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Pongal ka Dangal

By : K Balakumar, E-Mail :
Thursday, 12th January 2017

With reports about some farmers committing suicide due to crop failure, and the State also having been officially declared drought-hit by the government, the main question that Tamil Nadu is agitated over ahead of the farmers’ festival Pongal is: Will Jallikattu be allowed or not? As a cerebral State, we know our priorities.

But there is a lot of confusion about the whole Jallikattu issue and whether the existing ban is right or not. In the event, Crank’s Corner has taken up the matter in its typical no-nonsense frills-free Q and A format, and after reading this there will be no doubts in your mind regarding the ban --- you’d sure want Crank’s Corner banned.

Give us a historical perspective on Jallikattu

Ancient man always loved to chase animals, initially for food, and later just for fun, as Pokemon Go and other such games hadn’t been invented then.  

Bull-taming as a sport verily dates back to couple of thousands of years. To start off, it was a show of bravery as there was no concept of (prize) money. In those primitive times, the winners were given, as you’d have doubtless imagined, Sodexo coupons.

A cave painting of a bull being tamed, which is believed to be around 2500 years old, was recently unearthed near Madurai and this confirms that the sport had been in practice for eons and, more importantly, it also makes it clear that ancient people also had this habit of doodling random stuff in public places.

What makes the antiquity of the cave painting a bit moot though is the fact that it was found near Madurai, a place where, thanks to its high dust levels, even buildings constructed last week sport centuries-old blackness today.

Describe how Jallikattu events used to be organised in Tamil Nadu
Around Pongal time, small villages around Madurai traditionally hosted Jallikattu events where ferocious bulls were chased and sought to be tamed by young and able-bodied men already tamed by even more ferocious liquor. Okay, not exactly. But behind the scenes, Jallikattu events tended to be affairs of high booze, whose tradition is even older than bull-taming. Any activity that involves booze needs to be safeguarded is our considered view.

Typically, a bull is let loose from behind a narrow wicket-gate of sorts into a dusty arena, and upon being set free, it will run headlong while a gaggle of youth chase it, more in hope than with any conviction, exactly reminiscent of the scenes when 12G arrives near any bus stop.

In general, there will be more men inside the arena than outside it, and there will be confusion and pandemonium, like when Parliament is in session, but not that without any purpose.

Why was Jallikattu banned?

As you can understand, it is a pretty cruel sport. There is plenty of blood spilled. Never mind, it mostly belongs to the unwary bystanders and onlookers. The animal, as such, does not suffer so much as a scratch.

But PETA and animal rights activists got the UPA government to ban bulls as performing animals. How did the animal right activists manage to get such an order, you may wonder. Well, with the UPA government, anything was possible. It would have been even possible to declare, we don’t know, Toyota Innova as the national animal.

Now of course the animal rights activists have a good case. Simbu and Sivakarthikeyan have spoken in support of Jallikattu. That in general is a good reason for opposing it.

What is the reasoning of those who oppose Jallikattu ban?

Jallikattu is a huge part of Tamil culture. We mean MGR and Rajini films have featured Jallikattu, and Tamil culture, as we know it now, is something we cannot think of without MGR and Rajini films.

Jokes apart, indigenous breeds of bulls will suffer a blow as they cannot be furthered any more. Also, the sport has a great tradition in the whole of Tamil Nadu, by which we mean a few small patches in and around Madurai.  

Okay, what do you think is the correct moral position to take in this matter?

Is there any such position in any matter? Anyway, not just with regard to Jallikattu, but in general you would be better off if you have the courage and conviction to fix your moral position depending on whom you are talking to.

With such a policy, you will be accused of hypocrisy. But it is a small price to pay to escape PETA-type and Tamil-tradition-spouting guys, who both are basically insufferable bores.

Finally, what has been the most memorable quote on Jallikattu so far?

Well, as ever, it belongs to Kamal Haasan. He said: “If you want a ban on Jallikattu, ban briyani too”.

The Supreme Court as and when it decides on the Jallikattu issue, should also resolve as to what Kamal was trying to convey with his words.

But if ever briyani is banned, we will have to make do with and enjoy, well, Pongal, which is not a bad message to give out this weekend.

About Columnist

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