The weather in the country is slowly but surely turning hotter. The last of the winter chill has disappeared. It can only mean one thing – Holi is around the corner! The festival of colour, of joy, signalling the start of the spring-summer season in our country.
My children love this festival – it allows them to run around gleefully in the society compound throwing colour and be as messy as possible. Sounds like fun, right? But there’s a worrying side to Holi that I’m becoming increasingly aware of, especially as the children grow older. The matter of consent.
Why does this bother me?
Perhaps it’s because I am a mother to both, a son and a daughter, that I feel it very keenly when every year I read painful newspaper stories about children, women, and men having their consent violated when people around them forcibly apply colour or throw water on them. I’m sure you recall having read them too. I worry about my daughter (and even my son) being touched without her permission. To those who call it ‘harmless fun’ and ‘bura na maano holi hai, I ask you this: Don’t we teach our children about boundaries the rest of the year? Do we not insist that their body is their own and should be respected? So, what message are we sending to the children when we deliberately violate someone’s consent so we can have fun?
There’s another group of innocent, voiceless victims who suffer the most during our festivities: It’s the poor street animals. It’s not uncommon at all to spot a helpless, scared-looking blue-and-pink dog streaking past you the day after Holi. These colours, laden with chemicals, were not meant to be used on animal fur or even human skin. But unlike us, these animals can’t hop into a shower and scrub themselves clean. So it’s our job to protect them and keep them safe!
My kind of Holi
So what does it mean for us to celebrate a Holi that’s both fun and respectful? Here are a few things I’m going to ask my children to follow. I hope they help you set fun, respectful boundaries for your own family too!
It takes literally just a couple of seconds to ask for permission, but just think of how respected and valued it will make the person feel! It doesn’t matter who it is — children, friends, elders, or family members. Always ask for consent before pulling someone into your celebrations. Learning about consent and agency starts in small ways right from childhood, after all!
Learn to accept ‘no’ gracefully
It’s our turn to ‘bura na maano’ when someone doesn’t feel comfortable with having colour, water, or anything else applied to them. If they say colour is okay, but water isn’t, do as they ask. If they want to play with only organic colours, respect their wishes, the way you would want someone to respect yours. Let’s learn to live and let live.
Ask if they’re okay with you applying colour
Just because someone is okay with your friend or relative (or a total stranger) applying colour to them, does not mean they’re giving blanket consent to everyone to come into physical contact. So permission needs to be asked, even if they’ve said yes to someone else already. Think of it like this- just because you’ve said okay to go out for coffee with a friend, does not mean you’re okay to go out for coffee with your friend’s friend, or their cousin.
Watch out for the animals!
Make sure you’re playing in a place that is away from animals: and if they do wander in, immediately move away so they do not get drenched in colour. It can be very harmful for them, and it’s our job to protect them!
Make your festivities inclusive
Holi is meant to be a festival that includes everyone of all abilities and from all backgrounds. Let’s get our community involved in making sure we create a safe space for all.
Let’s be eco-friendly
Only about 3% of the earth’s water is freshwater. Out of which 2% is locked up in ice and glaciers. Having a water-free Holi only seems logical in the face of these statistics.
You may also like: Tips to Raise an Environment-Loving Child
Holi may have many mythological stories attached to it – but the predominant feeling through it all is one of joy and celebration. I’m going to make sure my celebrations don’t dampen anyone else’s joy. Have a happy, safe, and consent-ful Holi!