I used to go to watch the Dussehra procession in Old Delhi as child; I must have last gone 25-30 years back. And when I went back this year, I could not help drawing comparisons between the versions I remember and the one I currently witnessed. Here are some key differences:
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The procession would earlier start at about 4 pm. It now starts at 6 pm. Reason given by organizers? The bulls that pull the floats would come in the morning itself earlier. And their owners would be happy with a tip of ten rupees. But they are very busy now carting goods, and even a few hundred rupees are not enough to entice them. So they come only after finishing their regular work. Yes, old Delhi still uses carts pulled by bulls, cows, horses and men to ferry goods.
The actors on the floats would earlier act on stage when they reached the Ramlila grounds – it is a different set now.
The procession size has gone down – lack of interest in people? Or are there fewer volunteers willing to drop everything for 12 days to work for free?
There were many more vendors selling candy, balloons, toys and other street finger snacks that accompanied the procession – it is only a handful now.
Except for local residents and shopkeepers, there are only a few from beyond Old Delhi who come to the event. Most are not even aware of it.