-My take on the new chapter of the ongoing Jallikattu debate-
I vividly remember, around 10 years ago, back when I was in the 4th grade, my mother first introduced me to the concept of ‘Jallikattu‘. She told me that ‘Jallikattu’ is an age-old tradition that people indulge in during the festival of Pongal, wherein, amidst thousands of spectators, a raging bull is released into an arena. The players of the sport are expected to grab the bull by its hump to stop it from running amok and ‘tame’ it, for a particular span of time. I was listening to her wide-eyed, and as soon as she had finished her narration, I cringed. I cringed and asked her, ‘Ma, are you sure they let this happen?’.
If, when the rules of a sport are explained to a young and innocuous child, she winces, then somewhere, something is wrong.
I am a 20-year-old tamizh girl who grew up amidst rapid urbanization and so I’d like to call myself a nice, balanced mix of both western and tamizh cultures. I love Silappadhikaaram as much as I love Wuthering Heights, love elai-sapadu as much as I love Mac’n Cheese. My formula to healthy progressiveness is retaining the good and the rational from ancient Tamizh culture and accepting moral and unobjectionable changes from the new. And with reference to the recent proceedings around the state, I feel something is definitely amiss.
Now as we all know, our state is, at present, primarily divided into two – pro and anti-Jallikattu or pro and anti-PETA. I for one, find it rather hard to align with one side in particular – I’m torn in between. Let me begin by expressing my absolute resentment of PETA’s false propaganda which forces us to perceive it as an act to deliberately spite the Tamil Community. Upon its website, it has a petition where it wrongly deems Jallikattu as a bloodsport and equates it to the Spanish Bullfight, which in fact, is a bloodsport. And PETA, being the bigger fish in the pond, is whom any outsider naturally will take its word for, and hence, making this an extremely irresponsible move by the organization.
Considering this unfair accusation made by the NGO, I feel the civil and well-organized protests by the young force of the state is justified.
But Jallikattu, as such, may not be the most blameless of sports, and me, someone who quit eating meat and considers it inhumane, simply cannot advocate the activity, however culturally rich and symbolic it may be. Let’s look at it this way. Given a choice, however brawny the Kangayam Bull may be, I doubt it would opt to run into a cheering mob, only to have itself taken down by a bunch of preying men. Let alone drunk on liquor or with lime juice squirted in its eyes or chilli powder on its genitals. The basic psyche of any animal, domesticated or wild, is to feel threatened amidst a large, roaring mob of people. Fear is one of the most fundamental emotions felt by animals and also one of the worst. Fear is so bad for animals, it’s almost worse than pain. Humans have a lot more power than animals to control fear than they can control pain. On the other hand, animals in terrible pain can function rather normally unlike humans, but an animal that is scared out of its wits is as good as incapacitated. An animal is a state of panic pretty much cannot function at all. This is due to different levels of frontal lobe functioning in the cerebral cortex. Animals that were trained to become immune to clamour, obey instructions and act as per commanded to used to be found in the circus. But you can’t really find them there anymore. Why? Because they’re banned. And we all think that is justified, don’t we?
I recall a particular video I watched on YouTube featuring an actor, clearly capitalizing on the situation and the gullible folk to preach his views on the Jallikattu debate and thereby, strengthen his fan base. And he said, ‘The bull is man’s pet; man is playing with this pet he owns, so why do you interfere?’. Can we take a moment to assimilate this statement? If this is what the video titled, ‘Actor Satyaraj gives a slapping reply to PETA’, claims to be a justifiable argument, then the following statements should be valid as well. ‘The child is my own, I gave birth to him. And I may throw him down a well if I please to, who are you to question me?’, ‘The woman is my wife, I married her and I shall rape her if I may, who are you to question me?’. So basically, we understand the gravity of the statement, only when put in this perspective – by drawing parallels to people who can voice the way they feel. And if they are animals and they can’t voice their feelings, we’ll just assume that they enjoy it and move on, shall we?
This is exploitation and I can’t comprehend how you fail to see it! Also, throwing light on the ‘witty’ comparison he made to WWE asking,’If that is permitted then why not Jallikattu?’. WWE. A scripted, professional wrestling show featuring consenting adults paid truckloads of money to beat each other up on Television being compared to a sport that exploits an animal that cannot talk or tell you to stay the heck away when it wants to.
‘Eru Thazhuvudhal‘, or as it literally translates to, ‘Embracing the bull’, might have once been an ethical, cultural phenomenon, but now it has evolved into a game with uncouth undertones – a flawed tradition that is not at all in accordance with the gradually evolving present, which aims to respect the rights of every living being, whether expressed explicitly or not. It’s about time we paid heed to our sense of humanity and started looking at practicable alternatives for the peaceful co-existence of both us and our beloved Kangeyam Bulls.
Before you start spewing out insults that have been brewing in your head, take a few minutes and watch this – the tale of Ferdinand, a Bull who just wanted to prance around the fields and smell the flowers, than to fight. His story may warm your heart more than you think.