“Ma, why do we burn Ravana every year?” This simple question from my son got me thinking. It’s not that he’s not aware of the religious significance of this day thanks to many animated mythological series aired on TV these days, which not only captivate children’s interest but also introduce them to the moral and ethical nuances of these folklores through engrossing narrative. Seeing me in a dilemma, he was quick to add, “Now don’t tell me that Ravana was an evil king and what all he did to deserve this fate. Ma, I want to know why we burn the same Ravana every year.”
Why? Yes, why exterminate the same symbolic representation of evil every year when we have many eligible demons befitting of our wrath and condemn? Vijay Dashmi or Dussehra is after all a celebration of the victory of good over evil. Then why can’t we redefine this celebration by reclaiming victory over an evil more relevant in the present context? We can carry on Lord Rama’s legacy by donning the avatar of the modern day demon slayer. Yes, it will definitely be a daunting task to choose the worst among the many vices plaguing our society. We can have a public referendum or a more democratic voting system to select the most deplorable one, among corruption, communalism, violence, crime against women, female foeticide, child labour, illiteracy…. This list can go on with each one of you pitching in with the most appalling of evil. When there are so many more suitable candidates in the fray to be burnt to ashes, why should only Ravana be destroyed every year?
Now, the next dilemma would be how to give a face to these evils. After all, Ravana has got a signature style statement acquired over the years. Even the colony kids make a perfect miniature effigy with aplomb. Their enthusiasm in beautifying or rather distorting the Ravana effigy is in fact, infectious. Let us leave this task of conceiving a tangible face for these vices, to a child’s imagination. In any case, at the end of this daunting exercise, a Ravana has only to be torched.
The point I wish to drive home is, if our kids, right from a play way toddler to a college student or for that matter a street kid, can be conditioned since childhood to believe that Ravana signifies something bad and that it deserves to be destroyed. Then, why can’t they be attuned to the belief that, there are many greater evils, social evils which should be consigned to flames first. And what better way to groom a responsible citizen out of a child who can differentiate the good from bad.
It’s about time that good old or bad old Ravana be rechristened, given a new identity, one that’s more relevant today. If the entire nation can celebrate Gandhi Jayanti by initiating a clean India drive, then why can’t we celebrate Dussehra by burning a symbolic Ravana of social evils, Ravana of corruption this year, communalism next, crime against women up next… unfortunately there are a lot of options to choose from. I wish the next query from my son would be, Ma which Ravana are we going to burn this year?