Posted by: lilyhamburger | March 5, 2010

Holi! (colors, not cows)

Why do we want to change the world?

Those words of a modern, educated journalist woman from Mumbai who I met last weekend basically sum up the big question in my mind these days. When I think about people getting sick unnecessarily, my work to convince them to change their behaviors and purchase household items like soap and construct closed bathrooms and eat more balanced meals seems completely just and right. But when I think about the cultural destruction of new ideas, the environmental consequences of so-called “higher” standards of living, and the haughtiness western medical professionals (or public health volunteers like myself) to assume that their way is right for everyone, I feel a little uneasy about how hard my co-workers and I are working to convince people to change and become more like us. I think I need to write more about this, but I constantly encounter this essential dilemma so I wanted to put it out there as a little brain teaser…

So, if you’re in any other country, you may have missed the biggest color war in the world. Last weekend was holi, the most anticipated and heart-felt celebration of the year for tribal Indians – woohoo! (Hindus celebrate, too, only for them Divali is a bigger deal.) Basically, it’s the most genius holiday ever and I had so much fun. First, every neighborhood constructs a huge bonfire. I attended my neighborhoods with 60 teenage girls and 5 foreigners from the school next door. When the band (a bunch of large drums and an electric piano) struck up, I danced in the dusty street with what seemed to be all the youth of the village. The next day, Duleti, is one big color war. All over India people were just throwing colors on each other – in powder or water form, chemical or natural – and in my little corner of the subcontinent I got into the biggest water fight I have ever been in. Whoever thought of this way of celebrating the riddance of evil was a genius. There is not greater affirmation of the best things in life than making a jolly good mess with everyone all over town and staining your clothes with the brightest colors you can think of! A few days off work, getting henna, and having dessert doesn’t hurt either 

Ok so in one small town where Rajesh, an ARCH dude lives, the Holi celebration is amped up to another level. Two days after duleti, villagers from hundreds of villages around the town of Kawant gather and parade through the streets dancing to represent their village pride with the most outrageous colorful outlandish costumes. Basically my eyes feasted on the tribal Indian version of Mardi Gras and what a show it was! There is no way to describe this scene except in pictures. Check em out at

And get ready for Mama and Papa Hamburger to arrive in India! One week from today we’ll be in Dharampur together and it’s pretty much the most exciting thing since sweet mango chutney.



  1. Cool! I saw this in a mediocre movie called ‘Outsourced’, a movie about kittens in America. Or outsourcing to India. I can’t remember which.

    Anyways, the color war was in that movie. It seemed amazing!

    Glad you are having a thought-provoking time!

  2. Sounds amazing and so much fun! Just like you baby girl! From now on I will call you Holi!

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