It isn’t everyday you come face to face with someone evil. Big red eyes, a long burly moustache, a head that was 9ft tall – the only thing missing were his nine heads. Yes, today, I walked into Ravan’s Lanka. He did not harm me and allowed me to twirl his moustache too. Fancy huh?!
Tatarpur village is where you will find the father of all the bad boys; effigies of Ravan and all his cronies are given life here. It isn’t your quintessential village with dusty roads, children around half-naked, and cows enjoying a good day.
In order to reach this place, the easiest mode of transport would be Metro. The moment you exit Tagore Garden Metro Station, you will be greeted by an array of artists on both sides of the road.
Most of the artists have been following in their ancestors’ footsteps but there were few who started as disciples. These ‘students’ after learning the art decided to test the water on their own.
All it takes a strike of a matchstick for us to reduce the hardwork to ashes and the months of toiling costs them anything around 10,000 grands. After a lot of haggling, they are paid Rs.12,000-15,000 only; I believe they deserve a lot more in lieu of their creativity.
Life isn’t easy for them because every now and then they have to face the wrath of the bikers. There are mornings when they wake up to find their months of work missing or shredded to bits. Since, it isn’t possible to transport the effigies while they are in the process of being built, these men have to be prepared to face losses every season. They certainly hope that someone will fight for them, but they do not harbor any expectations.
Out of curiosity I approached one of the artists who was sitting on a ‘khaat’ i.e. a bed-like structure made of wood and rope, and was smoking hukka. His scalp was caked in mehandi and he had a hint of arrogance on his face. I asked him about the material and technique used to create the effigies but apart from a few annoying comments, he didn’t disclose anything.
However, after testing my patience for a while, he pointed towards a young girl and told me to ask her all the questions. Luckily, unlike her father, she was quite happy to chat with me. I was surprised to know that she had already been enlisted in the family business at a tender age of 9. Her name was Anjali, she studied in the 2nd standard, and she had stood first in her class. Imagine to be deftly handling both work and school at this age. I felt proud as well as sorry for her. Irrespective of the circumstances, no child should be forced or allowed to work like this. She is my hero!
I did not get a list of material, but a keen eye and walking around suggested that wood, paper, glue, bamboo sticks, and immense creativity were the key ingredients behind these beautiful evils. Also, you do not have to worry about having to fit in a giant like effigy in a constrained space because they make smaller ones too and they are quite adorable.
I never would have known about this place had it not been for DIG (Delhi Instagramers Guild) – my new family that keeps encouraging me to explore new aspects of photography. Every photowalk with them is an experience in itself.
Now, it is no longer a mystery as to how does Raavan come to life every year and rule the nation for nine days before being turned to ashes on the tenth day i.e. Dussehra.