Happy Dussehra – or as my autocorrect likes to call it – Happy Dushers! Today has been a great day for all, mainly because I had the day off. Woo! To make the most of it, Will and I headed down to the Dussehra celebrations in the marketplace this evening, watching lots of people clash sticks, fight with pretend swords, throw fire around and burn a huge effigy of Ramun in the square before running away from the heat and flames at top speed. Just another day in the life really.
Dushera celebrates the end of Navratri, so we’d been prepped all week about what to expect. Crowd control isn’t quite what it is in the UK, along with a total disregard for any of that health and safety nonsense, so I had my reservations about what we were about to witness. The information I had read like this: lots of people get together in relatively small space, 30 foot man, set on fire, people run away. Exciting, definitely… wise? I was unsure. In 2008, 180 people died due to crush at the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur during Navratri, so rumour was things were much better organised now. However when Will came hurtling up the stairs to announce that the celebrations had started two hours earlier than we were expecting, I didn’t really have time to think about it either way!
Down by the square the police were out in force and road blocks had been erected around the statue of Ramun. Lots of people had already started to gather, people dancing with sticks once again (but in a very impressive manner, the majority of what I had seen before being done by children) and bopping away to the Bollywood tunes that were blasting out from the speakers, accented by what seemed to be a gunshot sound effect at random intervals, and strangely enough, the laughter of small children. The crowd was easily 5 or 6 people thick around the edges, so we quickly made a beeline for Vicky’s omelette shop, as he’d promised when everyone started running we could come inside. He had all his nieces and nephews around him, with so many people he wasn’t open for selling. One of his nephews, only around 2 or 3, liked to dance on the table of the shop and make ‘kissykissy’ (blowing kisses). A very cute Indian player in the making ! A little girl called Aarti tried to converse with me for a while, and as always, as soon as I cracked out a bit of Hindi her family jumped the gun and started conversationally speaking to me before I could explain I only have a few stock phrases! 🙂 I love it though, as they always look so happy that you’ve made the effort. Even if I have to reveal shortly after I haven’t made that much effort! She was very cute though and we kept waving at one another throughout.
We found ourselves in the company of another couple of English people, in Jodhpur for a month in order to create an art exhibition. One was a photographer, the other an artist. It was interesting to watch the artist sketch away in Charcoal as the celebrations went on and lots of the local children who were trying to push through the crowds kept getting distracted. Waseem, a local bauble seller (geniunely) kept shooing them away, I think he had taken it upon himself to be their protector. I climbed into the shop for a vantage point with Aarti, when Vicky said he could take me right up into the thick of it and past the fences if I wanted. Looking at everything that was going on, of course I wanted to! Even if it did mean I got a bit too close to swinging fire sticks! I got some good photos though I think!
Unfortunately, the pushing through the crowd with Vicky also meant my first encounter with ‘eve-teasing’ from some of the males within, one very creepy old man trying his luck and smiling at me as he did so. Naturally, I sent him my best English frown before moving on. Yuck!
Finally, they set Ramun alight! Everyone rushed forward to take photographs only to quickly retreat again as the heat became that little bit too much. There was an awkward minute or so where it looked like it could potentially kick off as people surged backwards but really it wasn’t as bad as some of the locals had made out. I hopped inside the shop to avoid the worst of it, and some poor little girl got knocked over and pulled inside as people pushed to get away from the flames. I helped her up as she started crying and tried to look after her, she must have only been around 3. She really took quite a nasty fall! Will videoed the whole thing and managed to catch it as he tried to come in. In an effort to calm her down, I started showing her the pictures on my camera. Her eyes opened wide and she stopped sobbing, whether out of confusion or surprise I’m not sure. She then tried to get back into the crowd and I held her whilst I looked around for her parents. A very relieved looking father ran in through the crowd and scooped her up, thanking me profusely for taking hold of her, so my good deed for the day is done! 🙂
After all that drama, we needed something yummy. So back off to the chicken parlour we went. Here’s Will enjoying his carnivorous side:
Despite the day off, I’m absolutely knackered! Good night and god bless x