Our country is known for festivals, celebrations and fairs. Sometimes Dussehra fair, sometimes Diwali fair, sometimes Vasant fair, and sometimes Holi fair. In North India, there is a flurry of events from Navratri to Diwali. The truth is that in our rural society, fairs have been a place to meet each other, enjoy fun, buy essential items, travel around and enjoy. Those women who could never leave the house were seen in large numbers in the fairs. This was their visibility, otherwise in olden times women were hardly visible in the market. That’s why women had great enthusiasm for the fair. She used to reach the fairs dressed up and with the money she had saved.
Those who could not go were sad, mourning the fate of others. In those days, a song was heard a lot – “Champa jaaye, Chameliu is going, how will I stay, I will sit and eat pav jalebi worth five annas on the road.” From this song it seems that Jalebi was a unique thing in the lives of women at that time. Which could neither be eaten every day, nor was it available everywhere. The only time she could get a chance to eat was at the fair with her friends. Then if one anna is added to five annas i.e. four rupees, then one pav i.e. 250 grams of jalebi could be bought. It also means that this is the time when there were 16 annas in the rupee and in economics, two annas and four annas were also important. One could buy desired things from them. These days, Chavanni has stopped and even Athanni is not visible.
At that time, food items, clothes, toys, Sarangis, bows and arrows, cardboard and wooden swords, sugarcane, peanuts, roasted maize, wheat, millet, chaat-pakodas, golgappas etc. were available in abundance in the Dussehra fair. Wooden and clay toys were also in abundance. Among the wooden toys, children liked tanga, akka, rickshaw, bullock carts and horse riders very much. The clay toys included Gujriyas, ducks, soldiers, peacocks, lions, horses, bulls and many such toys. Today these toys are not seen in fairs. These have been replaced by toys made of plastic and plaster of Paris. Clay and wooden toys are now seen in fairs or exhibitions held in five star hotels and are very expensive.
Yes, colorful balloons were also bought in large quantities then and are bought even today. Today, there is abundance of noodles, momos, burgers etc. in food items. In those days, magic performers also used to show their tricks in fairs. There were various other games in which there were prizes and the players felt that their prize was guaranteed, whereas the prize was available only to a few. Even now this game is seen in some fairs. Earlier, there used to be competition for cows and bulls in many fairs. People used to bring their pets decorated and the animals also got rewards. Today all these things seem to be things of the past.
What a scene it was. On one side, preparations are being made to burn the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad, while on the other side, someone with a binoculars is standing somewhere. Somewhere a movie is playing, somewhere a puppet, and somewhere the last scene of Ravana’s killing. Nowadays, hardly anyone goes to the fair for songs and music. If you want goods for shopping, then there is no need to go to the fair, everything is available online. Similarly, in this era, children’s interest in mobile games and technologically advanced toys has increased. Now even toys made of cloth are not seen much. Anyway, during festival days, there is so much hustle and bustle in the markets that it looks like a fair. These changes are not limited only to metros, they have also reached small towns and villages.
There was a time when there was discussion about whose effigy of Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbhakarna was the tallest, but now effigies that can fit in the palm of your hand are also seen. Yes, in earlier times, such noise of firecrackers and such splendor of lights was not seen as is seen now. It can be said that this has happened due to the growing economy. Earlier there used to be talk of less expenditure and prestige, now celebrations, fairs and festivals mean maximum expenditure and show off. The curiosity about fairs that used to be there in the 60-70s has almost vanished now. The excitement and the wait months before the fair are no longer there.
Everything is available at home. Continuous entertainment on TV, every information of the world on mobile, limitless world of social media. Technology has absorbed man into itself. People have also not been interested in meeting like that. In such a situation, going to the fair has become just a ritual, but still the hustle and bustle of the fairs organized around puja pandals or Ramlilas connects us with the memories of lost childhood.
(These are the personal views of the author)