My stark white Salwar Kameez fits a little snug, but I don't mind. Really, I don't. I remind myself that once I look like a powdery, sweaty rainbow it won't matter what size I am, or that the inseam of my pants are about to rip each time I sit, um...Indian Style. The drums have already started and immediately sync with my own heart beat, as we pull up to the big white house. The ten of us tentatively filter into the garden and make our way to the white, plastic lawn chairs that have been arranged in a circle...my favorite shape. Some of us sit, chat and giggle, amused with this one-of-a-kind experience, while some of us stand with our hands on our hips, not knowing what to do with ourselves, looking around like we've never seen a backyard before. (Actually, it's just me doing that). And some of us are lightly, lazily, shyly then wildly groovin' and bouncin' to the music. It's hot...ninety degrees at least. I glance over to the young man fiercely playing the Bhangra Dhol Double Sided Drum, his face and hair already covered in paint and sweat. I sit down next to Melissa, a sweet and joyful girl from Los Angeles. We watch as Analou, Raha and Quinn have already begun dancing and painting each other. "Oh my gosh," she says playfully, "people spend their whole lives avoiding messes like this!" Then without warning, I feel a warm, dusty, messy shower of powder on my head. I turn to find Hailey holding a baggie of red Holi powder. Holi is ON! I grab some green Holi powder from the small table, housing forty bags of this stuff. A passive sprinkle on Alexis's back, a quiet spritz of green on Melissa's arm, an indifferent splash on Stacy's head. I can feel myself holding back, though; I really just want to pour this shit all over me and everyone around me, proof I do not avoid messes. This is a festival that celebrates Spring over Winter, good over evil and I want to bathe in the good, my good. Ultimately I want my life to look and feel like a freaking rainbow; a holy array of beautiful, colorful, unique and textured choices and moments. If India doesn't guarantee me that, I'm so afraid nothing will...
Holy Moments, life-changing wisdom and validation of myself. That's really why I went. For eight months, I told those who wondered why India? that I wanted my first trip abroad to be somewhere colorful, with culture and people who speak English. Simple. Straight forward. No
further explanation truth needed. Secretly, I was looking for answers, like I always do; I've constantly searched for meaning, nuance and explanation in EVERYTHING I do, say and think, since I was a little girl. I have this belief that being in a relationship, a marriage, an enjoyable and lucrative career, being a parent will somehow safeguard me from bad things happening, like death and heartbreak. Since I'm not a wife, a mother or successful business owner,-- three titles I can't wait to wear proudly-- I thought World Traveler is the next best title, (and I don't have to rely on someone else finding me attractive or worthy to earn it.) Perhaps if I went on this trip, I'll see the light. I'll receive some sacred message from a Guru, sitting atop a pile of gold in an Ashram. He'll give me the answer. He'll tell me what to do. He'll grant me immunity from pain, disappointment, life.
Shade! Finally! We've been dancing and laughing for the last 2 hours and sweat has now pooled in my everything, as the sun continues to bake powdered paint into my pores. The inseam of my pants has now actually ripped from crotch to calf, just because I sat on the grass, trying to get comfortable. Our measurements were collected to fit this thing and I'm still too fat. (I don't actually feel that way anymore, but that's still my go-to self-talk in ninety degree heat.) The drum is still playing and some of the girls are still pouring powder on each other and dancing. I'm once again lost is the self-argument of whether India has changed my life yet; if I've gained any magical clarity on my purpose for being on this earth. A while later, we said goodbye to our warm and inviting hosts and headed back to the hotel. A shower and yoga pants never sounded so good. An hour later, after we shower and scrub our skin raw, trying to remove Holi paint from our face, armpits, chest and crooks of our elbows, (all the places we sweat and Holi paint stains), Hailey and I make our way down to the pool area. Peacocks roaming, pigeons meandering, Hailey painting with her watercolors and me, journaling. Our lounge chairs are facing each other, side by side. We exchange very few words before Hailey gently tells me, "It's not here, Ehr. What you're looking for; the clarity, the certainty, the ultimate cure-all wisdom you crave...India doesn't have it." I cover my entire face with my hands, hiding the hardest, most hopeless tears I've cried in a long time. Hailey holds the space for this. I open my tear-drenched eyes and glare at the tiny leaves and branches of the enormous tree above us. I ask my best friend, in a broken voice, "If it's not here...what am I supposed to do now?"
Just because I'm afraid of messes, doesn't mean I want to avoid them. I needed to hear Melissa's words that day. Though I'm pretty sure she meant it in a literal "people usually don't care to have dusty paint smeared on their face and clothes" kind of way, I needed to be reminded that sometimes, a bit of chaos, shambles, mayhem are often the birthplace of something new, something unexpected, perhaps even colorful. I needed Hailey, my dear, intuitive, brutally honest and fearless friend, to tell me the hard truth, so I could have a chance at enjoying India for what it is, what it's supposed to be; a cow-infested, kinda-smelly, brightly colored, cultured, bombarding and holy country.
Yes, people do spend their entire lives avoiding messes like these, and I'm glad I'm not one of them.