When was the last time you heard a man, in his late thirties calling a woman in her early twenties a Toddler (Vava). Remember, this guy has no idea who this woman is. The only impression he has about this lady is she sent him a request on Facebook.
The request was more than an invitation to him, as he sends her a ‘Hi’ in the wee hours of morning (4 am to be precise). She didn’t respond instantly (of course she is not Apple’s Siri). Finally, when she saw this venerable man’s message in the afternoon, she did send a reply.
He kept shooting questions, one after another, before he introduced the monumental adjective Vava. She was taken aback. She never had a memory of someone calling her Vava. She was startled not because his epic reaction has anything to do with her reminisce. She was startled because she knew, with him uttering sugar-daddy words, an Idol she had in her mind has just been shattered into pieces.
This is not an isolated incident. Most of the women I’ve spoke to admit they, on a daily basis, receive flirting messages and photographs from men on Facebook. Most importantly people like this guy, who has the advantage of being a gentleman easily show their side rudeness when they knew, in a chat box, they are alone with a woman, as if in a closed room.
These are men who think sexual harassment happens only when you involve in a violent, Stanley Kubrick like rape scene. They believe keeping their dicks upright and attacking a woman in bed only amounts to sexual violence. No you morons. You hurt a woman, you belittle another person the moment you diminish their value and feast on their privacy and integrity.
You hook someone over internet and asking the lamest questions in the middle of the night is fine, because there’s consent between you two. You sending nudes or asking the other person to send you nudes are never going to be someone else’s concern until it’s consensual.
But it’s highly inappropriate if you try to hook someone innocent, ask them all the weirdest questions and enslave them with your privilege. It’s even more horrific if the same you post messages of anguish and outrage when a random woman is molested in a remote corner of India.
Deepan Sivaraman’s drama Khasak, unlike O V Vijayan’s Novel –from which it’s adapted- begins with a parade of the dead. The souls of the beloved characters from Khasak make a stroll down memory lane, holding palm leaf torches, accompanied by a monologue – The inception of Khasak, their first legend.
Then, Deepan takes the audience to a memory, the moment protagonist Ravi becomes a fugitive. Ravi is reading a letter from his father. Soon after he finished it, Ravi goes back in time to rebuild the melancholic memory of his first sexual experience with his step mother. In a moment of piousness he screams in his head, sting by sin and morbid pleasures. He opens his eyes to find himself sitting in Kooman Kavu, the end of the bus route – the place from where O V Vijayan’s novel unfolds.
Khasakinte Itihasam, written by O V Vijayan is regarded as his masterpiece and arguably the best work of fiction in Malayalam literature. Khasak, as it is been fondly called, is a novel of epic proportions, something that stood the test of time to become the defining point in Malayalam Fiction. Critics revered Khasak, released in 1969, as the book that divided the novel tradition of Malayalam.
Khasakinte Itihasam is better known for its complex language and subtle craft, both easy roadblocks for anyone putting an effort to adapt it into any form of art. However, Deepan Sivaraman, a seasoned theatre artist pulled off the unimaginable, gave Khasak quite a brilliant adaptation to stage.
Deepan’s Khasak unravels in the darkness. Lights, shadows, music and imageries are the tools of communication. In the first half, Deepan’s Khasak goes on toes with the Novel. His actors are stunning, especially Allappicha Mollaka and Kuppuvachan, both are original and steadfast with the language and acting. Deepan weaves the story around Naijamali, who is actually the tour de force in the drama. He borrows dialogues from OV Vijayan to implicate the real feeling of the Palakkad dialect but at times, he shows no qualms in making some value additions, whether it is in the love act of Naijam and Maimuna or in the dramatic farewell of Naijam Ali when he was ousted by Allappicha.
As an antidote for the perplexed narrative of the novel, Deepan resorts a visual language, combining elements of video projections and authentic Pyrotechnics. As the drama reaches its second half, Deepan gains more freedom, with his style often gets amateur to wedge away from the Novel. Deepan employs different techniques of storytelling such as using symbolic videos and art house-like sequences in an apparent effort to present the drama in an independent form but which sometimes forces the audience to withdraw from the performance.
But, the drama ends with the best possible twist to the famous ‘snake bite’ scene in the Novel. Here, the grim ending in the Novel is polished for the theatre. It was indeed worth the risk he took. Deepan’s Khasak is without any doubt, a compelling drama, which in a sense is an incredible feat when you compare with the novel Legends of Khasak.
The drama is one of the best original and experimental works in a very long time, a bold adaptation and surely is a milestone, which in the long run will surely inspire more creative works that could bridge the great Malayalam literature with the thriving theater scene in Kerala and India alike.
Autumn of an unknown year, we become friends. I was the quieter one, laid-back and primitive. We chatted for long hours until we grab a coffee from one of the hut-like roadside cafes to settle down our ailing stomachs.
As far as I can remember, our conversations were all nonsense. Rather they were mere excuses to talk more and kill time. I was more enthusiastic because in a long time I never had the company of a better soul to talk open and loud.
I waited every day, wandered through the corridors until I met El – the human being I talked to –to begin preaching. I started to grow a penchant for the evenings, a strange love. It was pure solitude, even in the courtship of a very talkative person.
It was an amazing autumn. September was drenched in the moisture of morning drizzle. Then, a strange feeling, like the one you get when you look into a Polaroid photograph, swift into the sleeping day. Almond tree leaves were in full bloom. Peach and golden leaves scattered all over the promenades and potholed roads. One can scent the smell of death in the fallen leaves.
Evening sun shone bright in golden-syrup like rays, bathing everyone with the warmth of the season. To have an evening in autumn with a human being preoccupied with nothing, was a real blessing.
We used to sit in the lawn of the library. I don’t have a membership there, neither does El. But the lawn was a public place. People from all the walks of life came there to share their evening. It was a very noisy place, but, never a distracting crowd. It’s a place you can visit with whoever you want and do whatever you assume and no one will bat an eyelid on you.
In a sense that was strange. In a city like ours, were people are so eager to stare each other without any invitation behaving like they are civilized, was nothing short of a surprise.
I reminded El about the contrasting things a city can produce, to which El smiled.
“You don’t get that point?” I asked El.
“The contrasting nature of things” I try to save our conversation.
“I know. I understand” El said.
“Hmm… Let’s walk. It’s getting late”.
When our coffee mugs were empty, I found a bus. It made an old cranky voice as it rolled. There were no glass curtains in the windows. Instead they have drapes like polythene cloths tied to the top portion of the windows. Passengers can lower the panels during rain. But it wasn’t easy to execute. Strong winds can send the panels to flutter high. If one is sitting by the window side, there can be no respite from the rain.
There was no rain, because it is September. Autumn can be humid and hot, sometimes cloudy and accompanied with gusty winds and morning drizzle, never the season of rain.
I was on the bus observing people while listening to a David Bowie song. I can see people whiz pass me in the streets. I was seated in the window-side. Outside, people are slowly winding up their day. It’s like sitting in a time machine. You hardly see the struggles, minute details of life. You only have a view, a very rapid view. All in a sudden you are at a different place, staring at a different view. You hardly are reminiscent about the life passed. Then, when the bus stops rolling, you come back to realize the sober pace of life.
The bus dropped me in the Trinity bus stop. I started to walk to my room. I was tired and my steps were rickety. I collapsed into my bed. While I’m at it, I have filled my mind with a thousand pictures I captured today and closed my eyes hoping for a blissful evening. I wanted to bypass the morning. I was thinking; “Can I die in the morning and reborn in the evening?”
വര്ഷങ്ങള്ക്ക് മുന്പാണ് ഞാന് ‘ഗോവര്ധന്റെ യാത്രകള്’ വായിക്കുന്നത്. ഭിത്തിക്കുള്ളിലേക്ക് കയറിയിരിക്കുന്ന തടിയലമാരിയില് നിന്നാണ് പുസ്തകം ഞാന് കണ്ടെടുക്കുന്നത്. അതില് ഒരു നിരോധനാജ്ഞപോലെ അച്ഛന്റെ കൈയ്യൊപ്പ് പതിഞ്ഞുകിടന്നു.
രണ്ട് മൂന്നു തവണ വായിക്കാന് ശ്രമിച്ചശേഷം ആ പുസ്തകം ഞാന് ഉപേക്ഷിച്ചു. അച്ഛനെപ്പോലിരുന്നു ആ പുസ്തകം — ആകര്ഷണില്ലാത്ത പുറംചട്ട, പരുക്കന് ഭാഷ.
പിന്നീട് ഞാന് അത് വായിച്ചു. നീതിയെക്കുറിച്ചാണ് ആ പുസ്തകം എന്നാണ് എനിക്ക് തോന്നാറ്. നീതി എന്ന് ഉച്ചരിക്കുമ്പോള്തന്നെ അനിതീ എന്ന് കൂടി ഒരു പ്രകമ്പനം ഉണ്ടാകുന്നുവെന്ന തോന്നല്. നീതിയെക്കുറിച്ചുള്ള നൊസ്റ്റാള്ജിയയാണ് എനിക്ക് ആ പുസ്തകം.
കഴിഞ്ഞ കുറച്ചുമാസങ്ങളായി നീതിയെക്കുറിച്ച് ചിന്തിക്കുന്ന കുറച്ച് ആളുകളെ ഞാന് കാണുന്നു. അവര്ക്കൊപ്പം കോടതിയില് പോകുന്നു. നീതിയിലേക്കുള്ള അവരുടെ ദൂരം ഓരോ തവണയും നീട്ടിവെക്കപ്പെടുന്നു.
ഗോവര്ധന്റെ യാത്രകളിലേക്ക് വരാം. അതിന്റെ തുടക്കത്തില് ആനന്ദ് എഴുതുന്നു.
“നീതിന്യായത്തിന്റെ വളര്ച്ചയുടെ ഫലമായി കോടതികള് ഉണ്ടായതോടൊപ്പം തന്നെ, നീതി പ്രതീക്ഷിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നവരുടെ ഒരു സമൂഹവും അവയെച്ചുറ്റി ഉണ്ടായിട്ടുണ്ടാകണം. കെട്ടിടങ്ങളും ഫയലുകളും വക്കീലന്മാരും കോടതികളെ സഹായിക്കുവാനായി ഉണ്ടായപ്പോള്, നീതി കാത്തിരിക്കുന്നവരുടെ ആവശ്യങ്ങള്ക്കായി കോടതിവളപ്പുകളില് ചന്തപ്പുരകള് പൊന്തിവന്നു. അവര്ക്ക് ഭക്ഷിക്കുവാന് ഭക്ഷണശാലകള്, പഴകുന്ന ഉടുപ്പുകള് മാറ്റാന് തുണിക്കടകള്, വളരുന്ന മുടിവെട്ടാന് ബാര്ബര് ഷോപ്പുകള്, കൊഴിയുന്ന പല്ലുകള് എടുത്തുകളയാന് ദന്തവൈദ്യന്മാര്, ചെരുപ്പുകുത്തികള്. കൈനോട്ടക്കാര്, ട്രാന്സിസ്റ്റര് കടകള്, എലിവിഷം കൊണ്ടുനടന്നു വില്ക്കുന്നവര്… കോടതിവളപ്പുകളില് കാണാറുള്ള ഈ ബാസാറുകള്, കോടതിയെന്ന സ്ഥാപനത്തിലെന്നപോലെ തന്നെ നീതിക്കു വേണ്ടിയുള്ള കാത്തിരിപ്പിലും ഒരുതരം ശാശ്വതത്വത്തിന്റെയും കാലാതീതതയുടെയും പാറ്റേണ് നെയ്തു ചേര്ക്കുന്നതായി തോന്നി എനിക്ക്. അഥവാ, നീതി കാത്തിരിക്കുന്നവനെയും, അവന്റെ നീതി അപഹരിക്കുന്നവനെയും ചുറ്റിയുണ്ടായ പ്രതിഭാസങ്ങളല്ലെ നമ്മുടെ നഗരങ്ങള്”
നമ്മുടെ നഗരങ്ങള് വലുതാകുംതോറും നീതിയിലേക്കുള്ള വഴികളും നീണ്ടുപോകുന്നുവെന്നാണ് എനിക്ക് തോന്നിയത്. നീതി അല്ലെങ്കില് സത്യം, അറിഞ്ഞോ അറിയാതെയോ അതിലേക്കുള്ള അകലം കൂട്ടിക്കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുകയാണ് മനുഷ്യര്.
ആദ്യതവണ ഞാന് നീതി തേടുന്നവര്ക്കൊപ്പം പോയപ്പോള് അച്ഛന് ഓര്മ്മിപ്പിച്ചു. “എല്ലാവരോടുമുള്ള നിന്റെ തറുതല അവിടെ വേണ്ട. ചോദിക്കുന്നതിന് മതി ഉത്തരം”
നിയമത്തെക്കുറിച്ച് മറ്റൊരു ദൃഷ്ടാന്തമുണ്ട്. ‘ഖസാക്കിന്റെ ഇതിഹാസ’ത്തില്. നൈജാമലിക്ക് കൊടുക്കാതിരിക്കന്വേണ്ടി മാത്രം മൈമുനയെ, മൊല്ലാക്ക മുങ്ങാങ്കോഴിയെക്കൊണ്ട് കെട്ടിക്കുന്നു. നൈജാമിന്റെ പിന്നീടുള്ള കമ്യൂണിസവും വിപ്ലവവും എല്ലാം മുങ്ങാങ്കോഴിക്ക് എതിരെയായിരുന്നു. പോലീസുകാരുടെ ഇടികൊണ്ട് മൃതപ്രായനായ നൈജമാലി ഓര്ക്കുന്ന ഒന്നുണ്ട്. താനും മൈമുനയും മുങ്ങാങ്കോഴിയും മൊല്ലാക്കയും തമ്മിലുള്ള വിഷയത്തില് സ്റ്റേറ്റിന് (പോലീസ്) എന്ത് കാര്യം.
നീതിയെന്ന പാരഡോക്സിനെ രണ്ട് മാസങ്ങള്ക്ക് ശേഷം ഒരിക്കല്ക്കൂടി ഞാന് തേടിപ്പോകണം. അത് അവസാനത്തെത് ആകുമെന്നല്ല, അറിയില്ല. കച്ചേരികള്ക്ക് ചുറ്റും ചന്തപ്പുരകള് വരും, ബാര്ബര്മാര്, ഉടുപ്പുകച്ചവടക്കാര്, എലിവിഷം വില്ക്കുന്നവര് എന്നിങ്ങനെ നഗരം പൊന്തിവരും. പതിയെ വഴി മനസിലാക്കാനാതെ ഞാന് നീതി വേണ്ടെന്ന് വെക്കും. അത് വലിയൊരു അപരാധമാണെന്ന തോന്നല് ഏറിവരുമ്പോള്, ഒരുദിവസം ഉറക്കമുണരുമ്പോള് ഞാനൊരു കീടമായി രൂപാന്തരപ്പെട്ടേക്കും. നീതി തേടുന്നവരും അല്ലാത്തവരുമായ എല്ലാവരും നടക്കുന്ന നഗരത്തിന്റെ ഏതെങ്കിലും ഇടുങ്ങിയ വഴികളിലൊന്നിലേക്ക് ആരെങ്കിലും എന്നെ തോണ്ടിയെറിഞ്ഞേക്കും.
It was three o’clock in the morning and most of the people weren’t sleeping. The brooding night of March was further intensified with the sharp rays of Tube lights, tied to the wooden planks outside the temple ground.
People were waiting for Agni Kanda Karnan to show up. It was no normal process. People were waiting for at least 12 hours until Kanda Karnan finally, in his flashing red robes and smearing palm-torches, decided to perform Kaliyattam.
Agni Kanda Karnan is the local deity of Kannuveed, a coastal village in Kasaragod. He was incarnated as a Theyyam and performed here biennially since time immemorial.
When the first beating of the Drum was heard, people woke up from their slumber. They were sleeping next to the walls, spreading their mattresses and broadsheet newspapers to book the front row. As the Kanda Karnan entered the temple arena, started a commotion. People were literally wrestling each other to make room for them to get the best view of the Theyyam.
Agni Kanda Karnan, The Theyyam which loves fire, is only been performed in Kannuveed village in Kasaragod. There are over 200 Theyyams are performed in the Malabar region. But the ones like Agni Kanda Karnan are very rare and exclusive. And of course, it’s a matter of local pride.
Theyyams are the cultural identity of Malabar region. Performed across the districts of Kannur and Kasaragod, Theyyam is an ancient art form, a testimonial to both the vibrant culture and aesthetical sense of art-centric Kerala. It hails local heroes, legends and communal harmony.
Here in Kannuveed – a remote village that doesn’t feature in the Google Maps and the houses have no border walls – Agni Kanda Karnan serves the role of a protector. This is in fact a reversal of a role for him.
According to the local legend, Agni Kanda Karnan, a deity of a sage known only as Swamy, who was killed in Kannuveed by a greedy Toddy-tapper, took revenge for his master’s death.
He along with five other spirits (Panchabhoothams) wreck havoc in Kannuveed. Finally People have lost the battle and built a temple to the satisfaction of Swamy and Agni Kanda Karnan. Since then, People have chosen Agni Kanda Karnan as their protector and dedicated a Theyyam to worship the deity.
There’s another more appealing story about Kanda Karnan. This one relates to Lord Shiva. Agni Kanda Karnan was the son of Lord Shiva. He was born inside Shiva’s Throat (Kanda) and ejected through his Ear (Karna) – thus the name Kanda Karnan.
He was born to cure the small pox of Goddess Kali. After Kanda Karnan attained the pursuit of his life – to cure Kali – he presented his father with more demands. Shiva gave him fire, but he wasn’t satisfied. He bargained with his father to grab many more wishes like sixteen torches, a fire-place in head among other things before set off his journey to earth.
People in Kannuveed prefer their version of Agni Kanda Karnan story than the one involving Lord Shiva. The temple in Kannuveed is dedicated to the Swamy who brought Agni Kanda Karnan to Kannuveed.
People began to turn out in big numbers when Agni Kanda Karnan started his performance. The Theyyam wears beautiful colors. It has a huge, 12 foot long tower like structure made of coconut leaves and bamboo placed in his head. It’s called the hair. Small lamps are flashing in this tower-hair. He also has the normal black hair, which is very lengthy, almost touching his feet. In the waist lane placed sixteen palm leaf-torches, all of them ablaze. His face has minimal makeup but eye lashes are neatly done. He wears a red dress, which is revealing in the back side. Looking to it one can see the sweating body of an ordinary man possessed by the unknown force of Agni Kanda Karnan.
The Ultimate performance of a Theyyam is known as Kaliyattam. But, acts like Agni Kanda Karnan has a special dress rehearsal of a performance called Vellattam. Vellattam is performed without the ornaments and accessories. It’s performed at least three hours prior to the main performance and lasts for an hour.
Vellattam is more a ritual oriented than Kaliyattam, which is on the other hand a spectacle. Agni Kanda Karnan literally owns the nook and corners of the temple ground when performing the Vellattam. As he has minimal properties and ornaments his moves are swift and steady. Normally his choreography is limited but at times, without any announcements he can unleash the flash jumps and sprints.
Drums set the mood of the performance. But it doesn’t stop Agni Kanda Karnan from breaking the rhythm to do something out of the text book. For example, we see him doing a simple routine like waving his hands to devotees and the next minute he sprints into the corridor to scare away the children and women sitting there. Vellattam comes to a close after Agni Kanda Karnan visits the Eramath Family home, a traditional family who holds special ties with the local legend.
Agni Kanda Karnan’s Kaliyattam is staged along with the eight other deities of Swamy Madom. But, the moment Agni Kanda Karnan steps into the arena, spotlight is naturally falls upon him and the rest of the acts are ignored. The performer in his charming ornaments and scary attire looks like a monster. He wears a red mask, which has details in silver. With two bulging eyes, a pair of extra ears covering the entire cheek area and long chin reaching to his chest, Agni Kanda Karnan’s face resembles that of a dragon fly.
He slowly floats in the arena with sixteen red-hot pal leaf torches, al blazing, attached to his waist. He climbs to a platform raised in the centre of the arena, blesses people by raising hands. As the Drums beat harder and aloud, he dances to the wild tunes of divinity. His assistants are anxious about the ordinary man inside the costume. They take extreme care to check on anything dangerous. They carry water, controls the torches without spoiling the performance.
As the performance reaches the climax, it’s the fire dominates the rituals. Assistants invite Agni Kanda Karnan to a stage resembling a fire place. He carefully climbs to a raised platform. Then the assistants set him ablaze. He takes a spin to splash the fire and douse it. Later he climbs down from the platform, crosses the fire and stands in the arena. Then with the charm of a dancer he shakes his body to eject the torches one by one. As the last torch is withdrawn from his body, he takes a tumble, lies close to the earth and the performance is declared over.
Theyyam performance is highly caste restricted. Not every community can perform every Theyyam. The right to perform Kanda Karnan is restricted to the Malayan community. In most temples the temple committees maintain a long term contract with a family of the community who can play the Theyyam there.
Kannur’s Ilambichy family inherits the right to perform Kanda Karnan and many other Theyyams in Kannu Veed. This year 24 year old (Name Unknown) donned the makeup of Kanda Karnan. He is one of the youngest in the family to perform this Theyyam, says, Krishnan Perumalayan, his father.
The performers are being groomed by their families from a very young age. Theyyams like Agni Kanda Karnan is dangerous as the performers have to play with the fire. There have been instances where Theyyam performers injured and even paralyzed during the performance. But for People like Krishnan Perumalayan, that’s just an occupational hazard. He believes this is no risk at all rather a duty.
“It’s a destiny for us. I’ve been doing performing for decades now. I never felt this as dangerous. If you do it with sincerity and devotion there’s nothing to be afraid of. I teach this my children and they too, do it with sincerity”, he adds.