Stories From A Yellow Room

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ravana Makers:

Prior to the much awaited, yearly festivities of Dusshera and the symbolic burning of the ravana effigies is a 2 month long period of hard work, which goes behind preparing the 40 feet tall ravana structures. This seasonal production of the effigies is replete with preparing basic structures, followed by colorful decorations, including painting and bejeweling them alike. It's a craft, not known by many but picked up by a few who till date continue to make a living off it.Off the Tagore Garden Metro station, thrives the ravana making trade.
Rows of crafted workers and shop owners are stationed among heaps of wooden sticks, wires and partially prepared structures. It's a site hard to miss and when observed closely it even has a story to tell."Sanjay Ravana Wala", employs 7 workers who in totality produce 20-25 ravanas yearly. Sanjay the shop owner , has been running this trade for the past 25 years. "While still at school I would assist Sultan Singh also known as Ravan Wale Baba, the originator of this craft. After my 12th, I started my own work and continue even today". He is also runs the New India Ravana's Society as an addition to his business.
The basic material used in preparing the structures comprises of wood, dhoti, wires, colorful paper and paints. A 40 ft structure sells anywhere between Rs. 4000-7000. The prices do go higher depending on the size of the effigy. Sanjay says while relating the facts of the business.
One of his workers Ranjit, hailing from Bihar, has been making ravanas for the past 5 years. He picked up the skill on the job and is now a pro at it. Their work hours are not fixed, as they proclaim to work around the clock. "We work all day long and late into the night, sometimes it stretches onto the next day, but it's just two months of such work". He states, as he works on the wooden sticks.
Another such producer of Ravana structures is Mahendra Singh of "Mahendra and Subhash Ravan Wale" who's been around for almost 40 years. He claims to be the oldest of the lot and boosts of producing 51 pieces yearly. He does have much to say about the dire state of the market despite good sales. "When I started out I would produce 100 such ravana all by myself, in those days the shops were scanty, competition was non-existent and raw material also came cheap. Now things have changed, the demand is there but the competition has increased manifold, there are many shops in the area doing the same business. Also, the prices of wood, wires and decorative pieces have gone up." He states pondering on the supply and demand situations.On being inquired about his clientele he utters names of foreign lands. "My work is quite famous; I have clients in America, South Africa and Canada. They even shot a movie once of my shop and told me to act. They were Indians and foreigners both and they were very excited to see the work we do in India." He adds with a sense of pride.
A little away from the main road, few workers concentrate below the scorching sun. Workers of "Naresh Kumar Ravana Wala" work effortlessly. They tie and untie pieces of wood and listen to instructions from Prem Kumar, the owner's brother. Knowing, that these structures will burn away to ashes in a few weeks, representing the destruction of evil, they ceaselessly aim to produce sturdy and fancy Ravanas, Kumbhkarans, and Meghdoot. Meeting deadlines and cultivating a profession for themselves.

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