This remarkable thing called Tamil & saving Jalikattu
What a beautiful start to the year, I’ve been wanting to blog about so many things that I came across, the Chu Chi tunnels in Vietnam, the atrocities of Agent Orange, the sky scrapers of HK, the Santa Parade in Auckland.
But just as my thoughts started to wander, something started to pick up speed. What started as a one man protest to save an ancient sport called Jalikattu in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu has turned into a worldwide phenomenon.
So a bit of background on the sport (Now I’m no way an expert on this but I’ll try to explain what I can). Jalikattu is an age old sport with its epicentre in Alanganalur village in Madurai, TamilNadu. In this sport, the youth of the village tested their manliness by hanging on to a raging bull, in yesteryear, the successful youth would win the hand of the village head’s daughter, but in recent times, the gifts have been downsized to bicycles, household goods etc.
The use of the sport, while proving the manliest of men, was very important for the bulls, it was a test for the bulls as well, a bull that could dodge all men was prized and its reputation with the ladies only grew (much like natural selection but aided by humans).
In the past, the bulls of this region were used for
- Ploughing the fields
- Reproduction and maintaining the gene pool
However, with the advent of modern machinery, the first two have been out of use, farmers have moved on and the main uses of these majestic beasts is to maintain the native breed and to participate in Jalikattu.
In this delicate balance, PETA riding on the back of a ban on Bulls as a show animal, forwards a petition with a video on the alleged cruelty to animals. In the year 2014, The Supreme Court of India passed a law banning the sport of Jalikattu.
Looking at this situation, this has a sinister shade to it, one of the main reasons of PETA (PETA Supposedly kills animals for research, much like the Whale Research) and other animal welfare organisations to vociferous in their support for the ban is so that foreign breeds can be introduced into the Indian market, this would inturn decimate the local breed as without Jalikattu, the bulls would have to be slaughtered.
In a tremendous show of resilience, the people of Chennai have turned out in greater masses and the youth have organised peaceful protests, a million gathered at the 2nd longest beach in the world. In this mass gathering, not only was there a steely but quiet resolve to uphold their rights, but not a single incident cropped up, no public destruction, no nuisance and a million voices silently stayed through the night, rain, sun and heat to save their beloved cattle.
Bull taming in Jalikattu (source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bull_Taming,_Alanganallur_India.jpg)
What are my memories of all this ? having been brought up in Oman, I used to travel every year to India and sometimes was lucky to witness Pongal (the harvest festival, during which the Jalikattu used to take place). I used to hear my cousins twitching nervously to visit the Rekala race (A bull cart race).
As a person, being brought up in Oman, having studied in the UK and now living in New Zealand. I see that the western influence has destroyed a lot of eastern traditions, the water puppet theater in Vietnam, Jalikattu etc.
There used to be a squat toilet in my Grandmom’s house in India, but now I see everyone moving on to Western Toilets. Why does this matter? because squat toilets is how nature wanted us to do our business and this comes from various recent scientific research. My grandmom used activated charcoal to brush her teeth, now we have toothpastes having activated charcoal and explaining the benefits of the same.
What the eastern civilizations have been doing for centuries, has been destroyed and re-introduced in a different form for the monetary benefits. Money, greed and corruption being the catalysts here.
Many years back a famous tamil poet called Bharathiar wrote : Tamilan endru sollada, thalai nimirnthu solla da (or) Call yourself Tamil, hold your head high proudly. When I’m outside India, I see that dark skinned guy walk up to me and nervously ask, “Neenga Tamil Ah?” (Are you a Tamilan?), maybe Bharathiar, knew the rapid globalization would make the youth shrug their identities. I stutter in English, before walking off.
I was having a chat with a South African colleague who recently naturalized into a kiwi and has lost all identity of being a South African, however everytime, I hear Bharathiyar’s phrase (or) stories of Tamil people, my heart swells in a way I can’t imagine, maybe that’s what it is being a Tamilan.
There were two incidents in Tamil Nadu that showed the world, the resilience of the human spirit. The Chennai 2015 floods, where people threw down their difference and united as one to help the ones that suffered and the second being Jalikattu.
I understand the importance of this struggle, a gathering that has arisen without a leadership, without a noise, without electricity and with so much of compassion, I’ve also seen how this has swelled across borders and nations, Tamils in Canada, UK, New Zealand, US and the GCC countries to name a few have shown their support to their brothers back home.
One of the many support groups worldwide (https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1828121810738063&id=1827676670782577)
Thanks so much for reading this post, it must be ridden with mistakes and errors, but I don’t want to edit this post as it is a true reflection what my heart feels now. Hats off to the tamil youths back home, no where have a million people come together, without so much as a scuffle, not complaining and standing up for what they feel is right.
What does this incite in me, first off I want to stay longer in Chennai, I want to know more about my identity, understand my culture more and most importantly, start to read and write Tamil. What is your resolution for the future ?
Emotionally I write “Tamilan endru solla da, Thalai nimirnthu sollada”
Stop your bullshit PETA & Other Agencies, the culture is here to stay.