A Holi without revellers chasing passers-by with 'pichkaris'? Unthinkable till a few years back. But the new trend in Jharkhand suggests the water sprayer is no longer the most sought-after plaything among children for celebrating the festival of colours.
The reason: It's considered unhealthy.
"Health experts say children should avoid playing with plastic articles and most sprayers are made of plastic," said Pyali Banerjee, a housewife.
"On Holi we often get complaints about children pumping harmful liquids in the eyes of other children with pichkaris, so we discourage them from buying pichkaris now," added Sushila Devi, another housewife from Ranchi.
Colours used for spraying water are also said to be harmful for the skin and this is adding to the decrease in their sale.
"Till few years back we were earning good money selling pichkaris during Holi. The sale has declined by 20 per cent now," said Vikas Kumar, a shopkeeper from Lalpur in Ranchi.
Another shopkeeper, Indu Bhushan echoed: "During Holi we would set up makeshift stalls outside the shop. Over the years, traditional pichkaris were replaced with other forms such as guns or airplanes but the sale was good. In the last few years its been steadily going down."
The price of sprayers varies from Rs. 5 to Rs. 90 depending on the shape, make and size.
He admitted that health conscious people now prefer not to play with colours. People like only 'abirs' (coloured powder) and avoid liquid colours.
"There was a time when one child would insist on buying two to three pichkaris and parents would buy them without a second thought. Now parents discourage children from buying them on health grounds," said Munna Bhagat, who has set up two stalls of sprayers near Sahid Chawk in Ranchi.
However, not everyone is averse to sprinklers.
"During Holi I buy at least five pichkaris. We enjoy playing with colours for at least two to three days," said Sumit Kumar, a student of DAV School here.