By Vijay Phanshikar :
The change is clearly visible -- in the manner of Dussehra celebrations in the city over the past 50 years. A part of the change is welcome, of course. But another part of it may not please some who still bear in their hearts the memory of the apolitical Dussehra that the city of Nagpur used to celebrate then. Dussehra was certainly a fully social event then, though stemming from a religious story and history. Today, the name is the same -- Dussehra -- but the game is different. Some social touch does remain, along with due religiosity, but the overtone and undertone are political. That, somehow, militates against the image one has carried of Dussehra since childhood. Yet, there is nothing negative in this observation. True, there is pain -- that things have changed not very favourably, and that Dussehra of today is different from what it used to be yesterday.
Some may call this change inevitable. Some, however, may call it avoidable. Let us face facts. Dussehra, today, has assumed a new persona, and the celebrations appear to be held in an emptied-out honeycomb, distributed in small cells with a disturbing separatism. Outwardly, for many, there may not be anything so disturbing. But as a child, one remembers to have seen Dussehra celebrations on an altogether social level, not divided in pockets. There was an easy mingling of people across social borders in a genuine meld. Today also, people seem to do the same -- though physically. And that leaves a kink in the social flow, which some may or may not realise or sense. For, inwardly, in today’s politicised context, the celebrations of ‘A’ group are different from those of ‘B’. And because one group uses the moment to give out some message (with obvious political reference to context), the other groups, too, tend to do the same thing, follow the same norm. It is this norm that leaves a lot of questions in its wake -- about the desirability of such an approach. Was Dussehra then really what we see today?
Or, was it different in its flair and flavour and fervour and flow? Of course, most votaries of difference in manners of celebrations are going to deny vociferously that such a change has really come over. There is little doubt that in a pluralistic society, each one has one’s own way of doing things. But that really, really does not mean that pluralism should have multiple singulars that take pride in their stand-alone positions -- in an unstated refusal of the core value of togetherness, of social melding, which was the actual and stated purpose of Dussehra, as one remembers from childhood grooming. The simile of an emptied-out honeycomb, therefore, has its own place in this thought-process. There is an apparently sweet eco- system whose cell-walls still carry honey adhering in tiny droplets or globules. But that does not make up for honey. And that is the concern -- about missed flavour!