By Neha Sethi and Babu

Think of Ramlila and you can picture a Sita clad in a nine-yard long orange saree with her head covered. But talk to present generation and they will tell you how they have seen Sita. “Sita wears cut-sleeved blouses and she wears jewellery like Aishwarya Rai wore in Jodha Akbar,” says Harshita Agarwal, a nine-year old.

Ramlila, which was a part of tradition in earlier days, is losing its importance as a means of recreation. Computers, television and video games have taken over. “In our days, we used to wait the whole year for Ramlila. It was one of the few means, apart from radio, that we had for recreation,” says Kanta Malhotra, now a grandmother of two. “Now my grandchildren laugh when I tell them to go and see that Ramlila. They prefer TV over it,” complains Malhotra.

But there are still some homes in Delhi where Ramlila is awaited just like a new show on TV is. Sahil Ahuja, a student of eleventh standard in a public school says, “My father plays the role of Ram in the Ramlila held near our place. This Ramlila has been happening here for the past 34 years. I have been a part of it since I was a child. Ramlila for me is an integral part of my life.”

The Chairman of this Ramlila Committee in Patel Nagar, Jitender Bhardwaj says, “This Ramlila is as important for me as it is for the kids in this area. I still get excited during those days as I used to when I was a child. It is important for the kids to learn about their culture. And they are able to do it in an exciting manner through this Ramlila.”

The kids, who have grown up seeing Ramlila are also excited about taking part in it. Pratyaksh and Praman, who are six-year old twins, can always be seen behind the stage to catch more of the back stage action. “This time we both are playing the role of monkeys in Hanuman’s army,” they both say in chorus.

Though Ramlila portrays the story from the holy book of the Hindus, it has never been restricted only to Hindus. People from other religions await it as much. Salim Khan, a 50-year old, who lives in Okhla Vihar says he has been seeing Ramlila ever since he shifted to this area. “Ramlila is an event that I await throughout the year. I have been seeing it since I was in tenth standard. I love to go and sit on the rickety seats and eat peanuts while watching Ramlila,” he says.

For Ritika Bajaj, a teacher with a primary school, this year was the first time when she watched Ramlila. While the joy clearly reflects on her face, she realises the many years she has already missed. “I think that I have missed out on something in life. After seeing it, I feel I would have enjoyed it more if my parents had got me here when I was a child,” she says with a promise that she would ensure that her own kids would not miss this gala cultural event.