Many of us grew up in a world where festivals like Holi and Diwali were a big part of our life year after year. We learned about them from our family, friends, neighbors, and most importantly by being an active participant in all the fun and celebrations. Remember the days when the preparations for the festivities began days or even weeks in advance?
Take Holi for example, which is just around the corner. A certain joyous mood would permeate our homes and neighborhoods, as stalls selling Holi colors and gulaal sprung up by the roadside. The sweet smells of Gujiyas and Puranpoli would waft through the air. Kids would get busy collecting wood and sticks for the upcoming Holika dahan, and getting their pichkaris and colors ready for the big day.
Today’s children don’t seem to get the same wholesome experience though. It’s especially a growing challenge for those living outside of India and in big Indian metros. Many reasons contribute to this – lack of time, lack of resources and sometimes even the lack of a conducive environment. So us parents are left wondering - how to introduce our little ones to all these wonderful festivals? How to recreate the festive atmosphere that we grew up with? How can we help them share the customs and traditions with their friends? How can we make a lasting impression on this generation of cell phone toting, touchscreen savvy netizens?
Aarti Khanna and Shameeli Sinha may just have the answers to these questions. Classmates from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, and ex-management consultants with McKinsey Co and IBM respectively, both are moms of young kids. Aarti is based in the U.S. and Shameeli lives in Hong Kong. With the arrival of their little ones, the duo faced the same challenges that many Indian parents encounter today. They felt a strong need to introduce their children and their children’s friends to the rich cultural heritage, festivals and languages of India. They began to look for new, innovative ways to help the kids stay connected with their Indian roots and identity. It was precisely this desire that led to the birth of Tamarind Tots!
Tamarind Tots creates fun, interactive learning apps about Indian culture and languages for mobile devices. This includes iPad, iPhone, and Android devices like Samsung phones and tablets. Their journey started with an app called ‘Diwali with Tamarind Tots’. Recently, they launched ‘Holi with Tamarind Tots’. Kids between the ages of 2 – 10 will find these apps very useful. Both Aarti and Shameeli have always believed in the mantra that “learning should be fun”. And that philosophy reflects very well in their products. The two apps let kids celebrate Diwali and Holi virtually on their handheld devices. Kids get to play, have fun, and at the same time, learn about Indian traditions and languages. It’s certainly a win-win proposition!!
In the Holi app, kids can celebrate Holika dahan by making their very own bonfire on a starlit, full moon night. Then they can grab their pichkaaris, gulaal, and gubbare, and rack-up points as they play Holi with their three virtual Indian friends, Niki, Krish, and Tara! When they're done and hungry, they can find their way through the lotus maze and enjoy delicious Holi food. They can do all this and more with their very own personalized avatar! Along the way, children get to learn over 20 new Hindi words associated with Holi. Whenever a keyword is encountered, a voiceover and written text appears to help kids learn and internalize it.
Tamarind Tots is also on Facebook. It’s a great way to stay abreast of the latest news and offerings from this highly innovative company. Tamarind Tots Facebook page can be found at http://www.facebook.com/tamarindtots
Vandana Razdan, mother of a 5 yr old sums it up very well - "The Diwali & Holi apps by Tamarind Tots are great at getting kids to know the traditions around these two festivals....very cute characterization that appeals to the kids and keeps them coming back. The little ones then want to do as they see - so moms be warned that you will be getting requests for gujiyas and rangolis. There is a real dearth of engaging educational apps for Indian kids and looking forward to lots more from this talented duo!"
Happy Holi & Happy Learning! (err…playing that is)