Happy Holi: Another version of India than Slumdog Millionaire’s

As the big win of Slumdog Millionaire has moved out of the top story category, here’s another version of India, one that I experienced, but without all the choreography and singing. Today is Holi, a holiday celebrating the triumph of good over evil. I forgot about it until being reminded by this Intelligent Travel post. Here’s a happy Holi experience for you.

If you watched Season 13 of the Amazing Race, you may remember part of it occurred during Holi. Some of the team members were totally covered in powder. If you have blond hair, good luck getting out the green. When we went to a Holi celebration, one of my daughter’s friends, a fair-haired, fair-skinned girl, looked like she was related to Shrek for about three days.

Touring the Taj

Built in 1648 by Shah Jahan as a monument to his third wife, who died giving birth to their 14th child, the Taj Mahal still stands as one of the greatest man made structures anywhere in the world. Attracting upwards of 4 million visitors per year, the Taj is India’s top tourist spot, with many foreigners now being inspired to make the journey thanks to the success of Slumdog Millionaire.

Recently the Houston Chronicle published an excellent article with great tips on touring the Taj, which was named a World Heritage Site back in 1983. The article is a great read for anyone planning on visiting the massive mausoleum, which can be quite daunting for the unprepared.

One of the first tips offered up for travelers is that they hire a regulated guide to show them around the sprawling grounds that consist of the iconic white domed tomb, as well as a large garden, and a number of smaller buildings as well. The guide will not only help you navigate the place, they’ll also make sure that you aren’t mobbed by vendors and beggers while making the final trek to the entrance gate, which isn’t all that close to where you’ll park.

Also of note, the article recommends that you go to the Taj twice, once at dawn and once at dusk. This will double your chances to avoid crowds, which can be quite massive and chaotic during the days, and allow you to stroll the compound at your own pace.

Galley Gossip: My Bollywood Valentine’s Day

There we were, the husband and I, standing up in a dark movie theater with a huge smile across our faces. We had gone to see the movie Slumdog Millionaire and were just about to leave, but when the credits began rolling the Bollywood dancers started to move their bodies in sync.

“Wait, I want to see this!” my husband exclaimed as I began to walk up the aisle.

“Really?” I asked, even though I already knew his response would be, yes, really! What I didn’t want to see was my husband doing those same Bollywood dance moves later that night. He can’t help himself. That’s why I love him.

As I stood there watching the dancers perform the “go away” dance move, as my husband calls it, a move that requires one hand to flutter from the front of the face to the back of the head, I immediately flashed back to another time in my life, back to the days when I was single and used to work the New York – San Jose route.

Why would an amazing film like Slumdog Millionaire remind me of a San Jose trip? Because we used to layover in Fremont, California – not San Jose, California. It was cheaper, I guess. Have you ever been to Fremont? Let’s just say I spent many layovers eating wonderful curries, drinking delicious chai tea, and checking out the local video store for a Bollywood movie I once worked on eight years ago called Mehbooba starring Sanjay Dutt, a movie I never did find.

Oh yes, that’s right, yours truly is not only a mother / flight attendant / writer, but also a not so famous ex Bollywood actress. In the movie Mehbooba, a film that was shot in New York City and other amazing places around the world, I’m just an extra. I’m the girl wearing the red dress on the boat, which is actually the same boat that was used in the movie The Mosquito Coast starring Harrison Ford. While I lounged on the wooden deck, Sanjay Dutt actually kissed me on the cheek. I do hope they didn’t cut that part out.

For the record, Mehbooba means my beloved. My husband actually had it engraved on my wedding band. Only he spelled it wrong – Mehabooba. Just a random fact about me.

Another random fact about me, I don’t like Valentine’s Day. There’s just to much pressure to have fun and fall in love and spend too much money doing so – just to be let down in the end.

My dislike for Valentine’s Day began in elementary school. That’s where, each year, I was forced to decorate a tissue box with construction paper in shades of red, pink and white on the day of love. A person can’t help but get excited about what they’re going to find in their box at the end of the day, even if that person is only ten years old! Of course my box never overflowed with hearts and candy the way those of my classmates did.

Then, years later, I gave my college boyfriend a special gift. I don’t remember what it was, but what I do remember is what he gave me. Nothing. He was too busy breaking up with me – not just once, but twice, on two different Valentine’s Days! What can I say, some people just have to be slapped in the face with rejection!

After college I dated an engineer who wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day the day after – on the 15th. Or the 13th would’ve worked, too. “It’s cheaper that way,” he’d said matter of fact. Of course now that I’m older and wiser I see the logic in that, but back then it only made me hate the day even more.

Though I do have many bad memories, there was one Valentine’s Day I did actually enjoy. It happened in Fremont, California of all places. And it may even have to go down as one of the most fun nights of my life. My date that night at the Bollywood disco after a scrumptious dinner at an Indian buffet was Katherine, the flight attendant working in first class with me that month of February in 2001.

I had just planned on having another not so great Valentine’s Day, which is why I had opted to work that day, but Katherine decided to take matters into her own hands. She started asking passengers if they could fix us up with someone – anyone! Who lived in Fremont. You have to understand that Katherine was the kind of person who could say anything and get away with it. I think the British accent had a lot to do with that. While we did make quite a few of our passengers laugh, we never did get set up, and eventually found ourselves alone drinking chai tea as we celebrated together in a coffee shop across the street from our Fremont layover hotel.

“Why don’t you two come along with me!” said the owner of the shop. He’d been eavesdropping in on our conversation. “Just pay me gas money.”

So that’s what we did. We paid our new friend gas money and he took us to a private party not too far away. Katherine and I danced the night away to music we’d never heard before, nor have I heard since, and we learned dance moves that only my husband could appreciate. Of course back then he wasn’t around to appreciate them. No one was. Just Katherine.

On the flight back to New York Katherine stood in the first class galley wearing her pin striped apron and looked me square in the eye, and said, and she said this very seriously, “Heather, you were the best date I’ve ever had.”

Of couse I felt the same way about her. The sad thing is I never did see my special Valentine’s date again after that wonderful month working together. I heard Katherine quit flying shortly after 9/11. A lot of flight attendants did.

So now that I’m married to a wonderful man who has spectacular dance moves of his own, a passenger I actually met on a flight from New York to Los Angeles just a few months after 9/11, and now that we have a beautiful two year-old son who travels so often he calls his belt a seatbelt and prefers to keep it fastened at all times, things have changed for the better. Valentine’s Day is no longer about me. It’s about us.

This year the three of us will be celebrating together at home. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I do know that mommy and daddy will be spending a romantic evening out alone on the 12th instead of the 14th this year. You better believe my husband will be getting a copy of the Slumdog Millionaire CD, as well as the just released Mehbooba DVD! Yes, it took eight years, but it’s out, the movie is finally out, and my poor husband will be forced to watch it!

Photos courtesy of (Bollywood dancers) Fikirbaz (Mehbooba) the official Mehbooba website (Valentine’s box) Msabcmom