I believe it’s a common feeling that nostalgia hits you the hardest when you are away from home during festive season. So, even though the intensity of celebrations in the part of India I am in right now are more than enough to conjure even dead souls, I am unable to feel the fervour; the warmth being eaten away by ice cold wistfulness.
The memories of the Dusshera fair are still vividly etched in my mind. Me and my sister used to wait impatiently for the fortnight long festivities to start. I remember how,while going to and returning from school, I would watch men erecting the structures for joy-rides and would pray for them to do it as quickly as possible.I would come home and tell my mother about the progress of those men.In the evening, me and my friends would discuss our plans for that year’s fair.
I am sure those unfinished structures would still evoke that same feeling they did years back…
I remember how we used to wait impatiently for our father to return from office and take us to the fair once it had started. There was a bit of luck involved in that too. We never went to the fair everyday. There used to be a random pattern. Sometimes it would be every other day. Other times it would be every third day. In the later years the frequency gradually decreased till we went to the fair only once or twice. I never really understood the reason behind that pattern, although I believe inflation was the culprit. Middle class families saw the fair as an expensive affair, something that ought to be spent upon the least.
Most of the times mom would not go with us. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to;but accommodating four people on a Chetak was a task in itself. I had to stand in front and slightly bend down to let my father see the traffic. My knees used to get slightly bruised from the continuous brushes against the scooter’s basket.
But it never bothered me. The fair seemed to provide a vacuum that sucked up all those little pains. It was a wonderland for the Alice in all the Indian kids-the poor, the middle class, even the rich ones. The joy rides, game stalls, toy shops, the Well of Death (aka Maut Ka Kuan) and the food stalls seemed so overwhelming once I got there. Most of the times I would be pleasantly bemused; it became impossible to decide what I wanted to do first.
I remember how every year I would buy an ancient weapon toy and a mask(most probably a Hanuman mask) and would come back home to play my own Ramayana game! I remember eating candy floss after being scared to death in the Giant Wheel which, thanks to my sister,I had to ride despite having acrophobia; mom and dad were not interested in the ride, and they couldn’t let my sister sit in in with some stranger. While I used to dig on the floss, my sister would have coconut water or the indigenous fruit ice-cream which was prepared on a rotating cylinder. I remember buying that small cracker gun afterwards, which served as a precursor to the actual Diwali cracker shopping. For the next few days, I used to roam around like a cowboy with that gun and my limited rolls of ammo.
I also remember how my mom used to haggle on every purchase we made in the fair, saving every penny she could.And how she used to get vicarious pleasures from my endless toy purchases and my sister’s numerous turns at joy-rides.
The fair never changed. Every year it used to be exactly like the year before. Even the positions of the stalls, the joy rides and the hawkers were fixed. The only thing that changed were the prices. Looking back now, I realize maybe it was this static nature of the fair that appealed to all and sundry. In an otherwise ever-changing world, the fair provided the perfect getaway from worldly affairs- an ephemeral escape from reality.
Yesterday I went out with my friends to a local fair near my college. It was nothing compared to my city’s fair in scale. But, the awe and the amusement it seemed to generate in the locals was just the same. Once we got there, I could see how each one of us let loose of the kid in them. It seemed, for a few moments, that the old times had returned.
I saw a toy shop and went up to it instinctively. I asked the vendor for a cracker pistol and he showed me a nice piece. He even rolled in the ammo and fired off a few shots to display its finesse. I asked for the price and he told me it was worth 30 bucks,plus 10 for the ammo.
I told him it was too expensive and moved on, hoping my mother was there to haggle with him…