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Saturday, 13 October 2012

Celebrating Vardavar in Yerevan - A Water Feast


Am I lucky or what? Last year while I was doing a research to write a column about "Water Feast," an old Armenian tradition of dousing each other with water, I came up with pictures shot in the streets of Yerevan, showing the kids throwing buckets of water. And I wished one day I would have the chance of being there in person and watch those kids in action and take my own pictures.

The date of Water Feast, called "Vardavar," rotates. Like Easter it falls on Sundays usually in August. I remember when I was young in Tehran the coming of Vardavar was bitter sweet. Of course there was the joy of dousing each other but then it signified the end of the summer.

So, this year, making arrangements for my travels to Armenia, I didn't pay attention to the date of Vardavar, thinking: "No question, I'll be there for Vardavar." Because my plan was to be in Yerevan by the middle of July.

Yerevan welcomed me with a bang. I arrived Saturday July 14, and realized that the following day was Vardavar. On Sunday morning I looked outside of my window and saw young kids, walking with buckets in their hands. My heart skipped a beat.

I was so excited to go outside and see how they celebrated the feast. Our celebration of Vardavar, in Tehran, was subdued. I usually woke up with a splash of water on my face from my younger brother. Later in the day we went to a swimming pool to use the excuse of Vardavar to splash each other. And in the United States while my kids were growing up we hardly have celebrated the feast.

But now in Armenia I was excited like a kid to watch the revelers. First I was hesitant to go out, because I had heard there is no mercy. No matter what; you would be doused.

I put a light outfit, took my iPhone to use it as a camera, and went outside to our courtyard, where the young kids were so well behaved. I could tell that they were from America because they were all wearing the latest fashion, American outfits and sneakers.

Then a young mother came with a bucket of water in her hand. She started splashing the kids from the bucket. I took a few pictures and then joined the gang to go outside of the apartment complex and continue the celebration.

In Yerevan all over the city, there are drinking water fountains. We proceeded to one of the fountains and the kids filled their buckets and doused each other. They respected me and didn't splash water on me. I was able to catch a few nice pictures. Satisfied with my work, I went back home. Then my friend called and asked me if I'd like to go to the main square where the real action was.

"Curiosity killed the cat." So we drove to the main square where the kids were soaking wet. They were using the water from the pond at the main square to douse each other. Their fight was fierce and without mercy.

My friend sat in front of the Marriott hotel to have a "marojni" ice cream. I proceeded to the battle ground by the pond. While I was standing at the red light to cross the street, a car stopped and someone from inside sprayed me with a water gun. I quickly hide my iPhone so it won't get wet.

With doubtful steps I reached the other side of the square and entered the war zone. They were older kids and they were wreaking havoc. First I took pictures from the fringes, but then realizing my iPhone was not equipped to take nice pictures from far, I proceeded slowly to the center.

My escapade was over when someone emptied a bucket of water on my head from behind. I got soaked from head to tow. I was pretty darn sure that was going to happen. At least I had a towel in my purse which absorbed the water. When I got home I had to lay down all the paper money on the table to dry. The damage was not grave and the joy was worth the dare. I was able to take only one incredible picture.

At age 64 that was the best vardavar I had ever celebrated.

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