Si. Su. Chellappa’s Vaadivaasal Takes You on a Guided Tour of Jallikattu

One night, during January 2017, I woke up with a nightmare and wrote this- The Rights & Wrongs around Jallikattu. The endless debates on social media and all the restlessness in the whole of Marina and TamilNadu wouldn’t let me sleep until I wrote about all that I had to say. One of the oft-repeated suggestions during those times was to pick up and read Si.Su. Chellappa’s Vaadivaasal. Strangely these recommendations came from both the pro and anti-Jallikattu activists. After four years, I have finally heeded their advice and I am beginning to wonder if they ever read it before recommending.

I, for one, have never witnessed a Jallikattu in person. However, I have seen and known the pampering the bulls receive as they prepare for their big day. I always looked forward to the newspapers, the mornings after Jallikattu. Even as the stories carried the details of the number of people dead or injured, I loved looking at the pictures of these beautiful bulls in the middle of the arena. It was all magnificent and fascinating until I graduated to live telecast in later years. On live television, all I saw was madness.

Imagine being picked from the comforts of your home and dropped in the middle of one such maddening crowd on a sultry afternoon. That was what was done to me when I began reading Si.Su. Chellappa’s Vaadivaasal. The book was a short read. Yet, the whole hour I spent with the book was the most adventurous I have ever felt while reading a book. You are convinced not to move a limb, bat an eye, or even take a breath because anything could happen in the arena in a flash of a second.

Picchi and Maruthan arrive at Chellayi Jallikattu hoping to avenge the death of Picchi’s father, Ambuli. Ambuli is killed in the arena by one ‘Kaari’ and Picchi believes only the defeat of Kaari in the arena would comfort his father’s brave soul. As he awaits his moment of truth, the duo finds themselves in the entertaining company of ‘Pattaya‘, the grand old man. Just like Picchi and Maruthan, I too have my Pattaya – Si. Su. Chellappa, who takes me on a detour while we wait for the contest to begin.

He shows me around the village, the long train of men walking towards the arena, the sheds brimming with the best of the bulls from all over and the festive spirit that fills the air. He introduces me to the various kinds of bulls and educates me in the nuances of Jallikattu. And together we eavesdrop into the conversations in the crowd.

My heart brimmed with emotions as Picchi’s Pattaya talked about the bravery of Ambuli. I felt it all over again when Picchi and Maruthan came face to face with Kaari. The familiarity of the language, the merriment all around, and the nostalgia in the whole set-up gave me a moment of respite. I then watched the whole village follow Kaari to the river and my heart sank. Once again I felt torn between the rights and wrongs of Jallikattu. I felt like that shepherd who voluntarily sacrificed his dearest goat to honour his traditions and then wailed in grief holding its lifeless body.

There at the arena, all conflicts converge into a strange sense of equality. It did not matter where you came from or who your ancestors were. It did not matter if you are rich or poor. It did not even matter if you were a man or an animal. All that mattered was if you had it in you to face the ordeal and survive it. It is also a field of transformation. You see a man become the beast that he was trying to tame and the beast display a human-like intelligence. And whoever emerges victorious shall have the privilege of being the Zamindar’s decorated plaything.

As I looked around, I painfully realized that except for me and the all-powerful Chellayi, who protects the village and its people, there is not a single female in and around the ‘Vaadivaasal’. So much for what began as a sport to impress one’s lady love.  I am not going to hold Si. Su. Chellappa responsible for this. He only mirrored the society of his times which isn’t much different even today. I must also tell you this. If you ever want to know about Vaadivaasal and Jallikattu, there is no one better than him to tell you all about it. And if you don’t read Tamil, you can pick N. Kalyan Raman’s translation of it. Even after the Jallikattu was over, here is one thought from the book that stayed with me and I want to leave it with you too. “The men in the Vaadivaasal might think of this as a sport. However, that’s not true for the bulls.

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Rajagopal

More Lessons from Dosa King Rajagopal’s Death

How dear is your reputation to you? If you are an individual who is reputed and well respected in the world, and if it comes to a situation where you get to keep either your life or your reputation, what would you choose? It is not a trivial question, you’ve heard stories of men and women who died for their honour! I would like you to take some time and ponder. You may reach a point in your reflections where you will want to remember your actions that took you there. Take one-step further and now think of this – you are not going to die, that is not your option now but you lose your reputation and you would need to live without the dignity you had earned with mountains of efforts. Would you feel relieved to have your life spared? A fine line separates the two situations. In one, your life choice is in your hands where as in another, someone makes that choice for you. You must have heard a lot many people say that an honorable death is better than an ignoble life, but are you sure you would not choose that life over a death that promises to cover your sins?

Shift some gears. How would you see the situation if the imminent death is as ignoble as your life would be? You are not sure about things that happen after death. However, in life, you know you can control a few things even if people do not like you. Does it become easier to live then? You believe in God, so, you make him a promise – “let me live, I won’t kill anyone again.” You also know that God does not operate in your currency. You do not get a reply. Nevertheless, he is ‘your’ God, you know him well enough to believe that he will forgive you because you have atoned. God has done his work. Now, you need to come out and manage a few things in a world that is up for sale. You have powerful friends; you have wealth that injects fuel into these powerful friends. You may not know the other world but you know your way out of the incarcerations of the world-of-the-living. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. You and your powerful friends make your ignoble life a comfortable one. Slowly, you make yourself forget the reasons for your fall and buying time becomes a contest for you. You have won all the games of the world before this one. You are confident you will win this one too. So, you keep buying time until one day, you have spent all your money. You realize you were buying time from your own store. Your storekeeper throws you onto a hospital bed and whispers in your ears – “of course, you will not kill anyone again”. Your heart stops beating.

Dosa King Rajagopal evaded jail-term for 15 years before being sentenced to life-term. He surrendered with an oxygen mask on his face, developed heart problems, and went to a hospital before he died. In the face of his life and actions, how should we define ‘justice’? Is it nature doing what the oft-fallible and corruptible humans could not do? Does that mean a life sentence was not enough for his actions and he needed to die? Or should we come from the opposite side to say that it became all too easy for him in the end? A life term might have perhaps put him in a situation closer to that of the Prince Santhakumar’s family.

It may take some time for our society to understand this phenomenon. We are so bored of seeing criminals dying their natural death before the courts are able make up their minds that it comes as no surprise any longer. To me, death is not justice. Death may wear the mask of poetic justice but poetic justice does not care for time and proportion. In effect, poetic justice is not justice at all. It is the consolation prize of the losing side.

Rajagopal did not serve his sentence. He was never going to be living behind the bars but he has died with all his dignity crushed and ground to dust. The winds of the coastline that carried his fame to far-off lands have now drowned themselves in the sea. The chaos of renown has turned into a lull of condemnation. Saravana Bhavan’s story will always carry the blandness of vanity and the vapidity of overcooked lust. Its success tale will always carry the rancid odour of the ghost and that might remain our only consolation.

लिंच होने से बचने का रामबाण

कल जब घर से निकलना तो कुछ मत बोलना, सच तो बिल्कुल नहीं। ये पुराना वाला इंडिया ही है, इसे सच से एलर्जी है। इसके लिए सच वो कीड़ा है जो एक दिन अजगर बन कर तुमको ही निगल लेगा। ये नया इंडिया भी है, यहाँ सच का डेमोनेटाइज़ेशन हो चुका है। सच लीगल टेंडर नहीं रहा। यहाँ झूठ के अलग अलग ठेकेदार हैं, सबका अपना अपना यू.पी.आई. है। किसी के साथ भी खाता खोलो और झूठ के लेन-देन में शुरू हो जाओ। महफूज़ रहो।

कल जब घर से निकलना तो चुप रहना। कल जब बाज़ार में कोई जेब काट ले, दो गालियाँ परोस दे, धक्का दे दे, या सामने से आकर घूँसा ही बरसा दे, चुप रहना। ये वही पुराना इंडिया है, ये घर में घुसकर मुसलमानों को मारता है, ये बाहर निकलकर हिंदुओं को जलाता है। यहाँ आज भी वो सब मुमकिन है जो पहले मुमकिन था। ये नया इंडिया भी है, ये अब मारते वक़्त रिकॉर्डिंग भी करता है और 4जी स्पीड पर लाइव स्ट्रीमिंग भी क्योंकि ये इंडिया एक भीड़ है, कभी हिंदुओं की भीड़ तो कभी मुसलमानों की भीड़। इस भीड़ का कोई चेहरा नहीं, सिर्फ मज़हब और जात होता है। इस भीड़ को सबूत होते हुए भी गिरफ्तार नहीं किया जा सकता। भेड़ियों की भीड़ में तुम जज़्बाती मेमने – चुप रहना। आज ज़्यादा मिमियाओगे तो फिर कभी नहीं मिमिया पाओगे। शाम को घर वापस आ जाना, बिना कोई नयी दुश्मनी मोल लिये। समाज को ठीक करने की ज़िम्मेदारी जिसे दी थी वो बैट लेकर समाज को पीट रहा है। तुम कौन से समाज-सुधारक बनने निकले हो? चुप रहना सीखो, आदत डालो, आईने के सामने ख़ामोशी की प्रैक्टिस करो।

ये सब इसलिए बता रहा हूँ कि कल जब घर से निकलो तो लिंच न हो जाओ। हो सके तो भीड़ का साथ दे देना, उसमें सेफ्टी है। लिंच करने वालों में शामिल हो जाना, लिंच होने वाले तो कमज़ोर होते हैं। असली इंडियन लिंच करता है, होता नहीं। इससे पहले कि कल किसी लिंच मॉब के हाथों तुम्हारा फ्री एकाउंट खत्म कर दिया जाए, आज किसी लिंच मॉब के पेड सब्सक्राइबर बन जाओ। ये नया इंडिया है, पुराने इंडिया वाले अपने बाप वाली गलती को मत दोहराना। वो मेम्बरशिप टालता रहा, इसलिए लिंच हो गया।

और तुम – जो आज अपने घर वापस नहीं जा पाओगे, कहीं किसी चौराहे पर लिंच कर दिए जाओगे, मुझे माफ कर देना। मुझे ये हिदायतें आज सूझीं, वरना शायद तुम्हारी मदद कर सकता। पर ये सिर्फ हिदायतें हैं, इनसे किसी की जान बच जाये, ये ज़रूरी नहीं। वैधानिक चेतावनियाँ जारी करने का अधिकार सिर्फ सरकार को है, उसी सरकार को जो वैधानिक शराब का ठेका चलाती है। मेरी बातों को कौन मानेगा? मैंने तो कभी एक पान भी नहीं बेचा। सो तुम चिंता मत करो, ये नया इंडिया है। तुम कोई आखिरी लिंच होने वाले इंसान नहीं हो। लिंचिंग वायरल हो चुका है। वो भी ऑर्गनिकली। बस ऊपर जाकर न्यू इंडिया वाले चैनल को सब्सक्राइब कर लेना। सारे लिंच अप्डेट्स मिलते रहेंगे।

अल्लाहू अकबर। जय श्री राम।

वैलेंटाइन’स डे, अम्मा, और हमारा प्यार।

फिल्म डॉन में अमिताभ बच्चन ने दो भूमिकाएँ निभायी हैं। उनमें से पहला किरदार नकारात्मक है। डॉन एक बहुत खतरनाक अपराधी है और उसके ही शब्दों में ११ मुल्कों की पुलिस उसका पीछा कर रहीं होतीं हैं। फिल्म शोले में जय और वीरू टुच्चे चोर हैं। फिल्म डर में शाहरुख़ खान ने एक बेहद संगीन और जुनूनी आशिक़ का किरदार निभाया है। फिल्म स्पेशल छब्बीस में अक्षय कुमार ने एक ठग का किरदार निभाया।

ये सब मैं आपको क्यूँ बता रहा हूँ? इस से पहले कि मैं उसका जवाब दूँ, मैं एक बात और बता देता हूँ। अभिनेता प्राण शायद अब तक के सबसे हरफनमौला कलाकार रहे हैं। कहा जाता है कि उनके नकारात्मक किरदारों को इतनी नफरत मिली कि एक वक़्त पर दर्शकों को यकीन हो गया कि प्राण निजी ज़िन्दगी में भी वही हाथ में चाबुक लेकर घूमने वाले पूंजीवादी हैवान हैं जो गरीब किसानों का खून पीता है। लोगों ने अपने बच्चों का नाम प्राण रखना बंद कर दिया। Continue reading “वैलेंटाइन’स डे, अम्मा, और हमारा प्यार।”

Yard Of The Bards – A revolution is simmering in your neighbourhood!

The expansive Cubbon Park seamlessly transforms into a cultural melting pot of the city on weekends. There are so many events happening at any particular time that one shouldn’t be surprised to find a couple of poetry events underway in two different corners of the park at the same time. However, when one is faced by the question – how much is enough? it becomes clear that no number of such events would be enough. Imagine a city, a village or a town with lines of the named and unnamed poets and vacillating voices of various developmental philosophies of the time, floating in the air. What pleasure it would be to see people discussing ideas and just ideas everywhere! Utopian dream? Maybe, but this group doesn’t care.

Continue reading “Yard Of The Bards – A revolution is simmering in your neighbourhood!”

Who is policing the Police?

It’s 15th August. Hum your favorite patriotic tune, speak about the achievements of the Government of the day, talk of pride in our culture and history, and proudly flaunt our progress as a society. Close your eyes and sleep. Happy Independence Day!

Or wake up! Look into the problems, discuss what is eating us from inside, find treatment for the termites of the system, struggle, fail, struggle again, fail, rise again, fight, bring a change! It’s 15th August. Justify the ‘Independence’ in that clichéd  ‘Happy Independence Day’!

You can skip this article if you would rather like to follow the first method. If you are ready for a long-drawn battle, read on.

Continue reading “Who is policing the Police?”