Savita Pande’s son Lakshay would rather watch the reality show Bigg Boss on television than go to see the local Ram Lila.
A resident of Greater Kailash who teaches in a private school, for Pande, her 11-year-old’s indifference is horrifying.
“When we were kids, we used to stay at the Ram Lila till late night. It was an experience in itself,” she said.
Pande is one of many parents who grew up with the yearly show Ram Lila but now are worried about their children’s disinterest in one of the biggest cultural festival of their time.
This shift in sensitivity is reflected in youngsters everywhere. “Watching Ram Lila is old-fashioned. When animations of all mythology are available, why should we go out in the open, where there are mosquitoes?” said nine-year-old Ashish Kainth, a resident of Rohini.
“The actors use too much make-up and overact. It is just funny,” said 16-year-old Prashant Sharma, who lives in Malviya Nagar.
Satvik Sharma, a 15-year-old who lives in Munirka Vihar, said: “I don’t have time for Ram Lila and frankly speaking, I don’t care. I would rather go to my friend’s house and play games.”
“When we were children, participating in the Ram Lila was a normal thing. If I ask my daughter to participate now, she will think I am joking,” said Vinod Saran, a government employee who lives in Lajpat Nagar Part IV.
Owing to this neglect, the Ram Lila culture around the city has also changed. Today the Ram Lila is as much about food, rides and picnics as the Ramayana. But organisers are still hopeful.
“The attendance of youngsters has gone down, but shows and movies such as Chhota Bheem and My Friend Ganesha have spiked interest among the youngsters,” said Surender Gupta of the Ram Leela Committee in Pitampura.
The older and the more popular Ram Lilas in town, such as those of the Shri Dharmic Leela Committee in the Red Fort lawns and the Shri Ram Leela Committee in the Ramlila Grounds, still attract many.
“We have a lot of patrons. People from all classes come and enjoy, they have picnics, and sometimes even make matches. The food is a big draw,” said Ravi Jain of the Shri Dharmic Leela Committee.
“The youngsters watch the Ram Lila on the internet now. Those who come also, come only for the food and the rides,” said Arjun Kumar, secretary of Lav Kush Ramlila Committee.