Happy Dussehra! ( Yup that’s a Wikipedia link for details on what the festival is about. ) Here are some photographs from the effigy-burning garden-party in the residential society where I live.

Till today late afternoon, I wasn’t even aware it is Dussehra today. Till I saw some updates on Twitter and spoke with my folks on the phone. The boy is sailing and I’ve been spending way too much time moping around in the house. I knew the residential society does this kind of stuff especially during the Indian Festive season so I had my eyes peeled for updates on the Notice Board.

Luckily they started late so I had enough time to get a quick shower, get into decent clothes ( just a t-shirt and jeans ) and run downstairs with my camera. I figured if I went, I would get a handful of photographs, would spend some time editing them, and publishing them on the blog and just like that it would be night and I won’t have any more time to mope today.

Of course I was in no mood to get into a conversation with anyone so the ear phones were jammed deep into my ears and the Guardians Of The Galaxy OST was playing on full volume. ( Yes baby, I am STILL listening to this. For the thousandth time and I am not done yet. ) I stood around waiting for something to happen. There was loud music blaring on the speakerphone – the song was about Dussehra and how good wins over evil and I was wondering how ironic it would be if someone got pick pocketed or butt-pinched in the melee.

The effigy had been tied with thin rope to the adjoining trees in the park and I found a spot to stand at where I could get photos unobstructed. Also I’d located an exit point right behind me in case the fire got intense and I had to get away. Below you can see a string of lights, which was being used to signify the absolute last line beyond which it was unwise to be a spectator since the effigy also had fireworks strapped to it. Since the string of lights is easy to trample upon, there were several children who we standing beyond the boundary rather than outside it. That is until the organizers announced that the fire-fest would not begin till the circle was cleared. Everyone instantly fled. Luckily everyone really did want to see the effigy burn and I didn’t have to stand around longer.

The Residential Welfare Association head ( don’t ask me how I know that ) then proceeded to light the fire under the effigy’s ass but not before the loudspeaker EmCee had screamed a loud, “Raam Chandra ki Jai!” and waited patiently for the crowd to repeat after him. I was expecting pin-drop silence but clearly the people in my society still believe in things like good winning over evil. There was a loud roar with people screaming the chant and the fire was thus lit.

In retrospect I believe everyone standing and watching was in harms way and there really were no exit strategies or safety measures. I could feel the intense heat from the effigy right in front of me and several fire-works burst loudly sending mini-shockwaves into the spectators. Everyone fled. I was too busy trying to get a good shot to notice and I recall a fleeting thought that if I ever considered war photography, I would get shot pretty quickly. Debris was flying everywhere and by the time I was done getting photos, I looked around and the only other people as close as I was to the effigy were the security guards.

The burning effigy tanked in one direction and the head separated and fell to the grass creating even more sparks and debris in every direction. I looked up and the sky was filled with bits of burning paper and fire-flakes. Of course I still smell of smoke as I sit and type this. It’s a nice wood-smoke smell though, not acrid or stinging like it is going to be when people lose their shit over fireworks during the upcoming Diwali celebrations. That stuff is foul.

By the end of it, it was just the cleaners and security guards who were left on the scene, along with a still-burning effigy and a few smoking embers scattered about. I can’t imagine what must have happened to all the beautiful green grass right where the effigy fell. 90% of the crowd dispersed within seconds. I took a walk around the society’s periphery before I decided I needed to get back to my desk and edit this stuff. I’ve never posted about Dussehra earlier – in all my ten years of blogging. Always a first time.

Work smart and be nice. You’ll be good. And evil won’t stand a chance. Mostly.

Happy Dussehra!