Sunday, November 19, 2017
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mela of vehicles

When I say that times have changed I just do not refer to the changes that have taken in our social set up. These changes are inevitable in a fast changing and fast moving world. But on this festive occasion, when we are rushing to the Ganga for Kumbh or reaching the climax of the Dussehra festivities, we are faced with traffic jam on roads.  Yesterday it used to be people, people everywhere; today it is vehicles, vehicles everywhere. Time comes to a halt when you stop indefinitely to cross a road flooded with fast moving, madly driven vehicles of all variety.

Let us take the Ramdals. Some fifty years ago they would start round 6pm and end by 9pm. Today they don’t start before 10p.m. Isn’t that rather strange? The day still has 24 hours and the week seven days. Then why this shift!  Apparently because life today has become very busy. Look at a child, or an adolescent. In the olden times when such festivals came, they had just one-point  programme—to enjoy the thrills of the festival to the brim. The whole day the children would be talking about the chowkies they would see, the ice-cream they would have, the balloons they would buy-- to say nothing of the toy-watches, toy guns -- and also about who will mount on whose shoulders to see the glorious sights ! All that would keep on passing through a child’s mind. He would also be anticipating a trip to the market when Mummy would ask him to make his choice of toys and clothes. The teenagers would go in for a dress that may resemble the latest outfit worn by their  favourite film  star.  And the innocent girl would say, ‘Mama, don’t forget to buy Lux soap. It is very good for the complexion’. If the mother asked her who had told her that, the reply would be, ‘See this advertisement. Isn’t Suraiya claiming that her fair complexion is because of the Lux soap’? The mother would smile, get lost in Suraiya’s pretty face and merely say, ‘She sings so well..murli wale murli baja, sun sun murli ko naache jiys’. Why not buy a gramophone  record of that song as well?’ The children also hoped for a movie treat inside a cinema hall on Dussehra. The halls used to be packed to capacity.

Today the children have no time for this sort of fun. When they get up from bed, they think not of toys or chowkies but of the Internet—and all the new things that they can view. They do not seek their parents’ help but avoid their gaze of the computer lest they should discover the adult stuff that they have been viewing. And what does a teenager want for a Dussehra gift? Not a jazzy bush-shirt. He wants a mo-bike. That is why you may find huge rush at the showrooms of  shops selling two-wheelers and four wheelers. The teenagers  are least bothered to find out from where the parents are getting the money to finance their gift. One can imagine the plight of an honest couple, who have not received a penny in bribe, looking into the expectant faces of their grown up children. Their looks are sufficient to indicate that they cannot afford such costly gifts. What does the teenager son do then? He cannot allow his ambition to be curbed by the poverty of his parents. So in some cases he becomes a part of the chain snatchers. That is very lucrative fun, they tell themselves. If a chain weighs one tola, it means Rs 30,000 or more—because that is the price which gold seems to be touching. And if five or six chains can be snatched, there would be enough money to buy a bike. And with bike in hand it would be still greater fun to indulge in roadside -snatching game !

In the past, the entire household would be preparing to get ready to march towards the  Kumbh or Magh Mela grounds or  to view  the Ramdal processions or witness a Durgapuja Pandal. That was right from the afternoon itself. Today till late in the evening, festive purchases are being made. A deal is clinched. The son rolls his motor-cycle home. He is not interested in Pooja or Duessehra. He is interested only in the gifts that are made possible  for the festive occasion. So why should he bother to visit the Pandals or the Ramdals? His first  preference is to shoot out on the roads and speed through the crowds in a zig zag manner. That is his method of enjoying the festival. He may not be wearing new clothes. This is because he is not at all bothered about whether or not any one looks at him, the dress that he is wearing and so on. He wants all to take a  look at the new bike he has bought or the new luxury car that he has purchased. No wonder one does not mind how fast run the hands of the clock. Their bikes should run fast.  Today it  is less of a mela of pedestrians and more of a Kumbh mela of vehicles. It would be no exaggeration to say, ‘Vehicles, vehicles everywhere but not a spot to walk!’ Times have changed, haven’t they?

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