Vegetarian woes on a Sunday morning

 

Peeeeee Peeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwww, I was honking my presence felt, with the thumb on the shrill vocal button of my sister’s Activa— that was already kind enough to carry a person heavier than it — unempathetically navigating it on a particularly slushy stretch at northwards of 60kmph. Early morning winds blowing against one’s face, while uncombing his hair is only as pleasurable as one’s mind lets it be, which at times turns way too turn cynical to acknowledge anything other than deep slumber behind closed doors as being beautiful. At that moment I was hoping I had learnt to drive a car, my mind wasn’t exactly taking to nature’s expressions of sunshine and zephyrs with open arms.

It was five shy of six in the morning at the Anna Salai stretch. I was riding home from a sleepover at a friend’s. The roads are usually modestly occupied at this time, but it was a Sunday morning. Or the aftermath of a Saturday night to put things into context. Most people taking the road at this time aren’t going as much as returning home. And there were those commercial trucks plying to and from markets, to accommodate the spike in consumption that was typically anticipated from the day.

I was at midway point, a few hundred metres before Gemini flyover, when I saw this bike before me. It had a pillion space, wider than an average bike, covered with a green coir sheet that was wrapped over what appeared to be a sizable heap.
Sometimes the most affecting incidents in life unfurl in a languorous manner, like toothpaste emerging out of a squeezed tube. No dramatic contraptions, just impact enough to pierce the most naked part of the soul.

A leftward bound gust of strong wind, lifted the coir sheet along with the normalcy of the morning. Lying below the sheet were pale mammal carcasses— goats most likely —one above the other. Aghast with a lump in the throat, I had to pull over to avoid getting any closer to the bike. It’s not like I was seeing meat for the first time. I’ve been around meat eating people, without making faces about erstwhile living being floating in their gravy boats.

Just that I’ve  always been this frail-hearted person without an appetite for seeing, say mangled animal carcasses on a busy highway, run over by vehicles . Or a suspended headless corpse hanging on the entrance of a shawarma parlour. I tend to cringe, reimagining the pain the creature would’ve gone through under the tyres of a speeding heavy vehicle or a swinging butcher’s knife. It could’ve probably been easier I were a vegetarian alone, but I was a hopeless animal lover.

Over the years I’ve learnt to come to terms with the world around me, in which meat eating people comfortably outnumber the non-meat eaters. I’m no stranger to the killing and their place in a parallel food chain—  that lets cruelty and cooking coexist — I’m not a part of. Just that the sight of the absolute insensitivity with which it is carried about is deeply unsettling. Like the guy on the bike before, who was carrying them like a batch of gunny bags with absolute disdain. The dispassionate conditioning of his mind to see them as mere raw materials was a painful sight to witness.

I started several seconds after the morgue bike had disappeared over the flyover. I was trying to undo what I saw by focusing on things a tad more pleasant like the sight of crisp vadas blooming on a frying pan of a tea shop, a neurotic dog cleansing itself with it’s eager tongue and an elderly couple jogging together on the pavement. And just when the mood was starting to lighten up like that, a truck overtook me from the signal.

It was carrying cages— arranged in columns —with hundreds of hapless hens, suffocating against each other from within. Here was a colony of birds, most of them aware about their impending end. Some were screaming resiliently, some were protesting at the cage doors, while some were still, having given up already. If they thought the commute to the butcher’s was the painful part, they had no clue of what was coming their way. The eyes with which they saw their first sights after hatching out, would be plucked out as waste. The beaks with which they made conversation and consumption, would be no different. As if this wasn’t gruesome enough there were a few dead ones scattered across the floor, like rotten vegetables, next to the feet of the men overseeing the shindig.

History unforgivingly remembers the ones who oversaw the holocaust of thousands of their kind to upkeep the whim of their patriotism, ethnicity and creed. Yet the violence perpetrated to usher every Sunday, that too in a city alone is enough to pale every significant genocide to insignificance as a blob in history. “Livestock” to me is the worst euphemism that there is.The churn in the belly left a bigger ripple this time as the lorry went past. At the back of my mind I felt a guilt colored helplessness about not being able to do anything about all this, than just feel bad  But I was glad that home was only a minute away. Wish I could tell the same about humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patience and parents

Ask for Luxe cinemas on the second floor. I’m standing right next to it
I was giving directions to my dad, who was at the basement car park. I had reached the mall before him. We had come to shop clothes for the two of us, for my sister’s wedding. A loner, I’ve always liked to do most of the stuff alone including shopping. But this time dad insisted on both of us going together, as he trusted my taste and wanted me to assist him look sharp on the D-day. And I couldn’t say no.

Fifteen minutes had gone past and he was nowhere in my viewing perimeter. I had by then already checked out of two shops- hiding a few good shirts in not so noticeable parts of the racks to come back, making mental notes of the price range and condescending a few patrons who came out of the trial room for the want of a quick sport.

My instructions were quite water tight to be there under five minutes. Yet fifteen minutes later, he’s neither at Luxe or the second floor.What’s he up to? Has he turned dyslexic or what?

I was starting to get worked up. I called him again.

“Where are you pa?! I’m getting late to work.”
“I’m on the second floor.”
“Finally. Tell me the name of the shop next to you. I’ll come there.”
“Louis Philippe.”
“I’m coming.”

I walked in long strides towards the Louis Philippe showroom at the other end of the second floor, 150 calories away from where I was. En-route I was cursing the health of the next generation of every individual who was blocking my way, in pursuit of a selfie or stood there making unhurried small talk in the narrow corridor I was trying to weave a way through.
A few moments later, I could see dad appear on my viewing perimeter. Closer I got to him something strange started happening.I was starting to get engulfed in an endless supply of guilt. He was on the bridge connecting the two corridors. He appeared dazed by the hustle and bustle around him, if I were to go by the look on his face that resembled that of a child lost in a festival. Probably all of this was a making of my head and he was quite sorted. But somehow I felt disturbed. The sight of my father standing alone as people kept emerging from all directions around him, made me realize how vulnerable he had become in the world I was an adult. All the angry words I had told him over the years, came screaming back. For all my entitlement and claims of self awareness there I was as one of the worst people I knew.

Sorry raja. I didn’t hear you properly. There’s a theater there. Did you ask me to come  there?” ,sheepishly he asked pointing in the direction from where I had just come.

What do you think Luxe is pa?”, I smiled, embarrassed and guilty at once. “Let’s go, get you some clothes.”

He hadn’t heard me properly. What would he have done I wasn’t here. He neither seems to know the place or fashion. I should hang out with him more. He needs me more than he likes to admit. Fuck my “I’m a loner” rhetoric. And god, I need to be more patient with him.

Every time I’m on the cusp of an outburst with my dad, I hope god or sanity has the better of me. Each time I use a cuss word- that would sound ugly in a roadside brawl even, at him -the guilt sinks in from the very next second. But by then I’m already on a free fall, mind and mouth incongruent to each other.
Whatever the reason be, he’s lived my life’s duration twice and a couple of years more. Unlike me, he’s unconditionally loved me always. His heart is now a soft place, softened by the fatigue of a myriad experiences and his proximity to a second childhood. While mine’s still a hard place, hardened by overbearing confidence and distant memory of a first childhood. It’s my turn to be the bigger man.

When I can be patient in a traffic signal under the afternoon sun; patient with an eternally unreasonable boss at workplace and summon patience in a painfully boring movie just for an actor I like; I can bloody well afford to be patience with this man.
This man who was patient till I uttered my first words. Who patiently ran along side with me, till I started to riding my bicycle without his support. And patiently supported me till I could take care of myself.

I can never give him back enough. But I can definitely be patient with him and gracefully so.

 

 

The price of privacy in an average Indian household

It’s pretty much like the conundrum of whether the chicken came first or the egg; the influence of movies on the society and the society’s influence on movies.It was in the mid nineties when, Sooraj Barjatya in North and Vikraman in the south spearheaded the renaissance of placing family before individual, making a virtue out of it. In the process killing privacy as a collateral necessity, making a vice out of it.You’ll see families in this movie walk in horizontal human chains- members on left and right extremes spilling out of every frame -even to modest places like blood donation camps, invading each other’s bed rooms spreading cutesy and going on picnics together. In this ecosystem, family was no mere crowd, but therapeutic. These movies talked about the trauma of being alone, establishing solitude as a comeuppance if someone dared to stray to the other side in the name of self discovery or love.

If you’re someone who had been raised on a firm diet of Tamil movies in the nineties, chances of having missed this spectacle called Suryavamsam are bleak. For the uninitiated it is one of the several evolutionary-anomaly Sarathkumar movies in which grandfather,father and son all look the same and get played by him. In a pivotal scene in the movie, the son’s kicked out of his house with his share of wealth for daring to get married to the love of his life. Notwithstanding the condescending nature of his overbearing dad, he somehow doesn’t part with the wealth to a farther haven.Because, it is hard after all, for an illiterate man pushing forty to choose between his hateful dad and an extended family that only acknowledges his existence while buying anti-fit khadicraft shirts on birthdays alone, on one side and a prosperous life with a loved one on the other. His rather prosperous stay apart from his colony sized family is made to look like a stint at Shawshank, throughout the movie’s running time.

The thing about these movies is that the individual always put himself, his love, aspirations behind his family’s and dissolved in its well being. One off movies like an Unnal Mudiyum Thambi were rare, where the son at ideological loggerheads with his father abandoned ship. Such movies appealed to a niche, because they didn’t pander to popular beliefs and were seen as isolated Utopian instances.

The resounding success of these kind of conservative- and regressive -family films reiterated the moral code of most families across the board. The elders identified with what was sold off as non negotiable virtues and the youngsters were naive to believe idiosyncrasies to be traditions. These were strictly above-the-belt movies that would sermonize on vanilla values that were digestible, inoffensive and non-debatable. Even when it came to couples, they never went beyond the tropes of innocent stalking, crass duets, wedding ceremony and the coy first night sequence when the shy camera would pan up at the prospect of below the belt activity about to ensue once the couple were done establishing chemistry over cold milk and ghee sweets. This attitude to over preach sentiments as values and push icky topics below the carpet has systematically percolated from one generation to another to create elders who didn’t respect the post puberty phase of a grown up. For instance If a teenager’s found whispering on landline, the parental instinct would be to launch into stealth mode. Pick the extension from another room and eavesdrop; for it might be a member from the opposite sex. Obviously the nefarious act had to be stopped. You can’t afford to be friends with him and joke about his flirting skills, right. It doesn’t fall under the Suryavamsam family code.

Another dreaded recurring occurrence in most Indian households must be the Sunday morning special visits. That’s when an out of town relative would come unannounced into our life like a pimple. But that or their amusingly large breakfast appetite wouldn’t even form the primary concern. Like a frog run over by a lorry, we would peacefully be sleeping in the safe confines of our bedroom in an awkward position when mom would come to wake us up to say, “hello”. Even before your brain can begin to process, a lecture about how showing courtesy to a guest is more important than precious life would begin. This would go on for several minutes. And it would only be a matter of time before her persistence would take the form of a loud scream, promise of a bad lunch or the most dangerous face expression before emotional blackmail. That’s the time when you would know that you’ve got no way out. Your eyes would detest. Your entire body would resent. But you’ll somehow drag yourself to only say that dreadful, “hello” and go back to bed in the hope of better karma.And just when you thought that the misery would be over with the thirty painful seconds, the relative incapable of understanding body language or silent “fuck offs”, would endeavor to stretch your tenure with one sensitive question after another. By the time he/ she gets done with you, you would start hearing the liver churning bile from within.

The sudden invasion of a dad or uncle into bedroom while generating handmade pleasure is one of the most disturbing things to happen to an average Indian teenager. What’s more disturbing than the ocular exchange between the two, would be the awkward silence that follows, as he contemplates euthanizing and the elder behaves like having walked into a satanic mating ritual. The sexual curiosity of the youth, his coming to terms with his own body that’s looking different with each passing day and his sudden mooning over girls his age is something the elders diligently push under the carpet, courtesy the  Suryavamsam family code.

We in this part of the world never really acknowledge the importance of an individual’s identity. His coming of age, his love, lust, failures, successes and how they shape him as a person. His dreams, aspiration, yearning to create a legacy of his own. His alone time. His spiritual growth. Notwithstanding all this, all that matters is that he has to be married at a certain age. And she has to be married as well by a certain age that often comes a few years before. The dreams can wait, goals can and aspirations…stop joking..are certainly not as important as creating a family at the right time.

Most elders operate with the sole purpose of getting an individual deeper and deeper into the institution of family, drifting him further and further away from himself. Not every flower needs to get into a bouquet, some can look beautiful by themselves. An individual’s privacy has to be respected. His personal space has to be acknowledged after a certain age. And more importantly his values have to be let the place to fashion themselves into something independent, not necessarily agreeable.

 

 

On the pride of a blogger

Who are we, the bloggers? The guys who scavenge for left over attention of the reading populace, after they’ve soaked their feet deep enough in works of conventional content creators- “accomplished” authors, columnists, journalists, photographers.

What does the blogging community mean at all in the literary demography? A roof above the head of the heterogeneous clique of greenhorns, wannabes, grumps, prudes, average and awful writers to bring a false sense of entitlement.

The answer for all the politically incorrect rhetoric, would be a resounding “no”, as it obviously comes from me. A “yes” would mean my spot under the sun as a writer was also a making of my delusion, depriving me of a place to continue to bask or an identity to wear as a badge of honour.

There are skills, that need pruning, curating, polishing, assessing and regulating from time to time by a professional body like- medicine, constructing, accounting and law to name a few. And there are skills like painting, singing, dancing and writing that don’t need such external recognition to pursue. The former set belongs in an inflexible square box with overseeing guardian angels from the fraternity. The practice of the same is an external process with an impact aimed at fixing, curing, building, solving or approving something. The outcomes could be in the form of a cured patient, an audited balance sheet, a seven storey structure or a jail sentence. As you can see the performance has a direct impact on the recipient and the society he belongs. Hence the practitioners need to be regulated from time to time. And hence the sheen around the qualification.

Now let’s take the latter pool which thrives on the fresh air outside the square box the former finds itself in. These are creative processes; disruptive, inventive, imaginative with no specific structure to adhere to or fall in line with. They’re primarily works of art. A reflection of the creators moods. A peak into his soul. An artifice to make his ideology palpable to the connoisseurs of the art form he pursues. The stakes are different here. A great piece of music could bring sleep or open tear ducts sealed for ages. A well made movie could advocate a school of thought or propagate a taboo through its mainstream sensibilities. A book could engage, evoke, instigate or just bore to death.  As can be seen, this stream unlike the former, doesn’t necessary leave behind a specific-tangible footprint, necessarily. The outcome or the experience is subjective changing from one subscriber to another depending on beliefs and predispositions.

Coming back to the blogsphere, I see it as a sort of fringe community that exists outside the conventionally recognized art-space. A rebel outfit of sorts.  While there could be an acclaimed Chetan Bhagat doling out one best seller after another, when not commentating on social issues; there could be a rank novice touching upon similar stuff albeit in a classier manner, to a smaller section in his personal blog. While a Vairamuthu might have Rahman to embellish his lyrics, an average joe would put a smile on a fewer lips with his limericks in his wordpress account. A photographer could be crowned by National Geographic, while a better photographer would have his work liked by 83 followers. Apples and oranges, right!

Who is to say, what is frivolous or what is not? The purists or the populists? Does an art form become better because it holds more eyeballs under sway? Or does an artist become smaller because he caters to a niche? Not necessarily. An underrated short filmmaker might be a master of screenplay, while a popular mainstream director could be churning hits after another without the slightest clue. But nevertheless, both are part of the same ecosystem.

We never know what influence our creations would hold on this world. A 220 character poem on childhood might bring a perspective to a parent, a best-seller or parenthood couldn’t. A political article could stir up some fury, if not disobedience; who is to decide we can’t be the final straw to break the camel’s back? . A technical blog could just prevent an ill informed buyer from sinking twenty grand on a mobile with glitches. A story is a story, whether it comes from Ruskin Bond or grandma.The prominence of these creators and their works might scale with time to become something bigger or not. But the work’s their legacy. An extension of them to the world. They could be a lone apple in an orange cart or an apple orchard. Who is to say if it’s enough or not?

On living among gods and religions

It all started in the woods, we were forest people. The first conversation. The first love. The first spittle to make mark it. First time the man got wooden and woman became wet there. The first consummation. The first pregnancy. The first birth. First instance of man manufacturing another life. The forests owned us along with the trees, animals, birds, rivers and rocks. And it was our habitat as much as we were a precarious part of its ecosystem. Precarious because the forests that loomed over us knew that the day wasn’t far off when we would begin to loom over them. And in time loom did we, shrinking them in tandem with our tribe’s endless extension of headcount and greed.

As far as life was in the precincts of the woods and dependent on its resources, we worshiped it. We were a gullible lot; content when it came to needs and sentimental about utility received. We saw the trees that bore fruits, provided shade and let their bodies be used to make our homes as gods. We saw the mountains and the forests that let us live in them as gods. We prayed to the rivers that quenched our thirst, kept our crops alive and transported us. We remained cordial with other creatures some of whom we hunted out of hunger, not for the want of a sport or cuisine curiosity.

Man’s worship of nature went on till the intelligence improved. When it did, worshiping trees, mountains and rivers seemed impersonal. Not just that it was almost defeating to bend down before manifestations who were at his mercy, didn’t talk or look like him. The alpha status of the human race had started to kick in, around the same time his civilization pangs began. He had learnt to demolish, destroy, usurp his way to a better quality of life, the need and definition of which kept changing with time. His peers in the jungle became minorities who were relegated to being- in the zoo; in the circus; in a cage; his pets; in labs; his agricultural machinery; the centre part of a burger, if not his Sunday meal.

As Utopian aspirations took over his soul with him progressing beyond the brink of civilization, the next stop was changing his god, nature. The old god, couldn’t continue to exist in his concrete homes. After centuries of plundering her, he had started to feel more powerful. Not only that, he started to feel that every other manifestation was at his mercy.He appointed himself to be the god’s deputy on earth, picking and choosing utility for other creatures. The milk giving cow was holy, he let it be alive and domesticated. The bull was strong, but tasty as well; he let it either toil in the fields or boil in the stove. The dog was faithful and protective, he let it live and watch.

But he needed someone mighty above him to god him. His god had to look like him, talk like him, possess supernatural prowess and be a much, much better person than himself. So with time, he started scouting for gods among his tribe. The virtuous, the powerful and the honourable among him were celebrated as gods. With time he spun their lifetimes into folklore, passed it onto the next generation. And the next. And the next. And it went on. His gods were growing in stature through his imagination and Chinese whispers.
He put this god in charge of everything beyond him and above his control. So if a meteor struck, it was god’s doing. If it rained during a famine, it was god’s doing. If he wanted or didn’t want something badly, he turned to god. If he got what he wanted, god gave him. And if he didn’t, god chose not to give him. His birth started with god and his death took him there. Life became peaceful with accountability for the unknown shifted to another entity. The suspense account in his balance sheet finally had a name.

With god appointed, the next necessity was to regulate, preserve and curate gods. For which he designed a way of life around them and called it religion. Religions were nothing but philosophies,prescriptions, dos and don’ts, procedures to tread along the path of a certain god. God might’ve formed the religion, but it is religion that put a roof over his head and a sanctum sanctorum around him. This difference from one god to another were the things they stood for differed, their ethnicity and as a result, their teachings.
The transition of religions is a curious one. Over time, religions became competitive institutions, breeding grounds for one-upmanship among their affiliates. Religions also started becoming cannibalistic creatures that would often feed on one another, poach followers from one other and even bringing chaos and destruction over peace and prosperity. How much the followers consumed beyond the surface level of hymns and austerities is another thing. From nuclear ecosystems of worship they grew in stature to become formidable scaffolding to political belief, to fashion the way countries were ruled.

With god and religion being appointed to point fingers at a direction above or within, the next endeavour was to get to the bottom of a happening or a consequence. Thus was born Karma, the spiritual excuse for coincidence. If hardwork didn’t bring results, it was one’s karma. If dumbness kept prosperity intact, it was a forefather’s karma. Karma became the reason for god’s discretion.

With every invention, scientific breakthrough made life definitely became easier. The effort out of processes gets drained. The satisfaction increases; the quality of output improves. Life becomes that simpler. If once there was a phone to talk, camera to take pictures, radio to listen to songs, theatre to watch movie, computers to automate work and compass to find directions; today’s smartphones are all of that rolled into one and more. Not only has the quality of communicating improved or the world shrunk in size, but utility of several gadgets are found in one place. But while breakthroughs no wonder make life simpler, they don’t necessarily make it happier. They’re materialistic influences that have an impact, largely external. Add an A/c to a car, journey becomes cooler. Add a stereo, you could hum a few songs along the way. Have a GPS, it spoon feeds with the navigation. And add to it a seat that reclines, your back is pampered. The purpose of the car doesn’t change. The destination doesn’t. Just that every breakthrough makes the journey that comfortable. That’s the thing about comfort it distracts you from yourself by the external experience.

That’s where the last, but strongest stop of the god-religion shebang comes, the internal personality- the soul. The concept of soul is that every individual is made of an inner manifestation that regulates his conscience. It neither has a beginning nor an end. Like water, it takes the shape and color of the person it is within, reflecting his state of mind. The soul needs to be at peace for the individual to be happy. Some agree. Some laugh. Some diss. But for the sake of this rather long piece not turning longer, let’s agree.
The thing about the soul is it doesn’t get influenced by sensory experiences that bring comfort, entertainment and desire fulfillment. So while biriyani might be sumptuous food ,the soul would remain hungry. A good article might be food for thought, but the soul would still crave.

Religions and gods address the soul. For all of them through their teachings and philosophies single-mindedly pay attention at enriching this entity. While we can debate the soul’s existence, we can’t but agree about how the core of every religion is directed towards the internal journey of an individual. Religions don’t address hunger, education, entertainment or travel, but talk about karma, good deeds, virtues and salvation instead through anecdotes and holy verses, that are largely abstract concepts. That’s why the eternal appeal of religion and faith that attend to the internal itches.

While there is a price to most commodities and awareness of the place to get them from, there’s neither a price for an abstract commodity like peace of mind leave alone a place to get them from. Given the fact that eight out of ten people are believers in a higher power or faith that gives them a ticket to it, the few who claim to know the whereabouts of god, salvation, karma automatically become monarchs in a seller’s market that can put a price it deems fit. Because as far as soul-searching goes, neither the pain or the antidote are defined; nor are the search and the eventual discovery.

A four Kilometre life lesson on a sunny afternoon

What does three seconds mean? Probably  one twentieth of a minute, if not anything significant in particular. Well that is how much it meant for me as well, till today’s afternoon. I was zooming past at 72 kmph to work- when in a matter of few seconds,three to be precise -the speed went from that to zero. I had driven without petrol for the past few days. And my Pulsar- older than sum of all my functional relationships put together -diplomatically protests in these kind of non verbal ways. Especially in routes with no semblance of a fuel station for the next few kilometres from all four sides, to gently remind me to not take it for a ride.

So here I was with a bike with a vapid tank, weighing just the same at the Madhya Kailash to Tidel Park stretch. For the uninitiated non-Chennaites, this particular stretch is notorious for its stagnating traffic. If that opening scene from La La Land was to be recreated, this stretch would be a top contender, notwithstanding Bangalore and Mumbai. And did I mention it was in the afternoon? A humid, sweaty one. With the pores in my body over-timing to compensate for the lack of dampness in the air. And it really didn’t help that I was wearing a white translucent shirt.

And like that, the afternoon’s journey had passed from warm wind blowing against the face to trudging in search of the nearest fuel station. And to add salt to the wound, the Talaash songs were still playing on my earphones. Karma’s a bitch.

It was not until I was at the end of a two kilometres dead rubber walk, did I get my first rendezvous with humanity. There was this gentleman, in cheap clothes, on his bike who seemed to be stalking me from a few metres on his bike. I stopped. And he came from the side and offered to toe my bike to the nearest station; still a kilometre and a half away.
Wow! I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the gesture for a moment. To actually offer a ride to a sweaty stranger while he pulls his bike from the side is no mean thing. One, it’s inconvenient. Two, it makes you look silly. And three, I wasn’t even his friend for him to go through the inconvenience or silliness. Yet he did. I certainly wouldn’t have, not even to a friend had I seen him drag along on a Thursday afternoon. I profusely thanked him and continued to drag along.

By now, bathed in my own sweat, I was beginning to vicariously go through Christ’s last moments uphill; just that I was dragging a bike instead of a crucifix with absolute certainty of not turning God to a new faith. That’s when the second intervention happened. The station though not in the viewing perimeter was under a kilometre away, when an auto slowed on my side to offer to toe till the station. The driver was a dark man, with a stern but kind face. He had a passenger, yet he offered to chip in. I politely refused his generosity and thanked him. Not someone to take a “no”, he insisted again and I thanked and continued to drag. Disappointed he drove past. He must have thought of me to either be high handed or a masochist. Rightfully, so. To me, this was as moving as the former gesture. Actually, a little more considering the fact that he had a passenger and was still willing to do this. Guilt was eclipsing me as I thought of the number of times I’d condescended auto-drivers for the low lives they were on road.

I’ve fed pets, given money to homeless elders and sometimes even offered them a ride on my bike. I’ve always thought of myself to be a good person on the basis of these rudimentary acts. Yet there I was stranded, ego crushed, never having felt smaller. These men who stepped out of their comfort zone for an absolute stranger, were way better men than me. Maybe the rights and wrongs I was seeing from the high horse of my moral compass were ill founded from the vantage of my comfort zone. While I’ve frequently chipped in for someone from the warmth of my comfort, not once have I left it to lent a shoulder to someone outside of it. Maybe I needed to come down, introspect, learn and more importantly unlearn from better people like them.

Reality had dawned upon me before the fuel station could. Coming to think, the entire afternoon was after all not about getting petrol alone. Obviously, I’ll be more vigilant over the fuel meter. But that was just a ruse to a more pertinent internal journey. A reality check of sorts to become a better person. Baptism under the sun if I may.

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.