I’m excited to write this story. It’s a good one. It’s fun.
The day started very early for a Sunday, my alarm woke me up around 6, enough time to get up, get ready, and get across the city in time to catch the bus to the beach. I had had to go to Shenzhen to apply for my residence permit (side note: I am now a resident of the People’s Republic of China!! How random!) Anyway, I was in Shenzhen so I called one of the girls I’d flown out here with, Isabel, who was living in the city, and stayed with her for the weekend. She’d made plans to go to the Shenzhen Indian Society’s holi festival and invited me to tag along.
Pretty soon we were waiting in the car park for wrist bands and buses, the only three white girls, and a few in a handful on non-Indian in the crowd. I was worried about how accepted we would be at this festival. I figured the group bond would be extra strong considering that everyone was away from home – it had the potential to really define the familiar and unfamiliar. I know that sounds bad and illogical, those were just my doubts for the day as I stood awkwardly in some random car park. But pretty soon those thoughts were push aside as we were so warmly greeted onto the bus, where I ate and fell asleep.
When I woke up we were at the beach and it was freezing cold. There was a beach club and a lowered slab of concrete which made the dance floor. There was a bit of setting up time, people putting away bags and getting their bearings when the music started. Loud, speaker shaking, unfamiliar, upbeat Indian pop brought us to the edge of the dancefloor. Soon we saw people with coloured powders across their face, so we moved over to the table where the bowls of colour were. By the time we got there the bowls were empty and we tried to grab the dust left at the bottom which only left slight stains on our cheeks. It was around about this point that a young boy ran past us and threw a handful of pink paint all over Sophie’s face, yelling “happy holi!” Looking back on these photos now it makes me laugh, we were so clean, so unexpecting of what was about to come.
The next time the colour came, we were ready. We scooped up handfuls of it and threw it into the air so it rained down on us leaving us speckled with pinks, blues, greens, reds and purples. An elder man came up to me, his hands filled with powder, and smeared it over my cheeks, then he pressed his cheeks against mine spreading the colour back to him. “Happy holi,” he said into my ear, when we were face to face again a smile stretched across his. “Happy holi,” I replied. It was a really lovely moment with a complete stranger. Any doubt or worry I had had about not being accepted was completely stupid, we absolutely were.
More and more colour came, it became a free for all, we threw colour on each other, on strangers and in to the air. Everyone was having fun, the music was loud and the dancefloor was packed. Colour absolutely filled the air, you could smell and taste it. Our faces were completely covered in paint, it was all over our skin, hair, and on occasion mouth and eyes. It was such a fun, carefree event with no inhibitions, negative feelings or cares. Just the enjoyment of spreading positive feelings, talking to strangers and fighting with paint. Holi is a festival of love and that’s really what eminated from the whole day. Love. A love of friendship, of family, a celebration. Couples of all ages celebrating their love. A love of life all set under a cloud of rainbow hues.
It began raining lightly, people were throwing drinks and children had water guns and balloons, sometimes filled with water and sometimes filled with paint. So the water mixed with dirt on the concrete and the colour that had missed bodies, creating a brownish mud-paste. People danced barefoot, stomping through puddles to the heavy beat. Then the flares came out; yellow, red and green (apparently the health and safety laws are a little more relaxed here??) The thick coloured smoke filled the air and we danced through it as it combined with the clouds of colour. It was surreal. Hours disappeared in this colourful, messy blur.
We took a little break to eat two portions of a chickpea curry with naan bread. And by the time we returned the powdered paint had all but run out and was replaced with a thick, dark green liquid paint. It looked like spray paint. I was not at all surprised when someone told me it took two weeks for it to wash out. Instead of it being playfully thrown on each other people had plastered it all over their faces until they were green faces with white eyes and teeth. Even their eyelids were covered in paint!
The loud music had attracted a crowd of fascinated people off the beach – many had cameras. I managed to drag a few into the fray. We then got talking to some others in the crowd, who the next day sent me the ever-so-slightly-creepy photos they’d taken of me dancing. I guess the photos are fun if a little stalkery?
All too soon it was time for us to go. We said goodbye to the friends we’d made, washed off, changed and headed to the bus. Little remains of the day still on us, green hair, purple paint on the back of necks and flip-flops lines of clean skins on otherwise colourful feet. By the time I got to my flat wash after wash of colour came out of my hair, which, by the way, is still tinted red and green today, before collapsing on my bed and passing out. It was a really good day.
P.s. I was so scared to get paint on my camera so most of these photos were taken by @sophieblack96 and @isagiordano 🖤 oh! And the random guy with the camera of course!