Delhi Day 5, Holi

Continued from Delhi Day 4.

I’ve gotten more than 2000 webpage hits since the start of my travels 9 days ago. I guess people really wanted to see the “Cluster Fuck!” that is India because that hit rate is much higher than usual.

Sidenote. I’ve had semi bloodshot eyes the entire time I’ve been in Delhi. I overheard other hotel guests complaining about the same issue. The hotel staff said that it’s either due to the pollution or allergies. I think It’s a little bit of both for me. Glad I brought enough Zyrtec with me.

Today is the Hindu festival Holi, the festival of colours(Yeah, you like that British spelling?). As planned, SW and I spoke on the phone at 9 AM and it was decided that I would call a car and meet them at their hotel. Holi gets fucking ape shit crazy, and it is sometimes dangerous for tourists, especially white females. From all the research that I’ve done, it’s expected that females will get groped during Holi and that it’s not safe to go out.

I came to India at this time just so I will be able to partake in Holi. It is a little stressful for me because I only have a hazy idea of what to expect. Will it get so crazy that I won’t be able to walk outside at all? Will I get attacked by the drunk and high(the locals celebrate by drinking bhang, a hash drink) mobs? What will happen? I’ve read some reports from other travelers about Holi and seen some crazy pictures, but there are all these gaps of information. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

I got into the car after finishing breakfast and this is what my driver looks like. I wasn’t sure how many photos I’ll get once I get into the middle of the festival due to all the powder getting thrown around, but I figured I’ll be able to get some good photos from inside the car. I had brought a ziplock bag for my camera to keep it safe.

We moved maybe 10 feet, and a water balloon exploded on our windshield. This is already exciting!

I didn’t expect this. The streets are almost completely empty. I thought that streets would be crowded for the festival, but it’s the exact opposite. There were a few rickshaws, but no pedicabs.

There were police and security at many of the street corners.

All over, I saw people covered in color. It was about 99% male out roaming on the streets. I saw many mobs of young guys strolling around on the streets.

Getting close to SW and HB’s hotel. This is close to the New Delhi rail station and they live on a street lined with hotel and after hotel

It was not yet 10. I hear the festivities will ramp up in the next couple of hours.

This is how I arrived at SW and HB’s hotel. As we arrived to the hotel, my driver asked if he can put color on me. I agreed and had my first Holi colour experience! Yes, this is what I came here for! I also brought a whole outfit with me that I can just throw away after the festival because some of the colors do not wash out easily.

It’s SW!!! We were so happy to see each other!!! We are in India!!

They were eating at the rooftop restaurant of their hotel and it provided some views of the city.

We could also see the hear the commotion on the street. It got louder and louder, we heard music and the noise of the festivities. I am so excited. I can’t wait to go out and…I don’t know, walk around and be in the middle of it.

These older women had these water canons filled with colored water and were spraying people from their balcony. Acting just like the little kids who were below on the street.

I waited for SW and HB to finish their breakfast before we all decided to head down to the streets a little after 11. During breakfast, I also met their new friend LG who was from Brazil and was eating with them. We invited LG to come out and check out Holi with us. LG had originally planned on not going out alone since she’s a single female, but with 4 of us together, she felt comfortable enough to venture out with us.

One more level down, then into the madness. Deep breath.

Ran into these two guests at the lobby. They were out for about an hour and just came back.

Out on the street. Everyone’s covered in colour.

He spotted us, tourists without colour.

Look! White females!

Here’s SW getting attacked. I don’t think the shorts were the greatest idea since they attracted more unwanted attention. These guys came up to us, put color on all of us, hugged us, told us “Happy Holi!”, then hugged the girls some more and groped them. Then they kept on hanging around us and kept wanting to hug the girls. As they hugged the girls, sometimes right before a photo, they’d sneak in a kiss on the cheeks. We had to keep on walking away to try to leave the situation. This scenario would repeat the entire time we were out on the streets. Socially accepted norm breaks down during Holi.

I was excited to get this photo. I’ve seen other photos of Holi color just sitting in these bags getting sold, and I was hoping to get one for myself. Check that one off the list. We had left all of our wallets back at the hotel, so no one had money to actually buy colour.

Just getting started. I had to put my camera away because my hands were soon covered in powder and I couldn’t keep them clean enough to keep my camera from getting damaged.

We walked at the streets around the hotel. Groups of guys would continuously come up to us and put powder on us. Some groups would also keep following us around to try to grope or hug the girls. At one point, I had to corral the girls together and have me walk between the girls and these guys.

As we left the street that our hotel is on, the police at the corner said that it was unsafe for us to continue down the street. He said that we should go back to our hotel. We wanted to see what was going on, so we just kept on walking. We did eventually walk by the main road, where it had less people, and at that point we started to feel unsafe. The guys were getting more aggressive, following us and wouldn’t leave us alone. We were far enough away from all the other crowds that if these guys got really aggressive, we would be screwed because I couldn’t possibly fight off all 5 of them. We decided to turn back around and backtrack our way back to where most of the people were and head back to our hotel.

We also saw bigger mobs of 10 or 15 young guys walking around. They did look like they were up to no good. Almost all the guys on the streets were of the lower socioeconomic class by the way they were dressed and how little English they spoke. I am not sure if that’s just a function of the neighborhood that we are in or rather the upper class celebrate Holi in a more tamed kind of way.

On the walk back to hotel, I saw this guy on his back, passed out and foaming at the mouth. We tried to help him. SW, who is a RN, flipped him over so he would stop choking on his own fluids. We grabbed another guy to ask him for help. He said that this guy was on drugs and that there were lots of druggies like this guy. While SW and I were standing watch over him, HB and LG went to get the police. The police came over, and we left the situation to them. Before we stopped to help this guy, everyone else would just walk by him and leave him to his own devices, which was probably to choke on his own vomit and die. Even as the police came over, I am not sure if the police will do much to help him. But, it does seem like he is out of immediate fatal danger after getting flipped over. Life is not worth much in this country…

Made it back to the hotel! Me, HB, SW, and LG just in case you can’t recognize us.

I love how vibrant the colors are. I especially love the green!

Our hands were covered in color. There were the powder based colors, oil based color, water colors, and the spray foam colors. Our hands were covered in the spray foam colors, and these colors had tinted our skin and would not come off easily. Even as I am typing this, a full day later, I still have many spots on my body where it is still dyed pink.

The spray foam color got all over my watch. I hope the pink washes out from the white dials.

I decided to go back to my hotel get cleaned up. Rickshaw will do. I am already covered in colour, so no point to try to stay clean behind the glass of a car.

The rickshaw that I got on the way back was the worst. The driver kept on making stops. He stopped by some shop, and got some money from the shop owner. Then he drove around, went into an alley, then did some grocery shopping for himself. Then, finally, he got me home. Lame. On a side note, rickshaws are called called tuk tuk here.

Finally made it back to my hotel. My shirt looks like it’s tie-dyed now. Oh, the wet spot on my ass? As I got dropped off by my rickshaw I walked past an intersection. A car pulled over to the curb, and the driver was looking towards me intently. What’s going on? Smack! I felt a water balloon explode right on my ass. I turned around and saw a kid of maybe 5 run back around the corner and down the street. The driver saw the kid come up around me and pulled over to watch the show. The kid should be proud, he got me good.

I think it’s time for a shower. I think I’ll keep my shirt and take it home as a souvenir.

The aftermath. When I washed my hair, the water rained down from my hair colored like blood. Look two photos up and you’ll see all the red powder in my hair.

Quick lunch at the hotel. I am supposed to meet up with SW, HB, and LG back at their hotel to go for more sightseeing.

Oh no, I can’t wash out the colour out of my watch from the sprayed color. And of course, it’s pink.

Back on the road in a cab from the hotel. Even though it’s past two now, and most of the color throwing has subsided, I still called a car. I did it mostly because I know the water balloon throwers on my street are still very much active and now that I am clean, I don’t want to get dirty again.

Took this to show how much color others have on. As a side note, the majority of people on motorcycles and mopeds wear helmets here. Perhaps required by law. Now, most interesting of all is that they almost always have a full face helmet. For a country with such little regard for safety, why wear a helmet and why go the extra step and wear a full face helmet? Oh, it’s ok to ride 6 people to a motorcycle and weave through traffic, but must have my full face helmet. I don’t get it.

Pedicabs are not working today.

Look at that guy with the crazy blue and purple colors.

There was a huge party down this alley. I saw some guys with their shirts off dancing. In India, it’s also normal for guys to walk down the street holding hands and play with each others hair. My friend RF told me that this was the case in Syria, and I am seeing how it’s the same here in India. Sexually repressed societies tend to have all those urges pop up different ways. Man and woman can’t hold hands in public, so man and man will hold hands.

Out door toilet. Sorry for the bad photo, I was in a moving car.

When I got to the hotel, I thought about it and asked the driver if I could hire him all day. If I am pay 300INR to get here, I might as well pay 1200($24) and then the 4 of us will have a car that we can use for the whole day. I ran into the hotel and asked the girls and they happily agreed to split the cost. I think we all win in this case since there were still many others walking around with color. It would have been tough walking the long way to the metro station and have stayed clean. Not to mention, there were 4 of us, and we couldn’t all fit into a rickshaw…well, I say that but I’ve seen plenty of rickshaws ridden by locals and they pile in 6 or 7 into one.

The driver didn’t speak very good English, so I had to have him call the hotel and have the hotel translate. The driver didn’t want to drive for 8 hours that the 1200 will get us because he wanted to leave at 7:30PM so that he can partake in other Holi celebrations. I agreed, but talked the hotel down to 1100.

Met up with the girls and now we are all clean. Here’s SW eating a forbidden fruit. An apple smuggled through customs into India from US. I guess it’ll be easy to smuggle drugs into this country. All you have to do is bore out your fruits and stuff them with cocaine.

Look at all that red powder! I wanted to roll around in it.

Our driver took us to a tea shop. Well, he wanted to go there, for something, I don’t know, talk to his friend for about 5 minutes. We saw this tree there. This is the same type of tree with the massive red flowers that I saw earlier at Humayun’s Tomb. The flowers are about the size of my fists.

Sikh temple. Shitty photo, was in moving car.

Look, it’s a Tata Nano.

Our driver was really horn happy, even by Indian standards. A pedestrian needs to know he’s about to get run over, HONK! Need to move to the left lane, HONK! Need to move to the right lane, HONK! Reached an intersection, HONK! Want the car in front to move, HONK! He seriously honked the horn for every possible situation. I am surprised that he isn’t honking the horn constantly whenever I put on my seat belt in the car.

Showed up at our first destination and this was the car parked next to ours. HONK!

Our choices for sightseeing was very limited today since many of the places are closed for Holi. Most of the shops around town are also closed today.

Nicely manicured.

There’s the Baha’i House of Worship, or the  Lotus temple. It’s a temple without religious restriction. 9 different sides for 9 different major religions and all lead into the same interior of the temple. I know all this because after the visit, they have people who can answer questions and give you propaganda. The founder(Bahá’u’lláh) believes that God has many different messages that are passed through many messengers. Jesus was just one of many. The founder believes that he’s the latest manifestation of a messenger from God. I’ve heard that story one too many times already. Next!

No photos allowed inside, but I took this spy photo. The interior was very cool.

Not a fan of religion, but the building was unique and beautiful though.

We came back to the car and I saw that the driver was asleep. SW looked at me and asked if we should play a joke on the driver and try to scare him. Of course, I gave her a nod of approval. She started walking around to the car next to ours, so I assumed that she was going to go sneak up on the driver from the front. She jumped and yelled into the window and woke up the sleeping man. The sleeping man was not our driver…For some reason, despite me literally standing right next to our car looking at our driver, she went to the wrong car(also a white car) and scared the wrong man. The innocent victim took it in good spirit though, and we all laughed about it. You can see SW’s embarrassed face above.

I’d rock a Nano in Orange.

Next destination. Lodhi Garden is in a very nice area. It’s an area surrounded by nice tree lined streets, fences and gates with expensive compounds behind it. This is a big politician’s enclave.

This place was top notch. Everyone in here is wealthy. They’ve completely kept out the poverty from this place despite it being free to enter. It doesn’t even feel like we are in Delhi. We must have looked like the undesirables walking around in here though. SW had gotten a whole handful of red powder in her mouth earlier, and even now, hours later, she’s still spitting out red blood looking spit. We’d walk 50 feet, and SW would spit a whole mouthful of blood on the ground. Hahaha, we all laughed about it.

Look at those people having a nice picnic. Who wants to have an Indian food picnic with me when I get back to Austin?

Awesome stone carvings here.

This man asked to take a photo of all 4 of us. I don’t know why foreign tourists like us get such attention. Well, I took a photo of him taking a photo of us.

Look, it’s a parrot! I never see them in the wild, so I always forget that they are real birds that exist in the wild and not just in a pet shop.

Ah yes, the blue rock pigeon. That very rare bird…

How is this the same city as the “Cluster Fuck!” that is the rest of Delhi?

Sikander Lodi’s tomb.

Hey, that’s not real! They didn’t have concrete back then!

Cute. Half asleep with the head still elevated.

Drove by India Gate on the way to find some dinner. It was crowded with people.

Dinner spot!

Not McDonald’s, but this. This is actually the restaurant that I was looking for the other day at Connaught Place. Well, Lonely Planet has failed me once again, because they had labeled this place in the wrong spot. Funny that it’s next to a different McDonald’s though since I ate at a McDonald’s when I couldn’t find this place the other day.

They serve South Indian fare here. Only then did I realize how much Indian food varies by region and how I’ve only had a very narrow scope of Indian food back in Austin.

Their specialty here is Dosai, a type of pancake.

Some starters.

Fresh pomegranate juice. I’ve never had it before and it tasted way different from Pom.

This is my mixed fruit dosai that the waiter said was very good. It was.

I wish my dosai had come looking like this though. Why did mine not come looking like this?

There’s some potato stuffing inside.


They also had an extensive ice cream menu here. Don’t mind if I do. My processed(yup, that was part of the description and HB made fun of me for ordering it) strawberry ice cream was really good. HB tried some and had to eat her own words.

Gulab jamun again. Yum.

This place got really crowded and when we left, there was a whole crowd of people waiting outside for tables.

Our food took a while to come out and it took us a while to eat. We were about 45 minutes late when we got into our car. Our driver was not happy about us being late…

Indian street life at night.

The girls got dropped off first, and we made some tentative plans to call each other tomorrow to meet up…Yeah…Right…how will we get that one to work if we don’t set a time. We were all too tired to give it too much thought.

When the driver dropped me off, I tipped him 100 INR since we went over time and held up his Holi celebration.

When I got back to the hotel, the proprietor of the hotel was having a Holi celebration for all the hotel guests. Free booze and free food for everyone! Too bad I just ate, but I’ll still drink.

Salty and peppered corn to go with the beer.

They still convinced me to eat some food.

Gulab jamun, yet again, Yum.

Holi was awesome! I am really glad that I made it part of my trip, despite all the uncertainty that preludes the event. I would recommend for others to not venture too far out from their hotels. Females should definitely cover up and be in a big group with others. It’s probably not safe for a single foreign female to go out alone. I never felt like I was in any danger though, but I am a guy and they are not looking to grope me.

To be continued at Delhi Day 6.

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