Ravan is an interesting character… so what if he exists only in a mythological epic. We celebrate his defeat every year and call it a victory of good over evil. But evil still goes on and good is still busy fighting it… just look at the newspapers or the news on the telly and you’ll know. Some stories did point out that Ravan was a wise one and knew the path that would lead to nirvana… and he accepted not his end but the start of a desired after-life when Lord Ram vanquished him. I’m not sure if the other demons in his army were even aware of this great strategic move of their King… and some must still be in some yoni or the other waiting for their moksha. But let us come back to the celebration of dushera in India.
As a kid I read all that I could in stories, watched his effigy burned and saw the hooligans carry small and large charred pieces of sticks, shouting, ‘I have his bones… I have his bones!’ It made me rather envious and one of my dreams was to go near a Ravan effigy some day and pick at least one such charred stick as a souvenir. I haven’t been able to do this yet… but as time passed I did notice that evil is all around us in different forms and Ravan does help us understand at least a part of it.
I had clicked a series of photographs in 2011 and tried to capture the making of a Ravan effigy in Tatarpur in West Delhi. A few of those pictures make a lot of sense as I try to connect the kind of demon that Ravan was with the sort of evil that we are now surrounded with.
Atrocities against women
Rape, molestation, and eve-teasing are busy making headlines every other day, but Ravan, as the scriptures put it, did respect them. I mean, he did kidnap Sita (and he paid for this crime) but did he ever rape her or was found eve-teasing the other women-folk in the forests?
Women must be safe this Dushera, my friend
With Ravan, eve-teasing wasn’t a trend!
Now look at this picture and see the various forms of Ravan queued up as a lone woman walks past without fear. These days it isn’t Ravan that women fear but their own men-folk… so I guess we have him teaching us in 2015 as well.
Shamelessness of the corrupt
This is unfortunately not the case with the corrupt of our times. We are busy sharpening our ability to shamelessly do all the wrongs… we demand bribe, we seek to bribe, we dump ethics down the drain, and we do it with great pride. The shamelessly corrupt love to flaunt their Audi or Volvo or BMW or Volkswagen and repentance is miles away from them.
I’m sure Ravan is ashamed of what he did
And face-down he is repentant, his face hid!
Come on, Ravan does take the lead even here because he finally did admit to his flaws and sought to be killed.
Queues and straight lines
Well, I saw the Ravan effigies lying in a straight line on the road and mumbled, ‘We are making this poor demon from our mythological past remain queued when we hardly respect them.’ The trouble with our times is the way we treat queues and lane driving… nothing straight about them. But look at Ravan and you’ll know that he flew straight to Lanka after abducting Sita… no diversions and no meandering routes for him.
Even as an effigy, Ravan stays in a queue
I’m sure he had a rather disciplined crew!
What distresses us isn’t the large numbers in population but the way we clump together and disrupt all the geometry there is in life… look at the traffic in Delhi or the way people cross the road and you’ll know what I’m saying. This is one evil that plagues us and we really need to get rid of it.
Saw this Ravan effigy staring balefully at the utter chaos that our roads always are… the way we cock a snook at the humble traffic lights and passive cops, the way we rush against the traffic, and the way we love driving on the footpaths and cycle paths.
Ravan stared angrily at the traffic junction
And realised that traffic laws do not function!
I wish there was some study that told us of how the demons behaved as they travelled from one place to another… though I’m sure they followed the one in front to death which simply means that they went about in a straight line.
Intolerance to creative expression and laughter
Ah! Now we all know the way our cartoonists, satirists, and creative writers are treated… there have been cases when they were jailed or sometimes even killed. This probably makes us the right students for what Ravan preached.
My rhyming tweets please them, I know
That’s why their smile they show!
My rough guess is that Hanuman was less tolerant towards jokes and laughter and so the practical joke that the demons played on him resulted in an entire city put on fire. The demons themselves never missed a hearty laughter… and this is still represented in their effigies that we build today.
These effigies are made of sticks and paper and the colour that most artists use is from vegetable dyes… though some use paints that aren’t environment friendly. However, even as the fire and smoke rises when Ravan and his henchmen are reduced to ashes, the message they give out loud and clear through the accompanying crackers, is that pollution of any sort isn’t going to do anyone any good.
Ravanas aren’t dramatic by birth, you see
Only as adults do they sting like a bee!
No demon is born a villain… it is probably the massive smoke created by the many yajnas and yagyas in the cities and the forests that troubled them and the demons simply rushed to put out the fires to save the environment! The sages should have brain-stormed and invented a new method to please the Gods… but they didn’t and the demons continued to interrupt their havans. We really need to decide who was environment-friendly.
Fight for equality
This is one issue that has always been in the headlines for us. If it isn’t about Dalits, then it is about quotas and seats… but equality continues to baffle most of us. We don’t seem to realise that it was Ravan who succinctly talked about ‘an eye for an eye’ and communicated his opinion in favour of equality.
An eye for an eye is what Ravan said
Inequality, for him, was as good as dead!
It is time that we too realised that the concept of equality needs action more than it needs a debate… and I do not mean action that disrupts or disorients harmony in any way. Action that pro-actively seeks to remove inequality is what we need to think about.
A stressed-out society
Intolerance is everywhere. From incidents of road-rage to people on the social media hating countries without even knowing the reasons for their update are all around us. We are showing all the symptoms of a society that is stressed out. We need to learn how to relax and chill-out.
Like Ravan lying chilled-out on a Delhi roadside
Let us throw out stress, not lie under it and hide
I’m sure there is no evidence of a stress over-load in Ravan’s times… after all we know of people like Kumbhkaran who slept most of the time and such things are possible only when stress doesn’t trouble a society. The demons did not need psycho-analysis and psychiatrists… but we do.
Gossip and leaks
This is one issue that where we are learning fast from the demon era of Ravan… we too now have our own breed of whistle-blowers just as Ravan’s family did. But we need to understand the difference between gossip and a productive leak of information.
Ravan had his spies all over to know untruth from fact
They overheard gossip and communicated with tact!
These Ravana clones love to sit-n-talk
Thank God, they cannot get up and walk!
Protect the weak
This dushera we need to realise that protecting the weak – both humans and animals – is as essential for our ecosystem as breathing is to live. Like Ravan, we need to learn how to say BOO to those who are out there to harm those who have not yet learnt to protect themselves.
Ravanas can be grumpy but can ROFL too
Their moustaches even in silence say BOO!
Festivities teach us. Even photo-walks teach us. This photo-walk that I did in 2011 has managed to make me write this post on Ravan Reloaded in 2015… which simply means that creativity does not subscribe to an expiry date.
Other posts that I have written on RAVAN:
23 October 2015