Times were when fairs and festivals were warp-n-woof of human existence. These cultural vignettes cemented our bond with others. It was time to fast and feast when the spirit of mutual brotherhood and bonhomie soared to stupendous heights. People from diverse social, cultural and economical backgrounds would come out of their routine rumble tumble to be a part of these pulsating social gatherings. Festivals, hailed as harbingers of happiness, time to forgive and forget old animosity and forge a new bond of brotherhood, ushered in loads of fun and frolic.
I recall how we as teeny-weeny tots would be on cloud nine during the festive season. The colourful occasion attracted enthusiasts from distant corners of the country. The plausible reason for the upbeat festive spirit was that people had no other means of entertainment to take a break from their drudgery. People showed up at well-attended festive occasions as they were emotionally connected to their cultural ethos that, besides adding spice to their dull and drab lives, brought them closer to fellow beings.
I grow nostalgic as I go back to the days of innocence when we would trek long distances through the winding trails to witness Ramlila performed by professional artistes from Vrindaban, not caring about the nip in the air. The other festivals such as Holi, Diwali, Dussehra, Lohri, et al would be a time to meet and greet our kin and companions with prejudiced towards none. Dressed in their festival best, the young and old would throng to be a part of the festivity. This annual festival “Milan” on occasions like these would help subdue their frayed tempers and false egos.
Fairs and festivals not only added spice to people’s lives but also taught them moral lessons — to be tolerant, forgiving and so on — thus reconnecting them to their tradition. I try to relive those memories frozen in time as I steal fleeting moments of joy of celebrations. I have candid memories of our locality’s government servants posted in far-flung areas, who would save leaves to be part of these celebrations and make whoopee along with their parents, progeny and relatives back home. We all would derive oodles of pleasure from these cultural mélanges attended by likeminded rural folk.
Times have changed and so have our cultural and social ethos. Participation in fairs and festivals has dwindled in the wonky little world that we live in today with youngsters attaching scant importance to these solemn occasions. The rich cultural heritage that India once bragged about has taken a beating as we have failed to protect it for posterity, touted to be the future vanguards of the country. We seem to have forgotten about ourselves and our composite cultural heritage. The citadel of mutual camaraderie lies in ruins, with the computer-savvy kids hardly sparing a thought for our traditions.
There is no denying that the palpable deficit in the people’s active participation in these festivals has created a void in our relationship. The gen-next has confined itself to cellphones and internet through which they look into their “bigger” world. What to speak about the relevance of our fairs and festivals and our moral values, the younger ones seem to have lost track on forging lasting relationship. They don’t want to be part of the rich legacy.
The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor