When I was around 8 years old, one day, a few of my dad’s friends came over to our house unannounced, dragged my dad out forcefully, and colored him all over the face. Now, these people had their faces and clothes covered in colors ranging from black to blue and red. The sight was blood curdling for me back then. Despite my dad’s protestations, they went on to apply the appalling colors on his face, neck and hands too. After this, they all carried him on their shoulders to the society water tank and threw him inside. Though, by this time, my father had stopped protesting and had even started to enjoy himself, the episode stuck in my mind, and for a very long time playing Holi and Holi, as a festival itself, scared the hell out of me . Remember that I was just a kid then, so some questions that came to me were, why did these people behave like hooligans? Why do we play Holi like this? Why is Holi celebrated?
This brings to mind the fact that kids need to be educated on the whats, whys and hows of this colorful festival. We should teach them how to play safe Holi and more importantly why do we play Holi?
There are many stories linked to the festival of Holi and the Holika Dahan. These stories may be mythological, religious or social, but all have some or the other hidden lessons in them. So, why not use one of these to teach our kids a life lesson as well educates them on why this festival is celebrated. The one that is most popular and can be used for this purpose is the Holika, Hirankashyap and Prahlad story. I am sure you all must be well versed with the story; since that’s the story we all heard growing up too. But, with the technology at our aid, we can make it interesting by using one of these. It might help develop reading and listening skills in them too.
The best lesson for the kids here is the “Victory of good over evil”. Go on to explain to them that this is why we burn the pyre in remembrance of Holika and celebration of this victory of good over evil and also to teach them tostand by the people they love, the way Holika did for her brother Prahlad.
This is also a good time to teach them how to play safe Holi and ensure that they indeed play a safe Holi. Here are a few things you can teach them:
1. Discourage them to play Holi with eggs, mud, tar or gutter water. Explain to them that this is not only unhealthy but harmful as well. A good way to avoid this would be keeping clean water handy so that they don’t resort to using such unclean water.
2. Don’t buy the abir and ensure the kids don’t buy or borrow from someone else either. The amount of mica contained in them is dangerous for the skin. Explain the ill effects of mica to them.
3. Use only gulaal/organic colors or flower petals. Child friendly, eco-friendly, non-toxic and gel based colors are available aplenty. Why not use these?
4. Make kids understand that they should keep the colors away from the mouth and eyes. It is essential that you do not let your children put any colors in his/her mouth. Synthetic colors, powder or gel-based alike, contain a number of harmful chemicals, when ingested they could cause severe reactions such as vomiting and could also lead to poisoning.
5. Explain to them that eyes are particularly vulnerable. If the colors enter your child’s eye, wash the eye with plenty of water. Remember not to rub the eye. If your child experiences any change in vision, pain or excessive redness of the eyes, immediately take him/her to your doctor.
6. Dress them well as the clothes are important for protection. Make your child wears full-sleeved clothes and long pants to protect his/her sensitive skin.
7. Another way of protecting their skin would be preparing them well for it by applying oil or cream all over the body to prevent the colors from sticking to the skin. Oil the child’s hair well before he/she goes to play with colors. This will help protect the skin and hair from the harmful effects of the colors.
8. The pichaakris which we think of as harmless toys can be dangerous too. So, teach your child to use his/ her pichkaari away from other people’s faces, especially their eyes and ears. Also, ask them to maintain a safe distance from other children’s pichkaaris when they are being attacked with the water.
9. Water balloons hurt badly if thrown harshly or from a height or distance. Make them understand how badly one can get hurt if a balloon is thrown on a passer-by or someone who is driving. This will ensure they burst the balloons on each other from a safe distance.
10. Encourage your children to play Holi only with a group of close friends and relatives as against strangers. In fact even you should do the same to make sure you as well as your kids are safe. People can get carried in the Holi intoxication (thanks to the bhaang).
Safety first should always be our motto where the kids are concerned, isn’t it? So, follow these and not only will the children enjoy playing Holi, a load will be off your shoulders too. Also, as their parents and teachers, we should always take some moments off to make them understand cultural significance of Holi. It is a festival of color, a harbinger of the spring season, and not a dirty game.
(as published on The Champa Tree)