By Rahul Mehta:
The festival of Dussehra, generally known as Vijayadashmi — has always occupied a special place in my mind. It never fails to bring back some extremely cherished childhood memories. Right from the days leading up to it, when on a random drive through Janakpuri, one used to see the huge ‘putlas’ of Ravan, Meghnad and Kumbhkaran being assembled and filled with explosives, to the actual day when we used to walk from one neighbourhood to another to watch as those effigies would be lighted and would burst into an amazing and deafening spectacle of light and sound. Few other things beat the nostalgia that Dussehra brings about.
I now stay in Bangalore, far from Delhi, and I am not sure how Dussehra is celebrated here as this will be my first in this city. I do long to go back, otherwise I will not be able to go back during Diwali. I am not sure what I will do on the day, here in the Silicon Valley of India. I haven’t seen any effigies being built in my neighbourhood or anywhere else in the city. I am not sure if I will be able to find good quality jalebis to eat in the evening. It is likely to be just another day for me.
All this makes me think — has globalization made us lose touch with our roots and traditions? For all the good things that globalization brings about, for instance it makes us interact with other cultures and leads to a confluence of divergent ideas and beliefs, there is probably also the downside of alienation from one’s own culture and traditions. In a sense, a citizen of today’s globalized world is often forced to wonder where he belongs and where he comes from.
Tradition and culture are not just for feelings of nostalgia — they are a huge part of our identity and the feeling of belongingness to a community. These identities often take centuries to form as the culture and traditions of a community shape up and become richer and mature. While it is an attractive thought that adherence to traditions makes life too rigid and forbids divergent thinking, it cannot be denied that our traditions are our heritage and make us who we are in more ways than one. Without something to call our own, will we not become a culturally barren potpourri without any significant sense of our own selves?
Maybe I will try to make a small ‘putla’ of cardboard that I can burn in flames. And maybe I will also try to find where I can get those yummy jalebis in this still-so-foreign city.
Re-connect with your family this festive season. Go hunt down those stories Â – traditions, best kept secrets, recipes, family tales, wild jokes, moth-eaten priceless photos and more! Go talk to everyone at home about their Dussehra and see their eyes light up wistfully (grabbing pen, paper, or recording instrument is a good idea, these stories are precious and never retold in quite the same way!).
And write/blog/photograph/video about it. About your Dussehra story.