The Jallikattu issue- of raging bulls and flying bullshit

What keeps us away from the advances towards the fairer sex of the same genetic fabric?Most of us have sexual urges- passive or active  – tucked under the tight vigil of family, friendship, faith and social acceptance. Our perception of an woman changes with her designation. This is what makes us prostrate before a semi naked Kali, revere mothers, dote on sisters, fantasise actresses and make love to beloveds. We feel territorial from the side of the line drawn on a piece of earth; call it patriotic. Decapitate and mutilate members from the same species who trespass, call it warfare; do the same thing within the line, call it murder. We tear apart, relish and deconstruct into nutrition, meat of lesser species in hordes, slip it nonchalantly under a broad cuisine preference called “Non-vegetarianism”. While our kitchen’s oversee holocausts on a daily basis, some of us would still domesticate, pet and cuddle select animals and declare ourselves to be animal lovers. Civilisation has always been about giving reasons to stay away from our primal nature through the systematic implantation of moral and legal fictions in our minds in the form of relationships, taboos, codes, directives and norms. This Jalikattu outburst exists in this melting space to seek civil intervention for a primal pursuit-to tame beasts without being tamed.

18th of January,2017, Chennai

I see the platforms on either sides of a rather strangely empty OMR stretch populated with youngsters- some with placards, some with mobile cameras pointed at them – on my way to work. I begin to ponder about what would’ve brought them to the streets like this in such thick unison at 2.00 in the afternoon, from the confines of their air conditioned cubicles. I had an air about the ongoing Jalikattu unrest and the Tamil marginalisation rhetoric. But I was pretty sure that it wasn’t reason enough to incite a civil disobedience of this magnitude, that too in the technological corridor of the city. But in a couple of hours, as I drove out of my workplace, I knew I was wrong. The crowds had bulged, become more boisterous and were screaming out foul. It should be a massive movement by now in the other parts of the state as well- I thought to myself -if the city itself was reacting this way. With the roads rendered unwilling battle grounds, the traffic swelled with meagre locomotive possibility. The youth had taken to the streets and the city had come to a stand still of sorts.

In all my 28 years in the city, I’ve never seen an agitation, leave alone of this gravitas. The only civil disobedience I’ve been part of all my life should range from bunking English periods in High school to jumping signals during peak hours. So this name calling by thousands, lined up like infantry, was a virgin sight to me. I knew I was becoming part of a potential chapter in history in Wikipedia, if not in CBSE books. Who knows, even a picture of me weaving through protests might show up as a search result for Jallikattu protests years later.

Enough of the irreverent narcissism. As I drove past the human chains decorating the side walks, I started hearing “Ban Pepsi & Coke“, “Ban PETA” and anti Modi cries along with the “We want Jalikuttu” chants from morning.

It was funny, the irony in the sudden incessant need to ban pepsi/ coke and preserve the farming fraternity .

These were people clad in clothes that weren’t contributing to the indigenous weavers, consuming food and beverage which weren’t motivating the indigenous cultivator either, working in institutions with roots abroad shouting slogans in a foreign language to protect an ethnic identity. You’ll see such oxymoronic collages only in this part of the world.

There were more curious things about the crowds. Most hands were raised skywards with well endowed mobile phones pointing back to capture the poker faces below. And the mood in the camps across the board was a tad too jubilant for a grimace. Probably like RJ Balaji put across, they weren’t fatigued; rather celebrating the protests. A convenient inference to draw one might say.Maybe. Maybe not.

The Genesis

The issue as most would be knowing is of the contradictory stance of PETA in banning Jalikattu, a sporting tradition which has been an indispensable emblem of  the Tamil populace- a little older than Christianity and Islam -while choosing to overlook the rampant beef export and other bovine cruelties meted out in the nation. Another vertex of this issue, is the looming possibility of extinction of the indigenous breed of cattle which find their posterity in the heart of the sport. Seen as an elaborately drafted corporate conspiracy, it is worried that the end of the sport would eventually bring about the end of a virile cattle race, which would pave way for automation in the existing cultivation methods and induction of foreign breeds into the rearing ecosystem. Thus conceding another of our ethnic constituency(dairy) to western monopoly under the pretext of globalising.

This call to remove the ban on Jalikattu, has been warming the back bench in many a institutions which hold locus standi in the State, to no effect. Till now it has been contained between a bunch of men, who’ve been conducting demonstrations for almost a decade now to put the issue on the map, but to no effect.As it happened, Pongal(the harvest festival) was denounced as a public holiday in Tamilnadu this year. And there has already been murmurs of the marginalisation of the Tamil diaspora for a while now. Add to this a rap musician here, a bunch of desperate youtube attention seekers, a few disgruntled celebrities there and their misguided army of followers who were hitherto playing conscience keepers to the state on social media while not abusing each other over favourite movie stars- we have a recipe for some large-scale finger pointing raring to go off the deep end.


The Capitalism aspect-fault lines in the demand

Thronging the streets to revive the fortunes of the local dairy farming ecosystem is a wonderful initiative, no two ways about that. But isn’t it at some level over-reaction to a phenomenon we’re so used by now, that of a corporate behemoth taking over an indigenous practise; subtly, surreptitiously and certainly. It happened with Goldspot and Kalimark loosing ground to Coca Cola, jeans usurping the market share from its Khadi peer, Kiranha shops rendered irrelevant in the storm of supermarkets, multiplexes looming over single screens and eating patterns tilting global with pizzas, burgers, noodles and pasta competing alongside dosas and sambar rice for appetite attention.

This is what capitalism does to kindle consumer curiosity. It thrives on human greed for newer experiences. Like war and love, it’s fair to leverage this implicit urge to be on the lookout for fresher pasture. It is how business empires have been set up, by trampling over existing ones, in a phased manner at times and in a hostile manner on some other occasions.Bending in the altar of commerce is a sin all of us have been committing. All of us drawing a remuneration, making profits do it at the opportunity cost of our next best alternative waiting behind.

So more often than not in a free market economy, capitalism and altruism don’t come eye to eye.

Some forgotten issues

Some say that Jalikattu is only the flagship issue which rides on the wave of pent up rage from a lot other political disparities over the years. This argument makes for a firm scaffolding to base upon the emotional core of the issue. But where was this collective rage during the Cauvery crisis that has been going on for decades now, much against the ruling of the Supreme Court. Much like here, the moot with Karnataka has left the state’s agrarian fraternity reeling under severe drought for years together due to dire water shortage in comparison to the irrigable fields. But we never batted an eyelid. We never asked for a ban of a cola company sucking water from our backyard.
Ditto with the ethnic cleansing that has been happening in Sri Lanka. We’ve never starved or sweated to bring to the world’s notice the genocide which has been happening there for decades now. We’ve let it remain an one lined artifice in political manifestos. But most appalling was the tepid public response to the mysterious circumstances looming over the late chief minister’s demise and the following murky political developments in her bastion. Instead of collectively questioning the self appointed successors vying for the throne, we went on an overdrive of paying homage. And whatever was left of the seriousness, was diluted through numerous memes. Even before the maggots could gather under the coffin we had moved back to normalcy- overlooking what looked like one of the biggest political conspiracies in the State’s history – like it was only a bad hair day. We never really got angry.

I’m reminded of a Shepard whose flock over the years,was targeted by a bunch of wild animals- tigers, leopards and foxes. Every time a sheep went missing he would resort to  sweet inaction, writing off each sheep as a normal loss. Finally one day, he decided that he had had enough, when another sheep went missing. He descended with a gun and took shot at a scurrying figure from behind a tree. When he went to the fell target, he saw a wounded urchin with a bottle full of sheep milk tied to his waist. Jubilant by his victory, he went around the hamlet calling for his tribe to take charge of the situation. The awakened tribe took matters to hand and the milk thieves were wiped away. So was the core issue of missing sheep. All were happy. Happily oblivious to the continuing existence of tigers,leopards and foxes in the woods.

Small victories are low hanging fruits; a short in the arm. Problem is with the sense of entitlement that accompanies them, which makes the higher hanging fruits appear more distant. The solidarity of almost a five million people cannot be slighted like that. It’s no mean feat, it is a strong statement of resilience. Just that a few years back, millions put their weight behind an octogenarian, a crusader batting for an anti corruption bill. He starved till decay, they starved as well. And in the end, some kind of a mid point was arrived at. Now neither the crusader’s there, nor the angry mob that sat behind or the cause they sat for. All that is left of is a politician who epitomises everything they stood against, basking in the very leverage they left behind.

Hope the next time Tamilnadu bats together in unison, it does so for reasons far beneath the surface of culture and tradition.For its entitlement or the violation of it. And I would happily dissolve as a foot solider in its cause.

Lost in a sea of thoughts

There’s a boy on the tip of the shore,
Perched on a rock, wave kissed.
Like the rock, he’s there by chance.
The raucous waves wouldn’t give him a moment,
To drench in the gorgeous sight before,
Of a saffron sun bathed in seascape.
But the waves wouldn’t let him be.
They would bring ruckus, conchs and rubbish to him,
Like an anxious dog to its master.

A day passed. Actually a few did.

There’s the boy, same one as last time.
The rock’s way behind,
The water’s tepid and at knee length, from there. 
Adulthood’s embraced him,
Going by the hair on his sinewy wet legs.
Couldn’t really tell if it was the boisterous waves,
That had become well behaved
Or was it him who had begun to endear them?
He was musing on the same sight,
The sea was between.
Of a sun bathed seascape,
Adorning sepia strokes like a new tiara. 
He seemed calm in the chaos.

Like bread from a toaster,
Sun and moon kept popping out,
as days effluxed into weeks.

There’s the boy, wait, he’s a man.
The shore is a speck from where he is.
His face is a sore thumb sticking out from water,
He a flotsam in the heart of the sea.
Inundated by solitude and sea from all sides,
He for once misses the waves, that had kept him company.
He’s closer than ever before to the sight of his life,
But as far as he’s ever been from it.
The view from the shore was an artifice after all.
The sky and sea never got along.
The innocence that came with childhood,
covered the fault lines in everything beautiful.
The urge that came with age,
just activated them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The curious case of human kind

I was returning home, from yet another late nighter at work. The moon followed me solicitously from the night sky. The wind that blew on my face was calming enough to be a zephyr, rough enough to unsettle the bristles of my beard.If only wisdom came to me in the same quantity or even the same frequency as epiphanies do.

My ears were in service of Amit Trivedi‘s open throated rendition of “Zinda Hoon Yaar…Kafi Hain…..”. My state of mind, at that moment, felt like the love child of a benevolent breeze and the cadence of an inspired composition. Coming to think of it, most pleasures in our lives exist in this dichotomy. The wind might be the nature’s, but I needed to ride on my fifth gear to let it hit the sweet spot. The song could’ve been rendered in a remote studio, but for it appease my sense in a different time and place, it had to be on my phone. The same one on which I spoke to my mom about being late, a while ago. The creator might’ve painted a world, beautiful with broad strokes; but it is- his creations – us, who rendered it palatable. The sky might be his, but the audacity to fly an aluminium vessel,leveraging gravity is our making. Inventions are often born out of the constant need to bridge the divine and desire.

Going back to the phone and the song that was playing, how long have we come from the rudimentary beginning. A million years before, gesticulating was communication. A little after that, sounds and modulation. And much later than that languages were harnessed. In due course, messages were sent through men, birds and animals. Though man has forever been grappling with the simplification of communication, it’s not till the last century or so, that he came up with the telephone.Over the years, like any invention its relevance has gone from being an inaccessible luxury, a luxury, a necessity to a necessity with luxuries.
Curiosity has and continues to be the gliding flame to most human endeavors.

Take the being of a song for instance. Its syntax exists in the symbiosis between voice, music and lyrics. Singing is an extrapolation of voice; music is an extrapolation of sound and lyrics come from the extrapolation of grammar in words.

How fascinating is man’s endless pursuit. God left us with a barren planet filled with wild vegetation, rocks and beast. Every time man went head first with God’s design , he either came back with a swollen forehead or an eureka moment. Latter made the former worthwhile. Every breakthrough we ensconce on, has infinite head bangs behind it.

It’s feral to man’s nature ; the constant urge from within to keep simplifying processes, to decode myths, to deconstruct magnificence and expand frontiers.Look at any bike’s meter these days; it’s like an ersatz ECG to the vehicle reading distance travelled, trips taken, fuel quantity etc. It’s not far before it begins to show weather bulletins and bank balance.

And make no mistake about this urge to get to the bottom of everything, to be extramural to him. He isn’t an exception to his curiosity. He first deconstructed himself to his body, the organs it held. Mastered the mechanism, but something was amiss. He needed to put a name on his curiosity and the things he did to satiate it; he deconstructed himself further into intellect.Still he felt the lack of something. A void so unsettling. He had to label his intent and the discretion it brought to his actions; he deconstructed this manifestation to be his mind. And to regulate his body, intellect and mind, he deconstructed himself to his last identifiable speck- the soul. The soul needed governance. He devised an assumption that the creator resides in this particle, thus in him. In the process bringing godhood to his race  and chaos to the world.

Up in the Air- of lives lost in transit

Ryan Bingham’s a corporate downsizer; an expert whose expertise lies in firing people from their jobs, with a disdain of swatting a mosquito. He’s a gladiator who swings the club of unemployment at hapless “resources” to entertain their bosses. For someone who who shoves the proverbial last nail, his karma does look pretty good. He lives out of a suitcase, travels business class and furtively saves up flyer miles by the million, to make it to an elite club of patrons. That’s the closest romantic aspiration his dispassionate life lets him have, till he runs into Alex. Like him she’s a shallow soul- looking to sidestep reality – , judging people by the names on their plastic money. She lights up the first time, when she runs her hand on one of his cards and gets told that it’s made of graphite. One thing leads to another and soon they find themselves canoodling naked beneath a rummaged bed. That’s the closest Ryan’s goes with excitement of the human kind. By own admission, he comes alive during transit and decays at home. He constantly finds the urge to be on the move. He calls the terminals his home and is content with the stimulated hospitality, a perk of being a loyal patron of the airlines.

A petite surprise awaits him back at work in the form of a new recruit, who’s there to administer his own medicine to him. She’s there to digitize the entire shebang, to bring about a huge cost saving to the firm. But he sees it as an initiative to clip his wings. He belongs in the sky and this means gravity. He gets territorial with her, even tries and manipulates his boss about how his personal touch brings dignity- to people about to be dropped like a bad habit -that might virtually be compromised. He’s not concerned about the employees who’re about to go off the deep end, as much as he is about himself. He’s worried about the idea of a permanent home, a life without the leverage of escapism.The escapism which let him feel accompanied in a moving crowd.

To pilot her rather radical initiative, he accompanies his young colleague to shop on the battle field. He mentors her. Becomes her reality check, gradually getting her into becoming the headlight before deer, office after office. Often than not he sugarcoats his condescension with tongue in cheek sarcasm. Every time she tries to humanize the process, he reiterates to remain mechanical. They find themselves locking horns; trying to call out each other’s bluff. But at the end of this symbiotic love hate relationship, the protege begins to endear.Just as her warmth fizzles in his cold, he begins to melt down to her warmth.

Over the course of the film, his character metamorphoses organically like a butter melt through sunshine, without turning to cinematic hyperboles. Take for instance the scene where he sheepishly asks Alex to be his date to his sister’s wedding, from the precincts of his cocoon of self-banishment. Be it that scene where he surreptitiously regrets his offer to walk his sister down the aisle being turned down or the one where he’s stumped when he comes facewards with Alex’s reality. Clooney dishes out this conundrum beautifully, crafting vulnerability into Bingham’s fault lines. He makes the parallel thoughts occupying his head space palpable, making us moon for this inglorious gentleman.

Eventually Ryan does get the crown he yearns for, but one that is made of thorns. Irony has the last laugh with his entry into the elite flyers club coinciding with his loss of zest to fly. For what does the open sky mean to a sitting duck. He tilted hopefully to the very permanence he had run from all his life, to only be left behind with a permanent scar, in the place of an embrace. As the rug gets repeatedly pulled from under his feet by providence, he gives up the hopeless will to pursue a life different than before.His is an ordeal of an eagle who was at peace with the river’s current- when it believed itself to be a duck -till its first flight. That first flight brought with it, equal measure of pleasure and pain, with pain leaving a far bitter taste behind; for it to ever take to the skies again. Unperturbed it now swims in the same river, with the awareness of an ability to fly and the discretion given by the pain it brought.