Why Tamils fight for Jallikattu

The next time you take your dog for a walk and he goes bounding up to the neighbourhood aunty don’t yank him by his chain, you cruel moron. You’ll choke him, you’ll hurt him. Reason it out with him. The aunty shouldn’t mind a tiny bite. My mother likes to create a platter everyday for the crows and pigeons that visit our terrace. She keeps aside a portion of the day’s tiffen – idli or dosai or upma, the malai from the day’s milk and few biscuits and sets them up in a plate on the terrace. “Stop feeding them your upma. I am not answering PETA if those crows and pigeons suffer from an upset stomach. You are morally responsible.” As I write this, thousands of my fellow tamils are sitting in Chennai’s Marina beach, Alanganallur, Coimbatore, Salem, all over TamilNadu and across several countries, unrelenting in their demand to revive Jallikattu while national media and newspapers reluctantly turn their gaze on the third day to protests they distantly refer to as “an ancient bull-taming sport”. They conduct panel discussions usually comprising of a couple of socialite women who’ve never walked their dog and have therefore not had to hurt them, a lone passionate Tamil person who they cut short every time he is about to make a point and an advocate or historian to spew facts/laws. The non-Tamil news anchor doesn’t understand why the entire state is up in arms favouring this cruel sport. The rest of the panellists beat up the lone passionate Tamil person from what they perceive as their moral high ground.   This in essence is what the protestors are fighting. It is the fact that people who are far-removed from the state and the sport, who are uncomfortable with the sport, can do away with the sport that was being held for hundreds of years. Just like that. And call tamils “emotional”. If this isn’t fascism I don’t know what is. To decree that everyone should be like them is the most violent form of fascism. I am against any group that calls itself an advocacy group (including PETA). I don’t want anyone advocating anything to me. It’s easy to eliminate an un-organized sport, a farmer’s sport that happens only in villages with no sponsors, teams and bids. “Play cricket, hockey or chess like the rest of us.” One particular animal activist comments...

My non-encounter with Kamal Hassan

I did not realize until a few weeks back what a complete cinema crazy fan I am. I realized that I go near hysterical on seeing Kamal Hassan a few feet in front of me, my skin tingles in excitement and I can’t stop smiling that wide vacuous smile. I hear his voice and I go bonkers, I try to wolf whistle knowing I can’t whistle. I clap after every sentence and how – in big sweeping motions.  He tells a joke and I am still laughing after everybody’s stopped, he says something touching and I get choked up. I was star-struck, benumbed, done. A few weeks back I had been to Crazy Mohan’s 777th show of “Chocolate Krishna” and Kamal Hassan was the chief guest at the show. I was in the fifth row from the stage and I could see the back of Kamal Hassan’s head while he watched the show from the front seat. Every joke I laughed and turned to look if Kamal Hassan did. So did my husband and my sister and my friends. It was a great evening, such fun. We dropped kids at home (most important decision of the evening) arrived early, ordered filter coffee from the sabha’s bustling Woodlands canteen and sipped our coffee scanning the crowd for Kamal chella kutty while regulars ate Rava dosai, sambar vadai and filter coffee at the open-air tables nearby. We spotted ARS (police commissioner in Nayagan), Y.G. Mahendran and comedian Sathish. I was this close to Kamal Hassan’s Land rover when I walked past in the opposite direction. We had to hurry inside though as the show was about to start. Watching a live show is nothing like anything. The atmosphere is electric and the excitement and cheer palpable. The drama was hilarious in true Crazy Mohan style. I am totally smitten by the drama scene. It is so quaint and retro in a way. These dramas are still in the 80s and 90s right from the Doordarshan like simple sets, speaking out the dialogues at the standing mics, the storyline and the special effects. I loved it. Madhu and Crazy Mohan were brilliant. So was Appa Ramesh. The “thiruttu paati” was fantastic. I am a huge fan of Tamil comedy dramas if I haven’t told you before. S.Ve.Sekhar and Crazy Mohan are iconic in the Tamil comedy drama scene. I haven’t been to too many...

Thavalai Adai

“Sarkarai mazhai vandhudha, annikki dhaaaan…  (the day it rained sugar)” she trails off. We’re lying on the quilt sharing a pillow. “Ammamma Ammamma, apparam yenna?” “Sonaana, apparam.. “ She dozes off mid-story, I shake her awake, she continues from where she left off, dozes off next line, I nudge her, prompt her. We continue till the story is over, till she is asleep. I then run away to my mother. She adjusts her 8 kallu besari nosepin and smooths her hair every now and then. I imitate her. She laughs. She makes me do it for my Appa, Babu and Athai. Ammamma sits on the thinnai talking to my athai while I plait her long hair into a mess. She packs Arisi upma for my tiffen and tops it with lots of sugar. She makes a huge deksa of vegetable bath for my birthday party. Guests ask to take home leftovers. She makes Adhirasams like Adhirasams were always meant to be. The breeze is nice and cool. Athai, Babu (my chithappa/uncle) are sitting on the thinnai (bench type settee) talking. Amma is folding clothes. I am balance-walking on the walls of the little fountain in the dhalam (courtyard). The aroma of crisping dal wafts over the evening air from deep inside the kitchen to the dhalam. Shortly Ammama brings a plate of piping hot Thavalai Adai – small round oothappam sized adais, golden brown and crisp outside, soft inside. She ladles the batter into a greased kadai, drizzles oil all around it, covers the kadai, waits forever, doesn’t check in between, opens and flips the thavalai adai, the bottom is golden brown and crisp, drizzles some more oil, covers and waits again for the other side to brown, flips it on to a plate, adjusts her besari and smooths her hair and pours in another ladle of batter. She goes on one at a time, each one cooked to golden brown perfection while we eat. I recount how Hasini wakes me up when I doze off mid-story just like “Sakkarai Mazhai” times, as she lies on the hospital bed, drifting in and out. She listens, tries to adjust her besari, the IV drip pulls at her wrist, remembers after a moment, smiles, her eyes well up. Everything I cook reminds me of her. She was the starting point. I did not realize until now, until she was gone. Prep time:...
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