Dussera is an Indian festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Ten days of festivities and good food end with the destruction of evil, symbolized by the evil King Ravana.
Who are the Ravanas in our lives today, I wondered? The answers resulted in a story that was published today in the children’s pages of The Hindu.
Tara was ten years old and in that time she had learnt many things about the world. Some of the most important things were about grown-ups; how they were bigger than children, stronger too and how they were impossible to defeat. Her lessons came from all the times grown-ups had done things she hadn’t liked, all the times she had been too scared to say so and all the times they got away.
And that’s why her new school puzzled her. For one thing, no other school she had gone to had celebrated Dussera with a Ramlila performance.
‘Really?’ her new friend Nidhi asked.
‘We have a Ramlila every year,’ Darshan said proudly.
‘It’s great fun!’ Neerav grinned. ‘We defeat Ravana!’
And that brought Tara to an even more puzzling thing about this school. Their Ravana wasn’t a big effigy stuffed with crackers but a real, live Ravana.
‘Watchman Uncle is always Ravana,’ she was told.
‘But…he’s so big!’ Tara stammered. She saw him every day and remembering his immense height, the bigness of him, Tara felt a quiver of fear.
‘Exactly!’ her friends grinned. ‘That’s why he’s such a perfect Ravana!’
That was all fine, Tara thought, staring at the stage where her classmates were rehearsing the Ramlila. ‘But kids…how will they defeat him?’ she asked. Her friends stared at her, puzzled by her question.
‘Huahahahaha!’ a huge roll of laughter sounded at that moment.
A tall man, dressed in the uniform of a security guard, was on the stage. He was thumping about menacingly and stopped now to give another monstrous laughter.
‘Look at that Ravana,’ Tara said. ‘He’s so huge and so…strong. And kids…kids are small and weak!’
‘Just watch what we do,’ Nidhi grinned. ‘Come on, boys!’ And the three of them raced away to join the other children who were waiting by the side of the stage. Ravana was still walking about the stage, uttering his demonic laughter and Tara shivered. At that moment the teacher said, ‘Now!’ The crowd of children standing by the stage rushed up the steps, uttering loud yells. They raced for Ravana, still screaming and grabbed his legs. Ravana fought back but he was no match for the children. With a triumphant scream they pushed Ravana so he went down. A large thump sounded as Ravana landed on the mattress laid ready for him but it was drowned in the huge cry of joy and victory.
‘See?’ Nidhi asked, panting joyfully.
‘One strong push,’ Darshan said.
‘And one loud scream,’ Neerav added.
‘That’s easy to remember,’ Tara nodded. And she did remember it the next time a grown-up did something she didn’t like, something she didn’t want him to do, something that made her uncomfortable and unhappy. She remembered that children could be strong too, and she screamed loudly and then pushed the grown-up with all her might.
And then she watched the Ravana in her life go crashing down. It was that easy and that difficult to do it.