I can recall back in high school a vast majority of my classmates wanting to take the Greek mythology course elective offered in senior year. Nevertheless, I was never interested and took Shakespeare instead. Indeed, to this day, I still do not have much of an interest in Greek mythology. Of course, it is actually quite surprising I remember any of this as I tend to try to forget anything about my youth prior to age 22. Coincidentally, it was in my mid-twenties that I began to develop a curiosity of Hinduism due in part to my Indian classmates at that time . . . and a growing addiction to vindaloo curry.
Fast forward to present day, and now having entered the thirty-sixth year of my life, I am a bit ashamed to admit that I have not conducted much scholarly study of Indian and Hindu culture outside of casual Wikipedia readings and the occasional BBC documentary. What I have done, however, is to dive in and experience the culture live and in person whenever the opportunity arises. In about half of these experiences, I manage to get completely covered in colour powder. The latest expedition, just last month in September on Devon Avenue in the far north side of Chicago, was such.
A friend and fellow photographer had messaged me about a Hindu temple holding a procession down Devon Avenue as the close of Ganesh Chaturthi, the ten-day festival celebrating the annual arrival of Ganesha–the god of beginnings, the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of intellect and wisdom. Of course, I only learned of Ganesha’s attributes on the day of and after this procession. The only intention and expectation I had really that day was to meet up with my friend, observe the procession, document something with my Leica, and learn something through first hand experience.
I got more than I bargained for, suffice it to say.
After snapping a few frames, I notice that colour powder was being thrown around. I knew this was a thing for the Holi Festival that usually occurs in early spring, but like the Spanish Inquisition, I was not expecting it at all for Ganesh Chaturthi. As I heard some yelling on my left, I turned with my Leica up to my eye to frame whatever commotion was happening, and before I could frame anything in my viewfinder, one of the priests hurled a wad of pink powder right into my face. And as I grinned and chuckled while I got in to march with the rest of the dancing crowd, carefully wiping off the powder from my lens and camera, I thought to myself, “Here we go again!”
Two hours and three rolls of film later, walking down Devon Avenue with my friend into the setting sun, both of us completely covered in pink, yellow, red, blue, green, trying to find a pub for a pint, I had a rare moment of realising just how lucky I am to be where I am in my life now.
For that very brief moment, it seems Ganesha was able to remove some of the emotional obstacles within me.
©Khoa A. Dao, K. Dao Photography, 80 Proof Photos