Old Delhi: Volunteering to act for the Dussehra procession

olddelhi-dussehra-260909-255Who are the actors and organizers participating in the Dussehra processions? And what motivates them to be a part of it?

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For one, most of them are not professional actors. They are students, businessmen and professionals who stop whatever they are doing for a fortnight to be a part of the festivities. No one is paid – it is all voluntary. In fact, many even end of spending out of pocket to pay for meals, refreshments etc. Some are newcomers, many old-timers.

Brahmanand Tyagi has been playing Ravana for 20 years now. Amit Vig, a pipe fitter, has been playing various roles for eight years since he was 17; he was Durga on the day I went, and had played Bali and Ravana’s sister on the previous day. Interestingly, only men are allowed to play the roles. The only exception was a nine year old girl Pratha Singh playing Radha, Lord Krishna’s lover. Apparently girls under 10 are allowed but only sometimes. The sound shaped Hrithik Dikshit, also nine, was playing Krishna. He was grumpy, and had got a dressing down from the make-up artist for being too fidgety resulting in his face going all dark. His family runs a parantha (fried Indian breads) shop in the famous Paranthewali Gali in old Delhi.

All actors keep changing roles by the day except those playing Lord Rama, Lakshman, Bharat and Ravana. One of the actors, playing usher on the day I went, was disappointed to learn I would not be coming the following day to take pictures; he had a role to play.

What motivates them to be a part of it all? Faith is certainly a major driver. The families always feel good about it says Amit. It’s fun for some, while some want to revel in the spotlights; within their neighbourhoods, they all become mini-celebrities. Unlike the Gods they were enacting, many actors certainly had a dash of vanity waiting to be appeased; they would specially pose whenever my camera posed at them. Some organizers would even prompt me to ensure I have covered everyone.

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