Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Other Side of Holi

Everyone that knows about Holi knows about the fun side of Holi; merrymakers throwing colored powder and water at one another. This is the Holi that Lindsay and I experienced in a tranquil, controlled environment at the resort we were staying between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. It was our third Holi here in India, figured it might be our last one, and decided it was an experience not to be missed. Plus, how many times in life do you get to throw stuff at your wife with no real repercussions and have her do the same?
She looks a little too excited
Unfortunately, Holi has a slightly darker side. It turns children into monsters. Late Saturday afternoon as we walked through the fort and streets of Jaisalmer, we began to see more and more kids already stained with with the deep purple result of mixing the traditional colored powders with water. Kids were stained, goats were stained, even a dog was stained.
Stained dog, though I must admit, he didn't seem to mind
As the day got later, the kids seemed to get a little more aggressive and started to lose their inhibition about approaching or threatening innocent looking foreigners. It seemed like they were taking control of the city. It was all very Lord of the Flies. At one point, we saw them with a pick axe digging a hole in a city street from which to start a bonfire. I mean, at least they were thinking about safety, but I can't say I'd ever seen kids digging up a city street without supervision. Not that I had even seen it with supervision either.
Just another day at the office for the youth of Jaisalmer
On Holi morning, we had a 200 kilometer drive through the Thar Desert. The driver encouraged us to get a late start, but we had plans starting early afternoon for a jeep safari through the desert. Based on what we had heard about drinking and driving on the holiday, I couldn't see why we'd want to start any later than we had to. The villages we drove through were eerily quiet. Very few, if any, people were on the street. Shops were closed; there was no loitering. Empty. If you've been to India, this never happens.

About halfway through our journey we approached some kids forming a human blockade across the highway in an attempt to collect their self-imposed toll. The driver slowed, rolled down his window, and started yelling. When that didn't seem to work, he left the vehicle and basically chased the kids away. For kids, whom we decided to call bandits, that were tough enough to block a road, they certainly wussed out when faced with a little adversity.
Yes, both my Dad and I capured the human blockade on Flip video
Stained bandits
Celebration after a successful Rs. 10 heist
Shortly after the first blockade we hit a second where the little bandits had dragged brush across the road and then ran away. There seems to be a lot of running away involved in this business. Our fifth and final blockade was the most aggressive of the day. It was the only blockade where the bandits actually through color at the car while one brave soul stood squarely in front of the car. Not exactly the same type of stand made at Tiananmen Square but effective nonetheless. When throwing color didn't work, the bandits turned to stones. That was actually a little scary. Finally the brave little Tiananmen Square reenacter moved aside and we were allowed to pass. Quite a different way to celebrate a holiday. Annoying? Yes. Harmless? Seemingly.

What we experienced was harmless. What some truckers experienced was certainly not. Later that day as we crossed the highway on our jeep safari, we came across what I can only describe as the worst head on collision I've ever seen. Two trucks. Two fatalities. The cause? According to our driver, large rocks placed across the highway the night before as a blockade. The driver likely didn't see them until it was too late, swerved, and had the misfortune and mistiming of a truck coming from the other direction.


1 comment:

  1. Little monsters should all be locked up in juvenile detention for destruction of public property. Really, people get the municipal services they deserve. And these kids and their families deserve to live without proper roads.