Monday, October 29, 2012

The ten heads of Ravana

I know, it has been a while. You could say that I have been taking a break from writing.

Or, you could say that I have been enjoying Festivus. A friend of mine in the land of the free used to love using that word to describe the traveling circus of festivals that arrives around the time of Halloween, and continues to amuse us all, till the new year comes around. Officially, Festivus does exist as a nondenominational festival in its own right -- with its own pole, and an elaborate rigmarole.

Ever since I moved back to Des, to be Desi Babu, I started associating the word Festivus with the good times that come around the time of Navaratri and stay with us till Diwali. And every year, to add more spice to the wonderful curry that India is, a few other religious festivals appear around the same time. This year, we have been blessed with Bakrid -- if you tire of the laddus and jalebis easily, you could try a delicious bowl of sewai. Or, if you want a different taste in your mouth, wait for a couple of months for that delicious Christmas cake.

A few days ago, Dhanno ki Amma and I were admiring a pastry shop on television. Now that we don't watch news any more, we have switched to programs on travel and food. Over the years, we have realized that most cakes and pastries in Des don't taste as well as they look. In the years that I have been back, I haven't managed to find a single decent place to have cheesecake in India, including the hot-shot restaurants in five star hotels, with their fancy chefs in their Festivus hats. So, nowadays, we just prefer to look at pastries on television and sigh -- for the tastes that we know, aren't simply around any more. For whatever reasons that might be.

So, when I saw Dhanno ki Amma shaking her head sadly as the pastry chef described his truffles and blueberries, I couldn't quite resist saying, "You know, we should stick to our core competencies."

As she looked at me quizzically, I explained, "We Indians should finally admit that we are no good at baking this firang pastry stuff. And, we should move on to making jalebis and ladoos."

While the idea might appeal to a Desi, I don't think that Dhanno ki Amma quite  appreciates  the feelings most Desis have for Jalebis.  So, I turned to a friend of mine for support, during these trying times of Festivus.

This friend and I, have been friends for many years, and every time I wish him a happy Dussehra, our focus inevitably turns to cracking a joke or two on Ravana. For those of you who don't know a lot about Indian festivals, Dussehra is the celebration of the victory of good over evil, and it celebrates the slaying of the ten-headed demon king Ravana by Lord Rama. The demon king had abducted Rama's wife Sita with the intention of marrying her, but Rama tracked him down to his magical kingdom hidden in the jungles of Lanka, and defeated him in battle.

Usually, in Dussehra, an effigy of Ravana is burnt in a public place, with a local actor dressed up as the Lord himself, with a bow and an arrow to tug along. And, if you are really in the mood, you are encouraged to crack a joke or two -- on ten headed monsters that could have been Ravana.

Years ago, I had asked this friend of mine if it was possible for a single person to conduct a board meeting, all by himself.  Unless you are into money laundering and Delaware corporations, you can probably guess the answer right away. Of course, it is possible if the chairman of the board happens to be Ravana himself -- ten heads can always make up a company board, can't they?

This Dussehra, when I called up my friend, I felt that it was once again time for a ten-headed demon joke. But, my friend, having turned wiser over the years, gave me some deep philosophical stuff.

"You know, it took one Ravana with ten heads to look lustfully at one Sita. How times have changed! Now, one Ravana with one head looks lustfully at ten Sitas all the time. And sadly, nothing happens to him."

I wanted to cheer him up. So, I told him about Festivus. And how, due to its non-commercial, non-denominational nature, no one would have to worry about Ravanas any more. My friend seemed genuinely excited. But then he paused for a second and asked me the question that reaffirmed my faith in our shared Desi backgrounds.

"I have no problems with Festivus. In fact, it sounds quite festive. However, I am guessing that I am still allowed to celebrate with Jalebis, right?"

I couldn't resist saying it, and so, I just did.

"Of course you are, my friend -- you can have as many Jalebis as you want. And you can eat them with as many heads as you would like. Ten, if you wish."


  1. I automatically smile at the end of all your posts...

  2. Desi Babu
    Thanks a tonne for the post. I am still laughing aloud

  3. thanks for sharing.