Jallikattu has received far too much support.
Come Pongal season in Tamil Nadu and newspapers start carrying photos of people (celebrities included) in their traditional attire flocking around stalks of sugarcane placed beside earthen pots of boiling milk.
You just have to wait for one extra day to see a photo feature of village youth, this time flocking around a crazed bull blotched with various shades of coloured powder, trying to grab hold of its horns or its hump.
The fact that at least 20 to 30 persons sustain serious injuries because of this and a number of their obituaries pop up the very next day has become a matter-of-fact annual occurrence.
For some desensitised sections of society who like to hold on to their ‘I-told-you-so’ pedantry, it is a surprise if no casualties are reported as a result of goring by the bulls.
Too much support
The sport of Jallikattu has received far too much support through the proverbial excuses of ancient cultural and traditional customs or sentiments.
The natives of Alanganallur, the village in Madurai district most frequently associated with this type of celebration, believe that drops of blood must be shed on their soil during this period as an offering to the goddess Muthalamman lest they suffer the curse of drought and famine.
This retrogressive outlook in the 21st century seems just too surreal to be accepted.
Several reports describe controversial practices such red-chilli powder being rubbed into the bulls’ eyes, their being force-fed kalla charayam (toddy liquor) or even pinching their testicles.
All of this for the surge in testosterone of a few young men.
If Ernest Hemingway romanticised the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona in his book Death in the Afternoon, here at home Kollywood has given the macho stamp of approval for Jallikattu.
Right from the time audiences witnessed images of M.G. Ramachandran (or his body double) bravely taming a bull in a 1956 flick – used by the DMK daily Murasoli as its logo – right down to Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan essaying similar rolesJallikattu has become a stage for braveness and prestige devoid of pragmatism.
Despite the barrage of Supreme Court judgments and serious animal activism, Jallikattu has enmeshed itself within the framework of entertainment – a term that needs serious redefining.
Pongal, as usual, will be celebrated next year with great pomp and fervor. Youth will continue to grab the bull by its horns. Their obituaries will continue to appear without fail.
Happy Pongal to all!
(Ramakrishnan studied at the Bannariamman Institute of Technology, Sathyamangalam, for his B.E. degree, then worked at Cognizant for a year, before joining the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.)