what is holi? a festival of colors to honor two who risked everything for their devotion to the gods, vishnu and shiva. the colors originally were made out of natural herbs and roots, and their healing power warded off the spring cough.
holi means my mom calls me awake this morning, musing on what our relatives were doing all day, she’s singing: rang barse (pronounced: rung barasay). check out amitabh bachchan and the one and only rekha doin it big, bollywood style in the movie silsila:
holi means you put on clothes you don’t care about, go out to the street (note: the street is far more a public space in india than it is in the u.s.) where all have agreed to play, to spray each other with color. you go home drenched in shades, electric fuschia for skin, scandalous yellow for hair, red, red hands. shower and fresh, hair oil in, comb run through, clean new kurtha and you head back out to visit with neighbors. and just because you got all nice and clean, someones little brother douses you with color again. its fun, its intimacy, its holi. ideally.
holi poem on the q train
two/day is holi
two/parts kum kum one part haldi
two/ladders, two countries, two tiers up the rung of our eyes
two/day is holi
two/bad no one knows
two/far sometimes america is so far
two/years b4 i see india again
it was a foggy day in new york city, so foggy i could hardly make out the brooklyn bridge from the uptown Q train. the fog was a nice break from the skyline, though. and as the train dipped underneath chinatown towards canal st, graffiti was the only color that popped.
today i reveled in the richness of color. a lady’s matching hat and scarf, warm orange. a man’s beating congo drums, ginger snap brown. the students of my law and social change class at city college: indonesian, dominican, russian, mexican, peruvian, haitian. holi hai, in whole new ways.
stay tuned for more from me, ya favorite emcee,