Anyone who has read her, or seen her work in advertising, would know of the spunk about her spirit. Anuja Chauhan is as animated talking about drafts as she is about creating things from ground zero. In the same spirit, she talks about making her own Ravanas on Dussehra. Tracing it back to her childhood spent between Meerut and Delhi, she shares: “It started in Meerut. I am the youngest of many cousins and one Dussehra when went to my Nani’s house for holidays, my older cousin decided to make a Ravana for the first time in our garden. It made a deep impression on me.” The fascination with this festival grew over the years. “At my dad’s house on New Rohtak Road in Delhi, we used to climb on the chhat of that house and at the back, we could see the Ajmal Khan Park and we could see three Ravanas burning from there. And up the road till Jhandewalan, so for free, you could see all this,” adds Chauhan who currently resides in Bengaluru and is continuing the legacy there.

 

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I <3 Dushhera! One of my most vivid and treasured childhood memories is of the time my cousins and I made a Ravana from scratch at my nani’s house in Meerut. In Delhi, we could see three sets of Ravanas, Meghnaths and Kumbhkarans burning from the chhatt of my dadaji’s house on New Rohtak Road. The glitter and the grandness, the barood and the patakas, the helium balloons, the crunch of the chips and the popcorn, the hot pinkness of the budiya-ke-baal, the smoky sizzle of the aaloo tikki on the tawas, for me, it was the smell of happiness and festivity and childhood all rolled into one. In Gurgaon, me and my kids, their cousins and colony pals would make and burn our own Ravana every year….Ram has always been problematic for me, partly because Arun Govil, and the whole Bhakt appropriation of him, and the fact that he was so log-kya-kahenge with regard to his wife, and not very nice to Ravava’s sister, and what was that whole sneaking about and shooting Bali slyly thing…but setting that aside and speaking very broadly, for me, Dushhera celebrates the triumph of Good over Evil, a slaying of demons, the ones we create for ourselves or the ones that are always out there, the death of Ego, the victory of Light over Darkness, a sort of Harry versus Voldie, MiddleEarth versus Mordor, and a damn good catharsis and slate-cleaner all round. This year, we’re making and burning our biggest Ravana yet in our township in Bangalore – twenty feet from toes to horn tip – and everybody’s tremendously excited! I’ll try and upload pics everyday….

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Ravana-making has become a collaborative effort with neighbours pitching in various roles. “We have recycled everything possible and used old newspapers and cardboards. Somebody was chopping down their bamboo so we took the stalks from them. The challenge was to do it in an eco-friendly, inexpensive way. We used old saris, and got hay from an empty plot. We had two Bengali and Nepalese men who are used to making Durga Puja pandals ; they got really excited and made frames out of bamboo. Another boy, Vivek, who used to make ravanas in Jabalpur in his childhood, helped make the main head. The other nine heads were made by the ladies in the township,” she reveals excitedly.

Read: Dussehra’s eco-friendly avatar: Delhi-NCR residents say won’t burn effigies but will cut cake

 

She is aware that due to the pandemic, they cannot be lax in following safety protocol. “People are maintaining social distancing and bringing their own food and drinks,” she says.

Read: Family celebrated Dasara doll festival by displaying dolls of various themes in Shivamogga, Karnataka. Watch

The bestselling author of books such as The Zoya Factor and Those Pricey Thakur Girls, Chauhan feels that Dussehra is a great equaliser. “It is a symbolic destruction of evil, so I feel it is very uniting for all religions. Who doesn’t want evil to be destroyed and goodness to prevail,” she concludes.

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