Till sometime back, all that I heard of Jallikattu was on News channels around Pongal time. Least did I expect that it would become such a sensation, landing itself on every channel in the country, caged by politics and PETA. In fact, the sport had been so remote to the general public that had it not been for this ban imposed on it, I personally feel it might have just faded away along with so many other traditions.
Now that we are here, I am sure most of you know about the issue. The PETA claims that this bull taming sport, apparently where the bulls are harmed, should be banned. The TN people believe that it is a major part of the festival, Pongal and should be carried forward to preserve the tradition. Obviously, to decide one must investigate which side has a valid claim. Generally, in order to raise healthy bulls for this sport, the farmers take very good care and feed them well. It is true that there were a few cases when the bulls were intentionally fed liquor or rubbed with chilli powder to enrage them so that nobody would be able to tame them and win the prize. But this is like having match fixing in cricket. When you know match fixing takes place, you don’t ban cricket. You make stronger rules and enforce vigilance. Same is what we need for this sport as well. Further, there is a thought on A1 and A2 breeds and that this might be a ploy to erase the healthier indigenous breeds and bring in the high-yielding, not so healthy foreign breeds into our economy.
When Pongal was done and gone, I frankly thought that this issue has been put to rest until next year. But the crowd gathering on Marina Beach was a surprise and the way people across the world showed their solidarity was humbling. This is not just about Jallikattu or the corporate mafia or politics. This has brought about something so much more basic – the fact that we acknowledge and identify with our culture. Though all of us are aware of our traditions, it is rare that any of us want to identify ourselves with it. How many of us, immediately after landing a job in an MNC, rubbed off those ‘bindis’ or let loose those well-oiled plaits? How many of us would dare to attend a North Indian friend’s wedding dressed in ‘Veshti’? How many of us would be able to welcome our guests with our traditional ‘Paanagam’ (jaggery dissolved in water with spices to taste) or ‘Neer More’ (Buttermilk) instead of the trendy soft drinks and packaged ‘fresh’ juices?
It is easy to acknowledge and say ‘Oh yes, this is how it is done at our place’. It is tougher to say ‘I shall do it this way as it is my culture’. The toughest of all is when someone questions your culture and you have to stand up for it. In order to do this, first of all, you must be fully convinced as to why this ‘something’ was made a tradition and followed till date, why it would be beneficial to follow it henceforth. When you are fully convinced, then you may set out to convince the world about it.
The non-violent uprising all over TN shows that we all are clearly in the third stage. Not only do we acknowledge and identify, we are ready to stand-up for what we believe is right. There have been instances where a few youngsters have refused to have any soft drinks henceforth and have switched to healthier traditional options. To me, it feels like we are at the beginning of a cultural revival where we have started to see the benefits of our long-standing culture and feel proud to be a part of it. Not all imported stuff is great – be it things, ideas, values (or cows!). Let us put each through a logical screening process before bringing in anything new or removing anything old from our ways of living.