As a child, the feisty Ramleela season used to be the time of the year, which we desperately waited for because it meant some time-off from school and an unlimited supply of everything sweet. But now that we are all grown up and have moved away to different cities, and may not be home during the holiday season, I try to witness the Raavan-burning in any neighbourhood I may live in.
The reason isn't that I look forward to the smoke from the effigy polluting the air or that I am a firm believer in the whole notion of "Good over evil". As we grew up, I learnt that smoke isn't healthy and Raavan wasn't really the bad guy which he was made to be. But these were never the reasons why I loved this occasion anyway. More than being a religious thing, this season and Raavan-burning meant days of festivities and family-time to me.
Because every Raavan effigy I go to see takes me back to the time when we were young and free. With family.
When you had a weeklong vacation to look forward to and you had to get the homework done quickly (or more often, on the last day) so that you could be running around the house acting out scenes from the Ramleela with your siblings, doing the Raavan laugh. We sisters always made it a point to dress our brother as Raavan by making him wear heavy clothes and paint his face with sketch pens. Good times, indeed.
I see Raavan's effigy take shape with each passing day and the preparations going on in full swing. And in an instant, I am hit by a surge of memories of the years that have long gone by.
The air is heavy with streamers and anticipation. With each day of Ramleela, with its vibrantly dressed actors carrying cardboard swords, vendors selling jalebis, and Raavan's effigy taking shape with each passing day, it's hard not to be caught up in the buzz.
Each day brings more excitement and the murmurs about the spectacular effigy that's going to blow up into the sky.
As kids, we always did a countdown to the final day and it seemed so far that we would end up spending days making small Raavan in our backyard and lit it on fire before its time. The anticipation was just too much for us to handle!
Then there was our dog or dogs.
We have always had dogs in our family. And we would try to keep him away from the noise and crowd. But every time we were in the Ramleela, our dog would find its way to us. (Or to those stalls selling sweets. ) And then the chor-police game would start where we would try to catch the dog without parents knowing, else he'd be grounded.
There are so many memories attached to the day of Raavan's reckoning that it's hard not to be there and see the Raavan finally erupt into the sky because seeing that brings back so many memorable moments.
As kids, this day meant that you were exempted from study hours, you could eat as many sweets as you could, new clothes, and extra TV-hours. As the twilight hit, everyone would gather around to see the huge effigy be blown up any second. It would be one hell of a grand party!
You'd be with your family, wearing masks and carrying Dhanush, trying out different food, as you sneaked some to your dog who just wouldn't go away. These are the moments that seemed ordinary then but they come to you at random occasions when you are adulting. And you can't help but feel that the most amazing vivid memories that come to you, have always been underrated.
And this is what I go back to whenever I find myself watching Raavan burn every year. So yes, this day brings sheer nostalgia for the amazing years that have been full of family-time, festivals, sibling wars, and dogs.