I was happy to learn that there is still time for me to go out to Stanford University and get painted.
No, really. There seems to be this annual celebration when a bunch of students from India (natives or of Indian extraction) throw paint at each other. (I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that more than a few of the paint-throwing collegians were neither Indian or, for that matter, college students. But, then again, who’s checking student IDs?) “Excuse me, young man, but before you dump that can of Tangerine Musk on the nice police officer, may I see some identification?”
The event in question is called Holi, and it’s the Festival Of Spring. According to IndiaExpress.com (www.IndiaExpress.com), Holi was originally a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land. Harvests and fertility morphed into a celebration of the story of an arrogant king who resents his son worshiping Lord Vishnu. The king tries to kill the son, but the son, for reasons and methods not explained, doesn’t die. Then the son ends up in a bonfire, and the king’s sister, Holika, joins her nephew in the fire to keep him company. (“Oh, hi, Aunt Holika. Is it hot in here to you?”) Apparently Holika can’t die. Unfortunately, somebody didn’t get that memo, and the son lives but Holika dies. And so we have Holi. (There is another part of the legend, and I commend you to the website for the details.)
Today’s Holi Festivals in India include a bonfire the night before. Then, the morning of the festival, according to IndiaExpress, “the streets fill with people running, shouting, giggling and splashing. Bhang and thandai add to the uninhibited atmosphere.” Bhang is a paste made from the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. Thandai is a popular drink. During the Holi celebrations, they serve what is known as bhang thandai. You ought to be able to figure that out. (Hope they have a big buffet. Candy bars and M&M’s are always nice when you are giggling and splashing. )
IndiaExpress continues: “… Holi is an excuse … for a day of spring fever and Big Fun. Teenagers spend the day flirting and misbehaving in the streets. Everyone chases everyone else around, throwing brightly colored powder and water over each other.” (See bhang and thandai above.)
The festival ends at noon. Then everybody goes and washes the paint off.
The Holi festival at Stanford is sponsored by Asha for Education, a non-profit that supports education in India. According to Asha, 4,500 people showed up last year for the paint-in. Asha had to rent a U-Haul to carry 5,000 pounds of paint. (That’s a little over a pound of paint per painter.)
But you can’t please some people. Last year there were complaints that there wasn’t enough paint. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that a pound of paint should be enough to cover your typical college sophomore.
But what do I know? I’ve never painted a college sophomore. I mean, I don’t THINK I ever did. Did I?
Excuse me a second. “Honey, do you remember if I ever painted a college sophomore? … No, no one in particular … just any sophomore … never mind, you wouldn’t understand … “
I have not been able to find out if there is a Holi celebration in Atlanta. There is a large Indian community here, and it stands to reason that there might have been an uptick in paint sales over the last month. If there’s not a Holi celebration there should be. Atlanta is beautiful in the spring as it is, but it never hurts to have a couple of gallons of Purple Passion Explosion or Yellow Banana Revenge splashed around on some key sophomores to brighten things up.