With social gatherings restricted and a ban on the sale, storage and use of crackers, Ravana effigy makers in the city say that their sales have been poor for a second consecutive year.
“The business is down. Unless there is a prior booking, we are only making smaller effigies of five or ten or 20 feet size. Bada order nahi mila iss bar (Did not get orders for larger effigies this year). In the last month, I have sold only one 30 feet effigy. There is a restriction on social gatherings and the scale of Ramlila in the city is not what it used to be during the pre-pandemic time,” said Rinku Raj, a bamboo chick maker, who has been making effigies in Sector 14 since 2014.
“In the last two days, the demand has picked up from villages at Manesar, Pachgaon, Nathupur and some residential colonies, but revenue is considerably lower than earlier,” added Raj.
A day ahead of Dussehra, the stretch from Sector 12 to Sector 14 on the MG Road is lined with effigies — some complete, some partially built — of varying sizes, while craftsmen sit on the road side, carefully measuring and handcrafting bamboo frames and painting many heads of Ravana effigies. Bamboo strips, wires, glue and stacks of paper line the pavements.
The craftsmen said that the market rate for effigies typically ranged between Rs 500 and 1,000 per feet depending on the piece, but they were selling it at reduced prices to clear the stock.
“It is like a lottery,” said Pradeep Kumar, displaying a 35-feet high effigy of Ravana, which took him a week to create. With a day to go for Dussehra, it remains unsold.
“I am hoping someone will purchase this one. Otherwise, I will take it to my colony in Sector 14 and set it on fire tomorrow,” he said.
Kumar, originally from Badaun district in UP, has been making effigies in Sector 14 for over a decade. At other times of the year, he works as a bamboo chick maker and drives an auto-rickshaw to supplement his income. He said usually his family — a daughter, a son and his wife — start making preparations for making effigies two months in advance — from sourcing bamboo to chiselling them into thin strips and making decorations.
“This year we anticipated poor sales due to cracker bans and general restrictions related to Covid. So, we started last month,” he said.
Ajit Singh, 29, another chick maker from Sector 12, said his family had created 23 effigies, of which 15 remain unsold.
“It seems like all will sell. Last year too, we could not do much business because of Covid. My father had picked up this art from craftsmen in Delhi. I learnt from watching him,” he said.