Bindu Shajan Perappadan

NEW DELHI: It may still be a while before women in the Capital get to celebrate Holi the way it is celebrated in Barsana in Western Uttar Pradesh -- women beating men with thick bamboo sticks ("lathmaar") -- but the festival of colours this year brings with it the usual treats including traditional Holi sweets, drinks, colours and various types of "pichkaris''.

General warning

Coming as it does over a weekend this year, doctors and environmentalists have joined hands to issue a general warning to the public to play Holi responsibly.

"People nowadays have realised that chemical colours can cause extensive physical damage and are wisely opting for organics colours instead. We recommend use of red sandalwood powder, red hibiscus flowers, red rose petals, henna powder, dried mint, coriander, grated beetroot, turmeric powder, jacaranda flowers and crushed berries to make skin-friendly colours. Avoid metallic colours, especially those that come in the paste form,'' says Dr. Mukesh Batra of Dr. Batra's Positive Health Clinic.

Revellers should use skin cream or coconut oil and sunscreen lotion before venturing out to play Holi, he adds. "Oil you hair to counter the harsh effects of colour and wash your eyes immediately with water if colour enters. Do not massage or rub the eye,'' says Dr. Batra.

Offering tips on how to enjoy Holi responsibly, Dr. Keiki Mehta, Ophthalmic Consultant for the Governor of Maharashtra and the Armed Forces, says: "Holi colours sold in the market are oxidised metals or industrial dyes (like those used for dyeing our clothing).

In fact, most are dyes meant for industrial uses like dyeing textiles and should not be applied on humans. These colours include heavy metals, acids, and alkalis and even powdered glass. These dyes are very toxic and can result in anything from skin allergies to cancer, eye irritation to blindness. When washed, they enter our water and soil, and cause even more pollution.''

He adds that children are more vulnerable to toxicants absorbed through the skin because of their relatively larger surface area, body weight ratio, and respond to aniline toxicity more violently. "It is important to caution your friends when they play Holi that you do not want any powder or paste or even liquid in the eyes. In case of an accident, wash the eyes out immediately with water. If redness persists or if the vision seems to be affected, it is vital to see your eye doctor immediately,'' says Dr. Mehta. Meanwhile, even as the city markets have stocked up different types of colours and various types of "pichkaris'', the Delhi police have made elaborate arrangements to ensure a trouble-free Holi for the Capital.