War was approaching.
Not just any war, but the most colorful of wars. A war that I single-handedly started…
The special day was near. A day where it was perfectly acceptable to throw handfuls of colorful powder at people. Perfectly okay, to spray people with water and throw water balloons at anyone and everyone. That day is called Holi, an annual Hindu holiday celebrated almost primarily in India and Nepal during the spring season. Also known as one of my favorite new holidays.
The students explained it to me and the more they spoke of it, the more my inner child grew giddy.
“So on Holi day, everyone is throwing colors at each other and throwing water balloons at random strangers?” I would ask them.
“Yes!” they would tell me. “But not older people or people with yellow tikka on their heads.”
A Nepalese with yellow tikka on their forehead meant that they were mourning the anniversary of a death in the family. This is also means they are completely immune from any nonsense.
The days leading up to Holi, students would bring the most feeble balloons I’ve ever seen to school, fill them up with water and throw them at each other. Even the teachers played along sometimes. The students dared not to throw a water balloon at me because if they did, they knew it meant snow spray to the face! Yes, I would blend education and entertainment (edutainment) to the students with English learning games. A wrong answer or lack of response meant certain death…or usually just dowsing them with snow spray, which is actually just soap suds made to resemble snow. It terrified and made them happy all at the same time. Most importantly, it never failed to hold their attention.
Containing my excitement and enthusiasm for Holi was nearly impossible. I made it aware to the students and families that I was going hardcore nuts with the Holi festivities. I stocked up on supplies: three water bazookas, 100 balloons, 30 bottles of combination of snow spray and string spray and lots and lots of packets of colorful powder. The students told me there were two types of powder I could get: Indian and Nepali.
“What’s the difference?” I asked them.
“Nepali colors are easier to wash off,” they would say.
With that, I chose the Indian colors. 😈
The snow and string sprays aren’t something that’s typically used during Holi but I thought it was fit for the occasion. The students agreed.
The day before Holi, I decided to put my weapons and ammunitions to the test. I recruited one of the neighbors to help me surprise attack the kids at the school once it dismissed. That neighbor’s name is Yubraj but most know him as UK. He’s an 18-year-old student attending university in Pokhara. UK, along with his brother Dhiraj, play a major role in my stay in Padeli. I’ll explain why on a later post.
Right before school dismissed, UK and I attacked, I would say half of the students at Bal Prativa, as they were walking home. UK’s house is conveniently located next door to the school, so we were able to attack all passing students. If they wanted to go home, they had no choice but to brave an onslaught of water guns, snow/string spray, and buckets of water that we chugged at groups of students. The powder I would save for Holi. Every kid was beaming with smiles, except for two of the baby kids who were absolutely terrified. We didn’t attack them, nor the female teachers that strolled through. Everyone else was fair game. The older students at the government school, another school about a hundred yards away, looked on in amusement.
This was a warning to the village of Padeli for what I had planned for the next day.
I spent the remainder of the night filling balloons with a combination mixture of purple powder and water. Out of the 100 balloons I bought, only about 50 of them didn’t have holes in them already. Amish and a couple of the class ten students gave me a hand.
The Morning of the “Holi” War
Aatma gave the class ten students one hour of break from study to celebrate Holi and to hurl colors at each other. Even on a holiday, these kids had to keep their heads in the books. It was no matter to me because they were not my main target–the rest of the village was. So for now, I will play with class ten.
I filled the tanks of my guns with water mixed with red powder. The mixture resembled blood and would look like a bloody massacre when I blasted the kids. One tank was strapped to my back and the other two on my left and right sides. I filled a dry bag with a few canisters of snow spray and a variety of different color string sprays. I filled my pockets with dozens of packets of colored powder. I put on my festive white shirt and was ready to go! The water bombs I would save for after.
Half of the students began to engage in hurling colors at each other, just a few minutes walk into a barren crop. I followed the other half there into the middle of the battlefield. Immediately, I began attacking them, with little counter. These kids had a skimpy amount of colors at their disposal (which they mainly used on me once I entered the fray) and were nowhere near as equipped as I was. I had the free reign to terrorize, much to their fright and enjoyment.
The kids ran out of colors quick, while I still had an absurd amount in my possession. I may or may have not emptied out all of the small village shops of their supply. They were ridiculously cheap. I ended up sharing my packets with them but saving most of it for the main event later on.
Opening each individual packet of powder was meticulous and not conventional for fast paced war. I should have opened all the packets back at home into a giant pouch first. But I had to make do with what I had.
Even little Aakash was in the spirit!
This battle was over and everyone looked like a rainbow had detonated in the village, splattering everyone in the vicinity. Also, the kids had a blast, which was the highest of priorities.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t join in the village war and had to clean up and get back to their never-ending studies.
2 vs. The Entire Village!
While back at Aatma’s, restocking on ammo and water bombs, one of the class ten students came to my room and told me that “some students are here to see me”. A gang of boys, a mixed medley of students from the private school rose up to the entrance of the house, armed with a couple of water guns and colors, wanting me to come out into the center of the village. I responded with a steady stream of water, spraying them.
“I’ll be out there soon!” I said to them.
But there was no way I was actually going to follow them, as they assumed I would do. Instead, I took the back way behind Aatma’s house up to the center of Padeli. Something like a sneak attack. There were about ten of those boys. I needed at least one more person to help me. I went to UK’s house and recruited his assistance, much to his delight, and gave him a bag of water bombs, some colors, and one of my bazookas. And thus, we chased the boys around the school and attacked them with ease.
They were lacking on weaponry and ammunition as well, but had water bombs which they were able to throw with almost perfect accuracy every single time. Eventually they retreated…at least for the time being.
Soon after, a group of five girls from the school came down from Sarangkot, ready to wage war against UK and I. These girls were afraid of everything and we easily overpowered them. Although, some of the girls landed some great shots and were able to douse me with buckets of water as I took the time to refill up in the nearby water reserve. The water reserve is a spot where villagers would come to wash their clothes and sometimes even bathe. It was also the perfect spot to refill the water bazookas. The girls ran off into the background, yielding and surrendering against any future attacks against us .
Just as they did, the ten boys from earlier returned, except this time with a staggering amount of other boys from across the village. I counted close to fifty of them. They all looked down at UK and I, equipped with water balloons galore along with an unknown amount of colors in their possesion. I thought I wiped the stores clean of colors, to prevent the kids from getting any? 😈
I guess not.
This is about to get interesting and also very, very difficult for UK and me.
When we went in to attack, the boys dispersed in random directions and we found ourselves flanked from all sides. One of the chunkier kids had the best aim with his water balloons and never failed to hit me right in the head. Kids would come from behind and rub colors in my face as I was being hit with their dinky water guns. UK was getting attacked from all ends as well. I was empty on water. We had no choice but to retreat. But to where? I ran to a random neighbors home, inside their goat shed with their goats thinking I would be safe, but no. The goats were as startled as I was as some of the boys ran right into the shed and attacked me good. Real good. It looked like a bloody mess.
The small group of boys backed away and went into the open lot of the nearby government school, where all of the boys and the girls were playing with colors. We refilled our water tanks and decided to enter their base (the government school) and go all out on everyone, no matter if we were outnumbered.
The girls that attacked us earlier were getting annihilated from all of the village boys, so I swooped in to help the girls out, creating new allies in the process.
This is the part where my GoPro battery died, but it went something like this…
I got absolutely WRECKED out there!
All the boys thought it would be great to gang up on the teacher (me), the foreigner (me), the one with all the ammo and weapons (also me). And I would have done the same if I were in their position. The chunky kid returned with his deceptively on-point accuracy. Kids would sneak up behind me and smother powder all over my face. And I got soaked with a few buckets of water. UK was pretty much dead as well. Instead of trying to attack all of the boys, instead I conspired with the girls to get the three boys who appeared to be the leaders of the group and also this one really annoying brat toddler who tried to hurl a rock at my face. I got him real good with a blast of green powder to the face.
Eventually, I put my hands up. I was completely out of ammo and I had little energy left to continue fighting. This colorful war; this Holi festival, was one of my most favorite days in Nepal. Can we bring this over to America and make it a permanent fixture? It’s more fun than any holiday I’ve ever had the fortune of being a part of–granted people don’t usually go through these lengths, but still.
I also learned a couple of lessons for a potential “next time”:
- I’ll need to recruit a small, capable army. I can’t do this alone, especially if the whole village decides to attack me again.
- Open my color packets ahead of time and combine them all in one bag. I wasted too much time opening packet after packet after packet…
- Two words: Smoke. Bombs. But with colors!
UK and I went to wash up and he and I went down to Lakeside to celebrate the rest of Holi with a live concert in the middle of the street, along with hundreds of other people; locals and travelers. We got colors all over us again but it was okay.
I know what some of you are thinking. “But Dan! It’s a religious holiday. You completely missed the whole point of Holi!”
My response: “No, not at all.”
Holi Festival is a celebration of colors, the arrival of spring, a day to play, laugh, have a good time and frolic in the streets splashing water and colors on anyone and everyone. I just took the holiday and cranked it up a few notches, much to the enjoyment of all the kids and even to the amusement of the adults. I haven’t played this hard in years.
This was the most fun, this colorful of wars, and has solidified Holi as one of my new favorite Holidays, just before my ultimate favorite holiday, Christmas. I may have won a few of the battles, but the village has definitely won the war. I’ll admit that. However, I won’t forget. One day, I shall get my revenge!