A very holi weekend

Trip Start Jul 26, 2006
Trip End Apr 01, 2008

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Flag of India  ,
Saturday, March 22, 2008

Those zany folks at the Fulbright office scheduled me to give a public lecture on my last full day in India ("Tracking Sustainability: New Development Paradigms Require New Systems of Accounting"), so much of my last few days were spent preparing for that.  One week in advance of the Fulbright lecture, I scheduled a separate talk at the NGO where I'd been volunteering for the past year, the Centre for Science & Environment (CSE), so that I could share my thoughts with folks there and get their feedback. It turned out that the night before my CSE talk was the Vernal Equinox, and as my Indian colleagues reminded me (I wasn't aware of it, myself) my talk fell on Good Friday.  Throw in Mawlid--the Muslim observation of the Prophet Mohammed's birthday, Purim for the Jews, the Baha'i new year, and Magha Puja for the Buddhists, and you've got one helluva auspicious day to be giving a lecture.  I reckon it went pretty well. Immediately after my talk I was summoned up to CSE's rooftop canteen, where things began to get a little psychedelic.  And that was only the beginning...

In addition to all the other religious festivities, Friday was also the official opening of Holi, probably one of the most important Hindu holidays and a major reason I'd decided to stick around Delhi for a few extra months.  As with other Hindu celebrations I'd witnessed over the past year (though none quite so raucous!) Holi celebrates the victory of good over evil, with Lord Krishna as the central figure in this instance.  Honestly, it is probably the wildest holiday I've ever celebrated.  You take all the revelrous mayhem of Carnival or Mardi Gras, minus the sexual flamboyance, of course (this is India, after all); mix in the prankster spirit of Halloween (on steroids); then inject the entire populace with a "heroic dose" of Bhang (highly concentrated, liquid derivative of cannabis), and you can perhaps begin to imagine the ensuing chaos.  Thank Krishna there were no fireworks involved this time around!
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