Let Me Tell You A Story

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!

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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.

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“If an animal’s pride is hurt, it leads to destruction; it’s the same with a man’s pride too!”

9780198097471

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The Strange Case of Billy Biswas (A Novel)

“The most futile cry of man is his wish to be understood”

First thing first- The novel has been very nicely written. The language is simple and the articulation is neat. I admired the vocabulary and sentence forms the author used in his narration.

Synopsis

The narrator meets a person called Billy and becomes friends with him instantly. Both of them were students in America when they first meet. Billy is an affable guy with an aura of charm, delighting every one with his quick wits and engaging conversations. Soon, destiny brings them back to India, and Billy slowly begins to lose his glamour as he starts brooding upon his identity in a philosophical sense. He feels dejected by the excessive materialism he sees around him-people hankering for money, unnecessary showoffs and extravagant lifestyles. I can explain his dismay in the words of Dave Ramsey — ‘We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.’

He decides to marry and expects life to become cheerful again but it does not help.(I agree with this fact) He only becomes more irritable and quarrelsome. Being an anthropologist, he often goes to expeditions to remote villages to study the lifestyle of tribal people. During one such visit, to a village in central India something remarkable happens and he disappears.

The Author

When I was reading the reviews of this book, I found many reviewers pointing out that the author has unjustly remained an obscure figure despite being such a fine writer. His caliber can be appreciated from the fact that he has already been honoured with India’s one of the most notable literary awards (Sahitya Academy Award) in 1982 for his novel The Last Labyrinth. He earned his MS degree from MIT, USA and hence his novels always carry some reminiscence from those days. His family lived in the holy city of Varanasi, which influenced his philosophical cravings.

In Quest for a Meaningful Life

What I loved in the novel was this theme, where a smart, educated guy is driven by his longing to find a meaningful life. I believe in simplicity and find verbose lifestyle quite obnoxious.Therefore, I was quite compassionate towards the character, Billy , who held a strong determination to go against the crowd, the conventional life, because he knew his inner being, his soul will not be satisfied unless he followed his heart. In course, he commits mistakes, learns his lessons when it is too late and conducts acts which only aggrandizes his perils, but it is all these imperfections which gives a more human touch to his character. The portrayal of the fact that the society suppresses such people is also an important part of the theme.

The strange case of Billy Biswal had at last been disposed of. It had been disposed of in the only manner that a human society knows of disposing its rebels, its seers, its true lovers.

I liked the mystical touch the author has given to the whole episode. Billy’s encounter with the tribe rituals, the ancient ruins and the folklores the tribal people live by, makes an intriguing read. You will like the character of the narrator, who tries his best to do everything for his friend Billy, but just one little mistake by him jeopardizes Billy’s extraordinary endeavour. The only element I felt missing was the final conclusion. There is no conclusive idea in the novel, just a narration of the state of affairs which anyways is, thought provoking.

Conclusion

This book is a quick read (240 pages). I finished it in two days in 3 sessions. I will recommend it to anyone who likes such topics as following one’s heart and also who likes philosophical themed stories.The novel is rich in imparting a feeling of adventure, suspense and curiosity. It will surely make an interesting read under the cozy winter sun.

“This is where I belong. This is what I have always dreamt of”

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