Hello Dear Friends, I hope you all had a nice weekend! I read a novella (a short Novel) this weekend, called Vaadivaasal (Arena), written by CS Chellappa in 1949. The story was so interesting I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Today I felt like telling the story to you all. I have retold the story below concisely in my own language. It’s a story about pride. I hope you too will like it!
There is a huge village crowd gathered at the arena. One of the biggest sports of the time is going to start. In the adjoining enclosure, bulls are being brought. They are decorated and a cloth is wound across their sharp horns. This is the sports of Jallikattu, the fight between man and the beast. One by one, bulls will be let lose in the arena and daring men, will jump in and try to subdue the bulls, untangle the cloth from its horn, signifying their victory over the beast and keep the cloth piece as a badge of honour, valor, power and masculinity. But there is no guarantee of life. Blood will be spilt, and if somebody’s luck is covered with dark clouds, there may be deaths too.
Several years ago, a brave man with the name of Ambuli became popular for defeating lots of bulls and claiming several badges of honor. But one particular bull, named Kaari, a magnanimous beast with powers equal to that of an elephant, tramples Ambuli, throws him in air, and with its sharp horns, tears his body. Ambuli is rescued but he only lives for a short duration, before dying he tells his son, “My son..you must.. “ He dies before completing the sentence. This bull becomes the most dreaded bull since then. It’s owner is the landlord himself, the organiser of this sport.
The bull grows even more powerful and its skin becomes tough as leather under landlord’s care, because his servants feed it with nutritious food and trains it in ferocious manoeuvers. Every year when the sport is organized, the bull is brought into the arena at last, with great drumbeats, and all the men are thrown an open challenge, and magnificent rewards are announced. But who can beat the wild beast Kaari! Only blood spills and bones break. People feel scared of the bull. ‘The landlord’s bull is invincible.’ ‘ It had killed the bravest of men Ambuli. How can anyone else stand before it.’ And the landlord’s pride surges and he smiles cunningly at this.
Several years later, today we are at the same arena where the incident of Ambuli getting killed had happened. Two young men are standing near the enclosure. One is called Picchi and the other, Marudan. Picchi has come to participate in the sport and Marudan his friend has come to support him. An old man standing next to them, who has witnessed several of this sports in past, feels inclined to speak about the popular bulls to these yongsters, as the scene is set for the event. The crowd gets excited as the sports begin. Amidst the chaos and excitement and heat of the sun, the bulls are let in one by one and daring men jump in to show their valor. But Picchi jumps in only when the most powerful of the bulls are let in. He subdues them all and instantly becomes a center of attraction for the crowd. ‘Will this valiant youth beat the demon beast Kaari?’ people start talking like this. ‘No No, Kaari is invincible. The landlord has fed it and made it strong and wicked like himself. No one can beat it.’
As time passes, the moment arrives when Kaari has to be let in. Amidst the clarion of drum beats the arrival of Kaari in the arena is announced. It walks in majestically like a king. The landlord’s chest swells with pride. ‘Oh look at the beast! How arrogant! It seems like human more than an animal.’ ‘Poor Picchi will be torn apart’ The old man also becomes sad. He has developed affection for Picchi. He warns him and recalls the fateful day when he had seen the bravest of the men, Ambuli, get killed by Kaari. He gets anxious for Picchi and even suggests that he should not go to fight Kaari. But Picchi says with conviction- ‘I will go! I need to regain my father’s lost pride!’ The old man’s heart skips a beat when he realizes that Picchi is actually Ambuli’s son!
When Kaari enters the arena, Picchi jumps in at once, the crowd goes mad with excitement, fear and beastly instincts. Picchi jumps and catches hold of the bull’s hump with one hand and swiftly catches his one horn with the other hand. The bull tries to shake him away, and roars like a lion. But Picchi holds him tight and tries to twist its horn to one side. The bull gets furious and starts jumping to throw Picchi away. Picchi sways with the bull’s body like a doll. After three powerful jumps, incessant shaking of head and ferocious roars, the bull starts to get tired but Picchi is still holding fast, though the sweat in his palms causes the loosening of his grips. In one sudden jerk by the bull, Picchi is thrown up in air and the bull makes an attack on the falling body of Picchi. The horn pierces the thigh of Picchi, making him shriek and clench his teeth but at the same instant Picchi rips the cloth piece from its horn and falls on floor with a thud and dust rises up in the air. Picchi has snatched the cloth from its horn! Picchi has got victory! Marudan pulls his body out from the arena just before the bull tries to charge on him and kill him.
While Picchi is saved, the bull gets mad with rage. It charges towards the crowd of people and tramples upon whosoever comes its way. Blood is spilt and a stampede ensues. The bull runs towards the river, its horn soaked in blood and it roars like a lunatic. It goes to the river bank and starts excavating land with its horns.
‘ Kaari is defeated!’ ‘The landlord’s bull is defeated’ ‘Oh the brave man’ ‘Lift him , stop his blood’ ‘He is our hero’ people talk like this in excitement. The old man’s eyes become wet with tears. ‘The son has regained the pride of his father’ he says. Meanwhile the landlord shows no expression on his face. He leaves the scene quietly. And with few of his servants goes to the river side. He sees Kaari and the madness that has come over it. The beast continues to roar and scrape earth with its horns, raising dust all over. The landlord looks around. There is no villager in sight. All are celebrating their new hero there at the arena. He takes out his revolver, aims at the bull and shoots it down. The bull dies with a groan. The landlord gives it a brief cold look, then turns back and starts walking back towards the arena.
“If an animal’s pride is hurt, it leads to destruction; it’s the same with a man’s pride too!”