It has been hard these past few days. Not real hardship like so many millions of people face here every day, just hard for five very lucky people who’ve had the time of their lives, waiting to go home.
Stuck in their hotel room, it’s air-conditioned, it has a TV, it even has a huge supermarket around the corner. A teenager with his head in Facebook, a 10 year old on crutches, a 6 year old wanting toys or someone his own age to play with. A middle aged father with his head in the future and a mother trying to hold it all together. Frayed nerves kind of hard.
Apart from a family of monkeys on the ledge outside our window who later ran up and down the stairs of the hotel, old India hasn’t really intervened.
We went to Mysore palace today in an attempt to pass the time. We stopped at a restaurant famous for it’s Veg Thali. Delicious food and fantastically grumpy waiters. The kids ate nothing. The trip for them is over, no more Indian food.
They are on strike.
At the Palace, it was hard for Edie. It took ages to borrow a wheelchair and in the end there were just too many stairs for it to be much fun. We came back to the hotel to read, to go online, to pass the time.
Then the drums started. Distant at first, then louder and LOUDER, building and building. Firecrackers and chanting, we could see them through the monkey bars from our window. We went downstairs to look. Just Rach , Edie and me at first but when Rach saw all the kids dancing, she went to get Will.
Teenage boys in orange scarves were going crazy, banging drums. A man was balancing a huge 20 foot colourful decoration on his head and dancing his own strange, slow prance down the street.
Then the Trumpton band reappeared. Old-style station master red hats and
short-trousered uniforms with tubas, cymbals, trumpets and big bass drum.
Then the float, driven by a bored-looking man with twenty children aboard and a massive flashing neon flower as a backdrop. Following the jeep were 8 men holding fluorescent tube lamps, all connected by electrical wire . In front of them , 2 girls with huge marigold garlands on their head being led through the procession by a man who kept unrolling a carpet for the girls to step onto.
The bands were all beating out their own tunes at the same time. As loud as they could. “They are going like the clappers” Will shouts out to me. I can hardly hear him above the din.. Chaos, confusion and delirious dancers all hammering away.
I filmed this madness with Will holding my other hand. At the top of the hotel steps
I saw Edie with her crutches, not really able to join in but still here, still taking part. I was very moved. India had come back I felt, one last time, for us. For me.
Will and I stepped out, holding hands, I was worried he might get swept away by it all. We moved through the crowd, dodging the fluorescent tube men and their cables, the cow shit, the random boulders, paving slabs, trenches with open sewage.
The delirium seemed to go up a notch. Now there were more elaborate fireworks, rockets. We found ourselves outside a temple, seething with people inside and the girls with marigolds being escorted out. Thali trays with candles came out, blessings were made. Fervour and intensity over so many faces. The beautiful women were somehow sidelined, distant and apart.
“Which country” I was asked for the umpteenth time. The man tried to explain what this was in aid of. Not the festival of Holi, he said but the Matas or was it Martyrs?? Does it matter??
Finally Will and I pulled away..
We walked past a musical instrument shop, went in, had a look around. It was just me excited, trying to hold onto the moment again.
Outside again, I gave a beggar the 5 rupees I had in my pocket, it seemed pathetic and miserly. He turned it over in his hand.
It was not India that had come back but we who had left India too soon.
I will miss her…………….
………………Meanwhile Louis is busy online, organising an ASDA home delivery.
Chicken Pad Thai is on the menu.