Once upon a time in Ayodhya... there were monkeys on the ghats, and they’re still there. As are the chai shops, the local cinemas, the holy cows and the unholy mess of a UP small town. The old cassette shops have morphed into ‘stores’ selling CDs and DVDs and somewhere down the line,mobile phone outlets are more visible than kar sevak outbursts.
Those who were young and restless in, say, 1992, are now 18 years older and tamer while a new crop of young Ayodhya-vaasis who have no time for the likes of Kalyan Singh or other Ravan-rousers have taken their place.
In a dhaba next to pictures of Ram-Sita on the wall, there are the lovingly cut out photos of two Mr Universes flexing their muscles. Not too far away in the market, posters depicting sari-clad deities of Bollywood A, B and C movies jostle and demand worship. Somehow, these items never seem to interest outsiders or the media who get besotted with this town from time to time.
This old capital of Awadh (18th-19th century) and of ancient Kosala is today just another town in eastern Uttar Pradesh covering 4 square miles and with a population of 50,000. Which is just as well, since once upon a time in a December morning in Ayodhya...