The locally erected Ravan is barely hundred yards away and I can see it clearly from my seventh floor balcony. I can see that scintilla growing into an enveloping fire… but before I could feel any oy at this symbolic annihilation of evil, I hear this song loud clear…
‘kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tan saathiyon
Ab tumhare hawale vatan saathiyon…’
‘Someone understands the present day situation,’ I muttered, and then smiled at the way Mohammad Rafi’s sombre tone messed up the entire logic of Dussehara. Ravan suddenly appeared to smile from behind the flames, as if he was happy to note that the world was well in his grip.
As if this wasn’t enough, the next song, as the charred bits and pieces of the sticks-and-paper Ravan fell, was…
‘Ae mere vatan ke logon
Zara aankh mein bhar lo paani
Jo shahid hue hain unki
Zara yaad karo purwani’
Believe me, I am not cooking up this story. This really happened a few minutes back… and though they are now playing some songs which link moments with raunchiness, the songs just played on this Dussehara make me break into laughter.
Frankly, the first song did not appear totally bizarre… I’m sure Ravan must be aligning his natural instinct to abduct females, disturb peace, create a ruckus for no good reason, and revel in converting every sur into an asur as equally valid in these modern times. Is Ravan wrong in his assumptions? I guess not. All we need to do is to read the headlines in any newspaper on any day or listen to the evening news on any channel and we will know that the ten undesirable qualities that we attempt to get rid of by burning the effigy of Ravan yet remain throbbing with a lot of life.
One of the forwarded updates on the social media this Dussehara lists these undesirable qualities as Kama-vasana (Lust), Krodha (Anger), Moha (Attachment), Lobha (Greed), Mada (Over Pride), Matsara (Jealousy), Swartha (Selfishness), Anyaaya (Injustice), Amanavta (Cruelty), and Ahankara (Ego).
Do I really want to sound like a preacher who’d talk about the way these traits are plaguing the Indian social matrix? No. But isn’t it a paradox that the very qualities we symbolically incinerate are the ones glowing like halos surrounding our lives?
If you think we’re any better off than the Ravan of our epic, let me ask you why that nincompoop in that expensive car with a UP or HR number had the gall to overtake me from the left while I was driving back from NOIDA a couple of hours back? And then the temerity to show me the middle finger with a glare that almost resembled the one in these Made in Titarpur Ravan effigies and one that openly and unashamedly announce, ‘You cannot do anything but dive into your own impotent frustration.’
Let me go back another couple of hours and try and remember why almost everyone in that expensive restaurant decided to order more food than they had the appetite to eat because I noticed the food-laden plates being carried back by waiters. Frankly, I have no idea why people waste food… and their hard-earned money, let me add. This is yet another one from the listed undesirable traits, of course… still evident despite centuries of evolution.
What about those girls with fairness dripping from their faces but their feet telling some other unrelated story? What about their decadent pouts and the vacuous flourish of their cheap smartphones to click what everyone calls a selfie? A selfie with something as inane as a bored couple clutching the railing of a far more balanced escalator. Or that group of loafers waiting excitedly for this girl to turn and finally click a selfie with them in the background? Even lust, it appears has managed to adulterate itself and gone bits over bytes, quite literally.
The Facebook debates, the fights on forums, and the twitter battles are a mix of cruelty inflicted through half-baked opinions and limpid sentence formations. There is, of course, the added injustice of opinionated opinions that are still in their dough avatar.
Look whichever way you wish to, you will invariably discover Ravan grinning. So who or what are we killing each Dussehara? It is probably the notion that we haven’t really changed.
11 October 2016