Before we left for India, we realized we were going to be there in time for Holi and I got so very excited. I've always wanted to witness this festival when the entire country takes part in what's basically one giant paint-ball fight. All the pictures I've seen show such gorgeous pinks and purples and greens and I'm a sucker for color. I might not veer too far off from my uniform of black, white, grey, and blue but I abolsutely adore surrounding myself with color and Holi always looked so magical and wonderful, I just wanted to take part in it. And I got to! The hotel organized a small get together on the grounds for guests with food and drinks and live music and dancing and everyone wore white so we could smack each other with the colored powder. This little boy was having so much fun pelting everyone and when my mom chased him and "played Holi" he was so overjoyed that someone was actually indulging him. It was really fun and the Maharaja, his mother, his son, and his daughter even came down and greeted people and played too. It was sort of a bittersweet moment watching his son, this handsome 35 year old man, smiling and enjoying the day though. We found out he used to be the nation's polo poster boy and would even coach national teams but an accident left him paralyzed and it's only recently that he's started making public appearances again. He had to re-learn how to do everything and it really hit my mom and dad hard I think. We bought a coffee table book all about Umaid Bhawan and the Maharaja's history and family and just pored over it. It's really cool though, several Maharanis of the state of Rajasthan were Turkish!
We even got interviewed by the local news. Hah, the reporter said I had a pretty name and asked us what we thought of the whole event. Well, we of course told him we loved it and when he observed that we weren't quite covered in paint my mom smashed a handful of pink powder in my face. On camera. Yes, we Hamedis vacation with style. The first time we all came to India, my parents had a Sanskrit wedding ceremony and got published in the newspaper.
I abolsutely loved Jodhpur. It was hot and I don't do too well with heat (it bothers me more than others and I just get cranky and miserable) but it was just a dry heat and I felt I could sit under that tent and watch everyone play Holi all day. And as a bonus, I finally was able to go to the bathroom! Not to be too crass but for some reason I had certain, um, bloackage and man, finally unleashign my bowels almost had me singing that Flashdance song, "What A Feeling."
It's funny how things sort of come together isn't it? I re-discovered my love of Madonna and suddenly she was everywhere from a new CD and DVD to having an episode of Glee dedicated to her. I'm writing my India entries now and I find out about this great opportunity to write a script about it. I love when the universe just lines up like that and it seemed to do it perfectly right as I got off the plane in Delhi and just listened to "Shanti/Ashtangi," as we drove to the hotel. I felt it was appropriate as it was going to be the title for these entries without a question. But there were two other things that also lined up for me during this trip. One was listening to Iron Maiden and the other, reading Elif Safak's, "The Forty Rules of Love: A Tale of Rumi." Listening to Maiden's, "Blood Brothers," as we drove towards the fort and as I took in the blue city and all the colors of Holi getting set up, not to mention the ever-present cows (on the six hour car ride to Ranthambore last year, my sister and I played punch cow instead of punch buggy and we got up to over 400 cow sightings) it just reminded me how much I love that band and how much some of the lyrics just resonate with me. I won't get all high school girlish and write them out but eh, it was just a nice feeling; this content, I am where I'm supposed to be doing exactly this, kind of moment. I might not be the typical metalhead and I might have other tastes that clash with my love of heavy metal but it is a genre that will always be close to my heart and Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was my first metal CD I bought at 15, after all. I recently ordered the patch for a vest I'm working on, I wish it would arrive.
Now the book. "Ask" as it is called in Turkish, simply, "Love," is about a literary reader named Ella who, dissatisfied with her life, gets sucked into a book she's assigned which traces the life of the poet Rumi and his companion Shams. Through this book she meets a convert to Sufism who changes her life and inspires her to reach beyond her stagnant life. Yes, the literary reader part kind of hit very close to home (especially since at the time I had also finished reading a quite poignant book at my internship about death and overcoming fear and as that is an issue of mine it kind of affected me) but the entire point of the story did too. It's about religion but not religion in the, well, religious sense if that makes any sense. It's about a spiritual connection that transcends anything tangible; love. It's simly about love and it moved me to the point where I decided what I want to do later/with the rest of my life. I want to learn about Sufism, the very soul of love as I believe it to be. Not love like soppy, puppy love, or crushes or anything like that. This is the kind of love the reaches beyond the ordinary and just envelopes you. It made sense to me even if I'm not explaining myself very well. Let me put it this way, ever since I was little I would just get overwhelmed by feelings over the smallest things. Not just feelings, but this aching tug at my heart. The clearest one I remember was for this boy Mustafa. On another family trip, we all ventued to Eastern Turkey with our good friend and her son. In Urfa, this boy Mustafa kind of attached himself to us and guided us around and took us to stores and lunch and he was so smart and so helpful that I felt this pang, violently so when we were saying good bye. That's the love that's explored and illustrated in, "Ask." Simple love for another being because they touched you so. I want to study Sufism. If I go back to school that is the subject I want to study and I have people to help and guide me on this path. Mercan Dede, the artist who helped launch our Music House, has become a very good friend of my mother and he is Sufi. I think when my mom emailed to tell him I was interested in Sufism, he got more excited than I did! He's good friends with the author of this book, they're doing performances together this month in Belgium. My mom and I watched an interview of hers on TV recently and she is such a well-spoken, personable lady that her energy practically vibrated off the TV. You know how there are some people wh have a certain vibe or aura or energy that immediately warms you to them and makes yu think you know them even if that can't possibly be true? That's what I felt with Mercan and even a little with Ms. Safak, as I watched her speak.
India is the cliche land of enlightenment but I think for us, for my family, it just seems so familiar and so thoroughly enjoyable, we just see it as home and home is where you're the safest and most comfortable. That's why I think I could see these things clearly there because more than it just being this "entity," India is my happy place. It's my family's happy place. It becomes this cocoon of carefree joy so much so that we can all just be us. That's why we've now travelled there three times as a family (and more for my mom and dad), and have plans to go back. Home is where I'm happiest and India is my third home because my family is with me. I will never share this though that Americans seem to have of dreading home and visiting parents because my family is my inspiration and without them, I wouldn't be me. Now enough of that saccharine crap, I'm afraid I've droned on for quite a bit with this entry so enjoy some of our pictures.
Shots of Holi preparations in town.
On our way to the Holi festivities on the palace grounds. Those figures are me and my mom.
The prince getting dunked in paint.
The Maharaja playing Holi!