The world was full of color. It danced in the air. It stretched its kaleidoscopic arms across the quad. It clung to every pore of my skin. It was a part of me.
As I look back on the past year of my life, I’ve tried to pinpoint the exact moment when I, a Catholic girl of German descent, adopted part of the Indian culture. It all can be traced back to the day I participated in Holi, the Indian festival of— you guessed it— color.
Shreya pressed the packet of loose, neon pink powder in my frost-kissed hand. I shivered; it was cold.
“Now, what I am supposed to do with this?” I asked for the 50th time.
Shreya’s eyes rolled ever so slightly. “You take some of the color in your hand, and throw it on someone. Make sure you say ‘Happy Holi’ to them.”
“Got it,” I laughed. “I won’t forget again.”
That time Shreya’s eyes made an exaggerated 360 in her head. We both knew that wouldn’t happen. For some reason, I couldn’t grasp this basic instruction. Maybe it was nerves. Or maybe it was the fact that I usually couldn’t run around and chuck powder at random strangers.
Within minutes, I was ushered into a clearing nestled between two OSU dorms. Indian music filled the air with static energy and pulled me into the cloud of color and young people.
At first, I was tentative. I was one of only a handful of nonIndians. Is this an Indian-only holiday? Am I making a scene? I pinched conservative amounts of powder from my plastic bag and sprinkled them on people like a scared and confused child.
My attitude shifted as Shreya and a young girl sneak-attacked me. They poured powder on my hair. They smeared it across my face and clothes until I was a stained glass window of color. Before I could process what had happened, all that was left of them was an echo of “Happy Holi” and a trail of laughter.
As the color soaked into my skin, I started to relax. I poured half my packet of color on the head of unsuspecting man, not even waiting to see his expression. I engaged in a “color throwing war” with a child. I tossed some purple powder into the air and watched it flirt with the wind. A dance across the sky.
The last thing I remember of that day was a man who came up to me with his hand loaded with powder. An archer pulling back his bow. Instead of getting the expected blast in the face, he gently pressed the powder to my cheek and said, “Happy Holi.” It was a gesture of kindness- acceptance. We were all stained the same shade of rainbow.
“Happy Holi,” I whispered.
Since that day, I have gone to an authentic Indian restaurant with Shreya and attended a Diwali party, the festival of lights. In both places, I was one of the only non- Indians in the room. But just like at Holi, this didn’t matter to me. I simply enjoyed the moment. I lived. Shreya and her family and friends shared a little part of their culture, a part of themselves. And I am forever grateful.
“The Indian community is about accepting everyone, no matter your race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, culture, etc. They didn’t treat you differently; no one stared at you. I invited you because you are my best friend, and we kind of do everything together,” Shreya later explained.
I smiled at the skirts of my authentic Indian dress Shreya loaned me for the Diwali party. I felt the richness of the fabric and clumps of gold sparkling beads that adorned it.
A boy no more than 4 years old was sitting beside me. He cradled a Caucasian baby doll in his arms, looking at it like it was his best friend. The snow white doll stood out against his dark arms.
At first, this struck me as unexpected. But as I looked around the room, I saw the women dressed in every color imaginable— deep ocean blues, soft lilacs, tropical yellows— you name it. It was then that I realized we aren’t just one color. We are rainbows. We are the fabrics of a thousand dresses. We are powder thrown in the air. And we are dancing in the wind, together