Rarely do I feel impressed with my amateurish dabbling with the camera. This moment was one such.
Kalarippayattu. That’s an ancient martial art form of the south. Kerala to be specific. It’s a fetching sight to see these fighters with bodies of gymnasts move with such agility and panache. With just a dash of imagination and a sprinkling of a story, any onlooker could well imagine how revered and soakingly absorbing a duel would have been just a few hundred years ago.
Oh, not to say a modern duel isn’t a sight to stop, hold your breath and stare in semi open mouthed awe, long enough for a few large mosquitoes to conduct a few sorties down the alimentary canal. More often than not, such goose bump causing art forms remain in the obscure confines of the past.
A trip to Kerala and a stay in a hotel at ‘attractive prices per night’ (which would be equivalent to what your father would have paid to buy the entire property, when he was your age), usually throw in a cultural performance or two.
Even better when the Company that pays your salary also pays for the trip and the room, in the name of a conference, harbouring extravagant hopes that such investments will pay off. In such cases, a hotel gladly throwing in ‘exposure to culture’ performances is de rigueur.
Kalari quite a popular performance. There are jumps. Fights with bare hands. Sticks. Fire. And several else. These are new techniques for the coporate types who are used to used to one martial art form called ‘Powerpoint’. Which ofcourse comes loaded with ‘bullet’ points! If the bullets don’t get you, boredom will.
In such Kalari performances though, young men spar on stage. Synchronised movement, overflowing with synergy. With swords, shields, some kind of a flexible sword, sticks, daggers and such else, with seamless movement. Like in the snap above, a fire bush at the end of the a rope fastened to the chest is used as weapon. Artfully swinging and moving about.
The corporate types usually look half in awe. Cheer in slightly inebriated delusion. Bite into the chicken with new found gusto and take a few more swigs of whatever drink their hands reach out to.
The really skilled photographers amongst them find the perfect spot to click. Additionaly, the morose ones aim their cameras from different corners snaps, click vapid snaps and write blogposts beginning ‘Rarely do I feel impressed with my amateurish dabbling with the camera..’
Ofcourse there is the mandatory crowd of American tourists. Their skin standing out amongst the crowd and their hair standing out on their skin. Staring. If I were them, I would wonder what all this fuss with Kalarippayattu and sparring with swords and building bodies and muscles was about. When all it took was a walk down the store and buy a .32 magnum and blow the brains off every living form in the locality.
Incase you are yet to look up Kalari, here is the link.
Incase you still haven’t, it is a martial art form that’s been around for ages.It was banned by the British. At one point in history, it was as common as ‘reading and writing’ and everybody in society was proficient in it.
Incase you are still wondering, what brings this post up now, I am back from another trip to a place that I have been in love with for ages : Kerala. Ofcourse, more posts & pictures follow.
But, boy, am I pleased with this snap!
Some distance away is Ramar Patham. (Ram’s Feet). A smaller temple that plays host to an imprint of a feet. Purported to be those of lord Ram and rightly so. The story spices up the belief very well that there is a mile between you and the d in doubt. A pot bellied priest chants the virtues of worshipping those feet and also slips in a message to ‘help’ the priests themselves. Its but natural, you see ! Especially, when said in the same breath !
The other reason that Rameshwaram is frequented is to perform rituals for the dead. An assortment of rituals, which by itself can be an intricate lesson in permutation and combination and math of such order. The net result could be a huge subtraction in what was there in the wallet !
Mention must be made of the Pamban bridge, now named after one of the Gandhis. This times it is Indira. (I think). Built on the sea, much before the Bandra-Worli sea link. Well used now, every single lamp post is still there. Of the lights that were supposed to be atop the lamp posts, well it’s a different story !
It’s a sleepy town. Down in the down south. But then, it keeps many awake. All through. Think about it. History. Mythology. Architecture. Strategic defense. Death. Life. Living. Gods. Tourism. The sea and the ocean. All in one place.
Very few places that can boast of that assortment !
Well. He couldn’t be faulted to the full distance. ‘Well, yes, sort of. But no. Don’t call it wrap around’ was a response that quite quite get past his left ear lobe. The pitchers of beer were at work.
Lets set the record straight.
The dhoti ( called ‘Veshti’ ) is the sort of thing that gives a certain impeccable identity to the average man on the South Indian street.
A pointed mention to all North Indian friends here ( and as an average tamil from the deep south will define, ‘north India’ means ‘north of Chennai’ ), the dhoti is principally a different garment from the ‘Lungi ‘
The ‘Lungi’ is akin to pajama wear. Dotted, coloured, checks, stripes etc. Worn to bed. Worn at home. Period.
Multitudes of authentic dhoti wearers have cringed as they enter weddings and such other social events in the ‘North’ only to be complimented with ‘thats a nice lungi’ ! Well, to give it some perspective, imagine going to a wedding in a Armani bespoke suit, to hear compliments : ‘thats a nice pajama’ !
The Dhoti is regal apparel. ( Except seeing ‘dhotis folded at the knee or thereabouts and bristling with striped knee length underwear as seen in tamil movies). Its supposed to give the average male some spirit in his step. Its airy, lose and fastened at the hip by ingenious folding of the garment.
Modern city bred males however require belts and such else as insurance against wardrobe malfunction.
Any visit down south, gives an opportunity to wear the dhoti, brave the heat and walk about with this sense of new found freedom ! At least the proverbial ‘pajama question’ that would reach the ear, when the same is done in any other part of the country, is absent.
It is another matter though, that the dhoti is not part of accepted corporate attire.
Quite obviously seeing this in a big city mall in Mumbai created some flutter in the heart. Like the flutter actors and actresses are shown to have when they find true love, or the brother that they were separated from in the village fair. A combination of a ‘Dhoti’ and a ‘pant’ seemed to be a super deal.
Only to find in a short while later that a ‘Dhoti Pant’ is women’s wear. Some thing that loosely balloons from the hit only to taper at the feet. And could make the wearer look like she is floating on a helium balloon across the road. To a casual bystander.
More authentic explanation is in this link here.
What particularly catches the eye is this statement from a fashion designer : “To get the funky look, a body hugging T-shirt and dhoti pants would make a great combo. To complete the look, illustrative danglers and funky belts would look great.”
Illustrative danglers and funky belts for ‘completion of look’ is an awesome amount of elastic stretch to the simple elegant dhoti !!
If you hang around there for a while and look with an ordinary eye, you will see dots emerge in sequence. Dots in proportion. Dots in synchrony and symmetry.
Of course, you can immediately sense that is maths in action. Yes. Math ! 8 dots. 16 dots. right angles. symmetry. Etc etc !
In some time, the fine white flour that went into making of the dot slips through the fingers to form simple, straight lines. Straight lines that would look like those drawn with a scale !
In a jiffy the lines become curves. The curves become U turns, with the dot in he middle ! Sharp curves that would get a F1 champ’s adrenalin going.
The lines and curves form a seamless symmetry of art on the floor. A dash here. A dash there. A curve now and then. Suddenly there is a piece of visual delight on the front yard !! Coming to think of it all, to get out of bed at 5.00 AM is something. To get to the courtyard is something else. And then, to alternate between gymnastics and mathematics with ease, is stuff that is beyond me. To do it everyday is super human.
It took me an effort to locate the camera and shoot ! My mom looked bemused and surprised. Initially at my interest, giving me ‘Ah, whats so great about it’ look !
A while later, the household help came in and added some of her own designs and a dash of colour !
Seems i was pretty close ! My mom orchestrates them to do the ballet on the front yard