Dussehra Dreams: Effigy makers in a fix after no-show on Ramlilas
Covid19 pandemic and the subsequent restrictions have wreaked havoc for Ravan effigy makers. The otherwise thriving businesses have taken a big blow as there is hardly any demand for effigies.Updated: Oct 04, 2020, 12:37 IST
Come October, and the winds in Delhi ring of festivities. Right from the run up to Durga Puja to the gatherings at the many Ram Leela grounds for Dussehra, every day is magic. But this year, Covid-19 has put a dampener to these festivities as mass gatherings are restricted. This in turn has affected the businesses of effigy makers. The otherwise thriving businesses have taken a big blow as there is hardly any demand for effigies. Mounting expenses, MCD permits and a drastic decrease in demand have them in a fix. “Pehle itna toh kamaa lete the ki poore saal ka kharcha nikal jaaye, lekin iss baar toh bada ya chhota, koi order nahi aa raha,” rues Naresh of New India Ravan Wala in Titarpur. He has been making effigies all his life, planning three months in advance for the festive season. “50 saal ho gaye yeh kaam karte par aisi tangi pehle kabhi nahi hui,” he says.
Azam Ali, whose great grandfather started making effigies during the rule of Bahadur Shah Zafar in Delhi, has spent over ₹1 lakh in making these effigies so far. “Ek saal se chalti thi taiyyari Ramlila ki; sab kuch banaa ke taiyyar kar liya tha. Tab tak lag raha tha ki sarkar Ramlila ki permission toh degi hi degi,” he says, adding that he will now rent a place to store these effigies for next year. He has not received any payment from the organisers, who would otherwise give them contracts in bulk.
The roads running parallel to the Metro line at Tagore Garden through Najafgarh are a hub for effigy makers. Dismantled effigies in various stages of making could be seen here, but now the effigy makers are unable to afford the rent. They would earlier earn anywhere between ₹2-3 lakh, but the demand has gone down by 50% this year. “Grounds that would have the biggest effigies have not got the permission to organise the festival. We have only got few orders, those too from schools and housing societies,” says Bobby of Shankar Ravan Wale.
Even the organisers of these elaborate events are refraining from mass gatherings. Anil Garg, general secretary, Shri Ram Dharmik Leela Committee, says that even though the ground has a capacity to host 5,000-7,000 people and government has allowed 50% gathering, the risk is not worth it. “Apni suraksha mein sab ki suraksha hai. We are not burning effigies this year because it will be impossible to control the crowd. Instead, we will set up a smaller stage and play the last few chapters of Ravan dahan,” he says adding that they will broadcast last year’s recorded Ram Leela on a television channel.
With effigies lying in a state of abandon, these effigy makers are looking at alternatives for survival. Mahendra of Mahendra and Subhash Ravan Wale, who has been in the business for 45 years, says he drives a taxi now. “Bahut tagdi maar padhi hai iss baar. Koi poochne bhi nahi aa raha. Gaadi chalaa ke paise kamaa raha hoon ab,” he says. Azam Ali has also taken up an alternative. “Shaadiyo mein phool lagaate hain. Apne kaarigaro ko bhi toh payment karni thi. Gareeb hain isliye gareeb ka dard samajhte hain,” he says.