The Corporate World Cup  

Posted by Praveen in , ,

Cricket fans getting lathicharged near Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore as they wait for non-existent tickets!

This monday was a day of anticipation. On the previous day, I had recieved the notification from kyazoonga, the online ticketing agency, about the release of the tickets of the cricket world cup final. Only 4000 tickets were to be sold to the public, out of which only 1000 will come online. The tickets were to be available on the site from 1 PM on monday. A server down message greeted us at the site at 1 PM. Frantic calls to friends followed for one hour. And atlast, the site becomes active. I was jumping up with joy as the ticket booking page with the stadium seating arrangements loaded slowly on my screen. And then I hovered the mouse over one of the stands and it flashes "Rs.12500". For a moment, I thought I might be seeing zeroes when there are none. Then as it sunk in, I consoled myself with the thought that this might be one of those expensive stands. Mouse over next stand flashes "Rs.18750". And rest of the stands tickets were frozen. Yes, these are the rates of the tickets meant for the general public. Am I the only one smelling a scam here?

The scam doesn't start with the ticket prices. It started with the renovation of the stadiums. Most stadiums where renovation happened, has ended up with lesser seating capacities. The Wankhede stadium where the finals are to happen has ended up with a capacity of 33,000 from the original 40,000. And, why are the finals happening in such a small stadium when we have much bigger ones all around(Eden gardens??). If the 'Mumbai lobby' really wanted the final to be in Mumbai, why not the D Y Patil stadium with a capacity of 60,000? And, of the 33,000 available seats, 20,000 tickets are reserved for the Mumbai Cricket Association. Special passes are a necessity, but its no more special when more than 50% goes to politicians, bureaucrats, officials, their second wife's third husband's neighbour and so on. And many of these special passes later appear in the black market at exhorbitant rates. Cricket in India is certainly in the hands of businessmen.

When the India-England match was shifted from Eden gardens, it brought happiness as well as a tinge of sadness. Sadness for the mecca of Indian cricket losing a game. And happiness for the match coming to my backyard in Bangalore. We decided to queue up for the tickets that were to be sold from 8 AM today. The plan was to go there around 4 AM and queue up. But then, something told me that it won't work out as expected. In the end, we decided against it. Thankfully, that decision saved us from a lathicharge and a useless wait in the queue. Some of my friends who went at 11 30 PM ended up coming home empty handed and someone even had a bonus in the form of a bandage. In Bangalore, the public was to get just 8000 tickets. From what happened today, it seems only around 2000 were sold. The counter opened and closed before anyone knew about it. Those who walked back dejectedly included people who came from nearby districts taking leave from their meagre paying jobs, just because they love this game.

Its a scam of the highest kind where our cricketing bodies are hand in glove with black marketeers. The arrival of the IPL changed the way cricket functions. The IPL auctions are one of the ugliest things to have happened to this game. And it hit depths when legends like Ganguly, Dravid and Kumble were not bid by anyone in the auctions. It pains even more to see that these decisions are taken by such petty creatures like shahrukh khan and shilpa shetty. Cricket's no longer in the hearts of those millions of common men who paint their faces, wave the flags and cheer loudly from the stands all day long. Its in the hands of a privileged few in Armani suits, who has eaten up this beautiful game with their financial clout. There's an old saying in Malayalam, "Panathinu meethe parunthum parakkilla"(Not an eagle will fly over money). It seems some rich vultures are indeed flying over our lovely game.

your crusader Praveen

The Theyyam Experience  

Posted by Praveen in ,

Eminent theyyam artist Aneesh Peruvannan during mukhathezhuthu(face painting)

It was a thursday night, two weeks back. Thats when my friend Munz, the metalhead cum photographer cum politician from Kannur pinged me and asked, 'Coming to watch a theyyam here in my hometown'? I never thought twice when I heard that. And on friday night, I found myself travelling in the general compartment to Thalipparambu in Kannur. The year 2011 seems to have started a strange love affair between me and general compartments with already 3 trips in the overcrowded box in my kitty! After landing in Kannur, I roamed around in the majestic St.Angelo's fort, overlooking the sea. My host was busy with a (secret) high risk photography assignment. My all time favorite food and drink(Kappa-meen curry and Sharjah shake) kept me in high spirits as I started the short bus journey to Thalipparambu. Kannur lived up to its reputation of being a 'communist bastion' with red flags and banners at every junction. And my friend being a staunch communist himself, had renamed his street as 'Che Guevara lane'.

By the time I reached Munz's house, it was time to get out for theyyam. The bike started moving through the narrow inner roads of Thalipparambu. A brilliant sunset over a river provided the perfect setting for a heady evening. We lost our way many times and travelled so much that, atlast when we reached the place I felt like I reached the end of the world. Mulloor kaav is a non-descript temple in the interior of Thalipparambu. A brief digression for the sake of those who don't know much about theyyam.(This was my first theyyam experience, BTW). Theyyam is a ritualistic art form practised in Northern Kerala, mainly in Kannur and Kasargod districts, which were once known as kolathunaadu. It involves intricate movements and dance steps which faintly resemble kalarippayattu. There are hundreds of different varieties of theyyam, each in tribute to a particular deity. It is an art which needs years and years of practise. What makes this art form stand out is that it is performed by those belonging to the lower castes(castes like vannan,malayan). It is a kind of revolutionary uprising of the downtroddens. So, unlike Kathakali, which is for the classes, theyyam is the art of the masses. And to challenge the Brahmanical ideas of purity, the theyyam drinks kallu(toddy) and eats meat. Sacrificing of cocks is a part of the ritual for some theyyams.

The big rings being worn over the legs

getting ready

a mirror is pointed at the theyyam after the makeup. Thats when the theyyam acquires the characters of God...The old man sees God in the theyyam and prays with folded hands

This theyyam was to take place in the courtyard of a tharavaadu(ancestral house). Thanks to my friend, we reached there in time to shoot the process of mukhathezhuthu(face painting). Aneesh peruvannan is a theyyam artist with years of experience and have won several awards. He smiled shyly as we started clicking him. At the end of the painting, a mirror is pointed at him. This is when he acquires the characteristics of the theyyam, changes facial expressions and jumps into the courtyard. The main theyyam for the day was called kandanar kelan theyyam. The first part of any theyyam performance is vellattam or thottam(only one of this will be there for a particular theyyam). In this part, the face paintings and the props are simple. The 'thottam paattu' is sung during this time. It describes the origin of the theyyam and related things in a song format. Its a form of social commentary which tells us the conditions that existed in the bygone era, the stories of oppression and cruelty by the rulers towards the lower castes. 'Vellattam',on the other hand, is a toned down version of the main theyyam, but with more acrobatics as the artist is wearing no props. After 'vellattam', the theyyam goes back to the makeup room. Then starts the long process of the intricate face paintings, body paintings and putting on the props. In this gap, another theyyam might take place. This day, it was a performance of 'kudiveeran', eulogising an ancestral martial arts expert of that particular house.

'Vellattam' for Kandanar Kelan theyyam

Vellattam has more acrobatics than the main theyyam

playing with fire

a cock being sacrificed for 'kudiveeran'


The whole locality had gathered in and around the courtyard to watch the theyyam. Its a time for coming together, for those who have gone to far away places to come back to their ancestral homes and share the togetherness. One of the best things during the breaks were the talks with the old men. They were happy to tell us the stories behind each theyyam. A short version of the story of Kandanar Kelan can be read here. It helped that my friend also knew quite a lot about theyyam. His metal band 'The down troddenz' and some of their songs are infact inspired from ideas behind theyyams. The main performance of 'Kandanar Kelan' was to take place at 4 in the morning. It was a long wait, but well spent with Munz and our other photographer friend Clint Soman. We sat there in that divine atmosphere in biting cold, bitching about everything under the sun. The theyyam artists caught some much needed sleep at that time. Some of the paintings were done while he was still asleep. During the season, they never get any respite, performing at temple after temple, night after night and sometimes during the day.

Exactly at 4, the chendas and the small pipe sounded. Kandanar Kelan's 'mudi'(the big prop on the head) was worn. Big metal rings were put over his legs. The moment arrived and Kandanar Kelan ran into the courtyard in all his glory. A big bonfire was prepared at the centre of the courtyard. The theyyam ran and jumped over it. Two helpers on either side supported him as he ran swiftly over the blaze. It was a sight to behold. Viewed from the front, it looked like a human phoenix rising from the flames. There were many others running around adding fuel to fire, fuel being dry coconut leaves. The fire raged like a mountain. We couldn't withstand the heat even from the distance. The toughness of mind, the years of practice and above all the inner purity needed for a theyyam performance like this is enormous. And its a mystery how the theyyam never get burns. Instead, he was jumping and running over it again and again. The eyes were fierce, as if he would devour the whole big blaze. At that moment, I saw divinity in him. Its no surprise that 'theyyam' is a word derived from 'deivam'(God).

Kandanar Kelan theyyam jumps over fire

rising like a phoenix

get, set, go

I disappear...into the fire

I was mesmerised to say the least. It was a feeling similar to what I had when I came out after my first metal concert. Yes, this will match any metal concert, any day! And, by then I had fallen in love with kolathunaadu too, with its rich traditions and warm, friendly people. Now my aim is to watch each of those hundreds of theyyams. Guess my friend will curse the moment he decided to invite me, after reading the previous sentence.

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your crusader Praveen