Dusshera is just round the corner, and I was reminded of this article from my book Flights from My Terrace, ‘And Ravana Slept’ , which was themed round the concept that the more we try to demolish evil, the more it tries to rear its head. I would also love to take this opportunity to thank all my friends who were kind enough to buy the book, read it and review it . I am so thankful, that readers continue to like the book. Thanks a ton.
– Dr. Santosh Bakaya
Link for purchase from Amazon – Flights from My Terrace: The Boy in Yellow Knickers and Other Essays
AND RAVANA SLEPT
It was a bizarre scene.
First one cart, then another. And then still another.
Heads, torsos, arms and legs all heaped one on top of the other. Grotesquery at its weirdest. It was while returning from my morning walk that I witnessed this scene. The roads were wet; the watery wrath of yesterday’s overcast sky had given a newly washed look to the houses all around. Freshly bathed and scrubbed, they looked like children ready for an unshackled burst of fun and play.
But immovable property cannot be moved, so they stood rooted. Unmoving and shackled. Helpless and mute. But the movers and shakers moving the camel carts, bullock carts, and hand carts moved on, they had no alternative but to move. They were uprooted. The body parts heaped in the carts belonged to the effigies of Ravana which were in a pathetic state because of the sudden rain showers.
“Where are you taking these effigies?” I asked one of the men who was pushing a hand cart, his eyes focussed on the sky.
“The roads are being broadened all over, so we had to shift from where we were making these effigies of Ravanas. I hope Dusshera does not turn out to be a wet one this year,” he said with a worried look. [For those of my non-Indian friends who do not know the background of Dusshera, it falls on the tenth day of the waxing moon during the Hindu month of Ashvin. Myth has it that that the ten –headed king of Lanka, Ravana was killed by Rama on this day. This day symbolises the victory of good over evil].
The morning sky was still overcast, and occasionally it even tried to browbeat people with its spasmodic growls. Casting apprehensive looks in the direction of the sky, people plodded on.
“We are professional Ravana makers; our entire family is involved in this business. We had come all the way from Mathura to make these Ravanas, but the rain has destroyed them”, the man , who had told me that his name was Munir Khan, said looking ruefully at the faces of the Ravanas which appeared tear streaked.
“We will take them to a safe spot and fix them. We cannot let our labour go waste.” He added with a determined toss to his head.
“But we will definitely set them right”, he reiterated with a twinkle in his eyes, while a youngster, who was probably his son, nodded assent. It was as though by repeating his resolve, he was trying to convince himself that everything would be fine.
“We were uprooted from our place because of the broadening of these roads, and then the rain, but we will not let this hamper us”. Another man butted in, his Adam’s apple skittering up and down his throat like an elevator caught between two floors. His Adam’s apple was nervous, so was he.
Evil was being carted away in bits and pieces-to temporary safety, only to explode in a shower of fireworks in the evening. The carts came to a stop on a vacant plot a few feet away from our house, and there they unloaded their burden and in no time started reconstructing the evil.
Deconstruction was some hours away.
The shades of the evening would herald the fiery annihilation of evil. Or would it?
I headed towards the plot, to watch the goings on at a closer range. Another bullock cart trundled along carrying its colourful burden of evil-an eight headed effigy of the demon king, which was followed by another cart, overflowing with evil-I noticed the remaining two heads of the ten-headed demon king in this cart.
The rain had torn asunder the heady ambitions of yet another demon! This bullock cart also headed towards the vacant plot, and the Ravanas were pulled out, heads and limbs and torsos. The plot was suddenly pulsating with life. Smaller effigies of Kumbhakaran, Ravana’s brother who is said to have had the dubious distinction of hibernating for a mind boggling stretch of six months, and Meghannath, Ravana’s son, were also visible.
Two Ravanas were installed on the ground, one so gigantic that he stood head and shoulders above the rest, and next to him was an almost dwarfish looking Ravana. Was it some Freudian compulsion that had compelled the Ravana Maker to paint that intimidating look on his face and almost a formidable looking moustache? I wondered, trying not to be intimidated by it. Despite his small stature, he towered over the others with his expressive might as opposed to the impressive might of the ten foot Ravanas.
Well, evil comes in different shades, different colours and different heights, I gathered. Appearances could be quite deceptive, where evil was concerned.
“Ravana had many good traits, but it was his overpowering trait of arrogance that….”
“Yes, he was supposed to be very well read, brave and intelligent.” opined another cutting the speaker short, and giving finishing touches to the small-statured Ravana.
“We will have to hike the prices of these effigies. The rains have played the villain, they have sabotaged our efforts” .One man, wearing a harassed look, said, putting a little colour on one of the eyelashes of the tallest Ravana. A scooter zipped past, a girl driving and another girl sitting pillion with a small effigy of the Ravana in her arms. Sitting in such close proximity to evil, she was still beaming, probably thinking that the demise of evil was just a few hours away when, with the shades of the evening the effigies of Kumbhakaran and Meghanath would go up in flames to be followed by the effigies of Ravana.
I soaked in the festive exuberance all round, and was almost glad to see people flocking towards the temporary shelter of the Ravanas .Soon they would start bargaining with the Ravana Makers for a mutually satisfying price.
“Buraiyi ko itna mehnga bechtey ho,” [“You are selling evil at such an expensive price”] I heard someone quip, while the others joined in with appreciative and loud laughter.
“Buraiyi mehngi bikegi tabhi to kam hogi”. [“Evil will lessen only when it is sold at a prohibitive cost”]The Ravana Maker rejoined with twinkling eyes.
Colourfully attired women in ghagra choli, carrying cobs of green maize emerged on the scene and asked them the price of the smallest Ravana. Loud, boisterous chatter followed and I moved homewards. The sun was in a holiday mood, and had still not appeared from behind the blanket of clouds. It was evening, and the park where the effigy of Ravana would be set on fire was choc a bloc with people and vendors selling eatables, those selling balloons and handicraft pieces were at their festive best. The Dusshera Mela was in full swing, but Ravana seemed to be playing truant.
“Where is Ravana?”
“He is sleeping.” The cop manning the park gate answered my query with a wry smile.
“Huh? I was under the impression that it was Kumbhakaran who was the sleepy head. How come Ravana is sleeping?” My tongue in cheek remark was not lost on the cop, as he had a hearty laugh over it.
“Actually, when they were taking his huge effigy inside the park gates, his head came off, now they are setting the head right.”
I quickly hid the smile that sprang to my lips, and the cop looked the other way.
We killed half an hour loitering around the park, but still Ravana refused to get up, we spent another hour talking to the balloon sellers, gorging on unhygenically prepared eatables, another half hour trying to strike an arms deal with the arms dealers [boys selling tiny bows and arrows, maces and swords] but still Ravana was in no mood to oblige, we whiled away another half an hour talking amongst ourselves, but Ravana refused to be jerked out of his slumber.
“He is still sleeping there”, a tiny boy informed me pointing towards a tree where there appeared to be a huge crowd.
“This Ravana is suffering from an identity crisis! He seems to be in awe of his brother Kumbhakaran, he needs some psychiatric help.” My daughter, who has Psychology as a subsidiary subject in English Honours, rejoined, rubbing her eyes, while Lalit looked on with an intensely bored expression.
“Now I am also feeling sleepy. I have no patience with sleepy- head Ravanas, let us go home.” She said yawning prodigiously.
“But not before I find out what ails our Ravana!” I said, and hastened towards the tree where Ravana was supposed to be having his 40 winks, his unending winks actually. A surgery was underway and the grotesquely sprawled body of a mutilated Ravana was being tended to by a hoarde of Ravana makers. I recognised Munir Khan, who also recognised me and smiled apologetically in my direction. Ravana appeared to be in the intensive care unit, inside a strongly built barricade, while people, mostly children, swarmed around the barricade like angry wasps around a threatened hive.
As I stood trying to get updates on the health bulletin of Ravana, my cell phone rang.
“Are you or are you not coming?” Lalit’s powerful baritone seemed to resound threateningly in the park.
“I am coming”, I said, and sprinted towards the gate where I found father and daughter barricaded behind dangerous frowns.
It seemed to be a night of barricades.
“Let sleeping giants lie”, I announced on coming back.
“Hmm!” They snorted in one disgusted snort.
“Evil has no intention of going up in flames.” I added ruefully.
And Ravana slept, apparently in no mood to oblige the few who really wanted to see his destruction.
Dr Santosh Bakaya, an academician- poet- essayist- novelist, has made her mark both in prose and poetry. Her three mystery novels, [The mystery of the Relic, The mystery of the Jhalana Fort and The mystery of the Pine cottage] for young adults were very well received in the 1990s. Flights from my terrace, her e-book of 58 essays , published on Smashwords in October 2014, now has a printed version by Authorspress Delhi, India, 2017. Ballad of Bapu, a poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, [ Vitasta publishers, Delhi 2015,] is also being acclaimed internationally. Her essays on Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.have been published in Gandhi Marg, a quarterly journal of GANDHI PEACE FOUNDATION.
She has also been published and interviewed in Cafe Dissensus and has contributed to national and international anthologies – [Colours of Refuge, Resonance, Mytho Manthan, Authorspress India, on behalf of Poets, Artist Unplugged], in Kiew-an anthology of tree poems published by The international Visitor Programme,Phillipines. Many of her poems have figured in the highly commendable category and Poem of the month category in Destiny Poets, a U. K based poetry website. Her poetry has also appeared in Learning and Creativity- Silhouette magazine, in Incredible women of India, in Mind Creative [Ezine from Australia], In Brian Wrixon’s anthology, the online magazine Episteme, published from Mumbai and Setu – a bi-lingual journal published from Pittsburgh, USA, Spillwords.com – an international e-zine of repute, and in PIN [POETS IN NIGERIA QUARTERLY] journal.
She has co-edited UMBILICAL CHORDS: AN ANTHOLOGY ON PARENTS REMEMBERED, published by Global Fraternity of Poets, Gurgaon, Haryana, and also DARKNESS THERE BUT SOMETHING MORE – AN ANTHOLOGY OF EERIE TALES [Blue Pencil , 2017]
WHERE ARE THE LILACS ? [A compilation of 111 peace poems] was launched in 2016 and is getting rave reviews. UNDER THE APPLE BOUGHS , is her latest collection of poems [ 2017].
She has also been a featured poet in Pentasi B World Friendship poetry and was conferred with the Universal Inspirational Poet Award jointly by Pentasi B and the Ghana Government in May 2016.
She received the International Reuel Award for writing and literature 2014, for her long poem OH HARK!, which now forms part of THE SIGNIFICANT ANTHOLOGY.
She is also the recipient of The INCREDIBLE WOMAN OF THE YEAR 2015 award instituted by The Incredible women of India blog.
The Poet Laureate award, 2016 , instituted by Poetry Society of India was conferred on her for her book Ballad of Bapu , her long poem Oh Hark ! and WHERE ARE THE LILACS? [ A COLLECTION OF PEACE POEMS [[2016 ].
The Tejaswani Award was presented to her on International Women’s Day[MARCH 2017] by the Aagman and Literary and Cultural group [DELHI] .
The Literary Excellence Award was conferred on her by Bharat Nirman in July 2017 .