Saturday, April 9, 2011

The tale as intended... as extolled.

I don't know how many of you out there were actually waiting for me to write this post. But that doesn't matter. Some famous author once quoth, "It is the tale, not he who tells it."

It had been almost a decade since I'd gone to the land of my ancestors. That place where it was quite common to see man and beast (think gargantuan pachyderms here!) walk side by side... both sometimes quite drunk! And needless to say, I was very excited. Though I have a few relatives who make me wish I could stuff them up in a bottle and send them afloat the Indian Ocean, there are others who're just like my family - sometimes more so than my own. And it was such a tender moment being the center of all their affections.

The main reason I'd decided to go to Kerala was because they had an immensely popular festival coming up in my ancestral village. Like any other festival of the religious kind, this one is accompanied by long rows of elephants bedecked in gold, music that can make a dying man dance and fire-crackers! My gods... fire-crackers! The Nemmara Vela (the one I attended) is renowned for its firepower. And boy, oh boy! They weren't kidding! The Nemmara Vela celebrations involve enough fireworks to make the place seem like something out of the American Revolution.

And rest assured, I was not very fond of the explosions. I remember having a throbbing pain in my right ear after the first boom and never stayed back to see it finish.

But the real reason the festival so mesmerized me was the pachyderms. The rows upon rows of elephants all so majestic and imposing... the quintessential gentle giants. It was amazing seeing the beasts listen to their mahouts without any kind of physical goading. Clearly the bond between Man and Beast was the strongest there. I did indeed feel a little sorry for the poor things when they had to stand in the scorching sun with the Chendaa and the Panchavaadhyams pelting out rhythms with increasing gusto. Apparently the goddess in whose favor this festival was being held heard my pleas and some well meaning people irrigated those huge legs and trunks... those gray trees with power enough to squish an adult.

And then there were stories... as there is always. Legends came to life with my maternal uncles telling me all sorts of stories of how the festival came into being. And that was when I clearly understood what Mr. King meant when he said, "It is the tale, not he who tells it." I had always been a very attentive listener when the tales were ancient and the characters relate-able. I learnt of forgotten kings and noblemen with nobler deeds now only remembered in song. I saw the age old battle between the Good and the Evil with Good prevailing once again. And I smiled. I was back home.

Without a doubt, I was sad when it was time to leave. And now as I sit here, I realize that I had intended to tell the tale in an entirely different fashion. Now I realize... It IS the tale, not he who tells it...after all!

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