeals of Holi celebrations in our neighborhood and spied these fellows who took refuge from the fun to watch from a rooftop.
Seeing their vermilion state and not necessarily wanting to share in it, we stayed indoors. When things seemed to calm after lunch, I took a walk in our neighborhood to survey the scene. Evidence of a colorful water balloon fight was everywhere, even on the faces of our neighbors.
Electric splashes of red, blue, purple, yellow, green, and pink coated many surfaces. Lucky for our now-beloved neighbor dog (who was perhaps a bit too friendly at first, what with the humping on the leg and all), not all creatures were caught in the crossfire.
But after seeing the aftermath of all the fun we missed, perhaps being caught in the crossfire wouldn't be so bad. Countdown to Holi 2012?