Monday, September 30, 2013


“When I was a boy, the Dead Sea was only sick!”
-George Burns

There is no other creature that fears death as much as humans. But if there exists an even greater fear that haunts them every day of their life, it’s the fear of ageing. The slow disintegration in their journey towards that big exit, as is to be understood, would top the list of Strong Human Fears irrespective of the sexes. Death is not an every day worry as one conveniently tries to place it in a very distant future, and as nobody quite knows for sure what’s on the other side of the wall. But that’s not the case with ageing. The living cases of disintegration and decay, up and about, surrounding you are frightening with omens of an impending phase of strife and suffering.

However this fear doesn’t actually manifest to an upsetting and recognizable size before one is perhaps thirty. As a colleague once said, “Overnight, when your favorite food starts to give you flatulence and you struggle to run the same distance that you effortlessly covered the day before, don’t worry, you have turned thirty!” I’m not quite sure of the scientific side, but I have to agree there was some amount of honesty in the hopelessness in his voice. Like, they say, the best age for a woman to bear your first child is before thirty. And studies have also proved that by thirty years of age, at least three in ten males start to go bald. So there is to be something about that age when the temple that is our body slowly starts to soak in one of the harsher realities of life.

Comedienne Joan Rivers, her face dreadfully stiff from all that Botox, in a talk show few months ago, said, “It’s very hard (to age) if you’re attractive… It’s very hard for a woman to get older, and older men (gasps)…! I always faked orgasm, but with these older men, you moan and groan in the wrong ear, they don’t hear it. It’s such a waste!” She vividly lists various other snags of getting old in most of her stand-ups. You look at her face, and a shudder runs through your middle. It’s pulled in all directions to keep it from collapsing on the sides. The poor woman can hardly move it to show glee or grief. It’s unnerving to look at the sad remains that once was her face entirely mummified by those countless cosmetic interventions employed to preserve its “youthful vigor”. And preserve, it did. It’s as if you pulled a “statue” on her!

Studies prove that there has been a 50% boom in the number of Americans (majority falling in the 40-50 age group) who underwent cosmetic procedures since the start of the century. Europe and Asia have also come up with mindboggling numbers encouraging this already booming enterprise. And the number of men buying into the idea has been found to be quite staggering. All of the business cashing in on the basic human fear of ageing. What one fails to understand at the time is that the effects of these plastic surgeries that are expected to halt the clock are only temporary. Later on they merely go on to become a ridiculous parody of a messed-up still life.

Even though the concern about its affect on the looks upsets women more, men tend to understand the change from other bodily malfunctions besides merely the outward appearance, although a fair share of them in the entertainment industry are unapologetic to express their uneasiness regarding their waning beauty as well.

While being superficial, the physical appearance is only one of the numerous aspects that are scary about getting older. You dig deeper and you start to stumble on an absent-minded head faculty, a bitter heart and a laid-back intestine that propels endless farts as untimely as possible, only to mention a few blips. However, what is more difficult to cope with is very mental. Even the thought of getting older is psychologically taxing at so many different levels. It can widely be noticed that self-esteem starts to shrink into its shell after a certain age. You stop to have topics to discuss with the kids anymore ‘cause they haven’t heard of Kurt Cobain and they find Elizabeth Hurley old, not hot!

World is a cold and merciless place for the outdated. Heartbreaking narrative in Marquez’s No one writes to the Colonel and the crumbling imagery drawn in Haneke’s Academy award winning Amour are all vivid depictions of this decrepit state. But that is way too distant to even start thinking about! (Shudder)

I was not much of a fretter myself. But the idea for the first time walked to the middle of my personal space and jeered when I was in my mid twenties. One of the random kids in the neighborhood addressed me as “uncle”. It was this gigantic ugly kid in his twelfth grade (I know!), only a few years younger than me, peeking over the compound wall asking me to toss back his basketball. It was even more heartbreaking when I found out that the boy wasn’t even kidding. Bloody butt-wipe!

Even though methods to prevent and reverse the process of ageing is rigorously on in many research centers spread across our youth-obsessed planet, there is no thought attributed to ponder over the sad state that the limited space and resources available around us will be pushed to. Just imagine the world still filled with people from 500 years ago trying to catch up with Testament’s latest Thrash metal album! To maintain the balance, let’s stop being all selfish and Joan Rivers about it. Let’s accept the fact and chew down the truth (only it sounds like the ore clobbering inside the crusher).

It’s in fact redundant when you say you don’t believe in ageing, like Virginia Woolf once did (pfftt). That is only a denial mechanism used by some really old women who wished, “Age was just a number”. You Bet! You acknowledge it or not, it has started it’s effect from the very day you were born! There is no cure to it, sweetheart! So stop fretting, and smile on as Mark Twain once said, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.”

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Something is not right. At least it doesn’t seem that normal. When all the bosoms in the vicinity are overstated, you doubt if you are still standing in the real world. If every girl has breasts that big, invariably some divine intervention should have happened. Certain realists might start to consider the community service of an overgenerous plastic surgeon. Another strange thing is, there are way too little men around, especially with so many breasts walking.  Not that any of them are exposed or anything but is a pleasant sight, especially for men.

It’s a massive procession of women. Thousands of them. In fact, of all age. Decked in glittery brooches and necklaces, and wound in the flashiest possible saris. Each of them holding a special kind of wooden canister lamp with five lit wicks. The faces of these lamp-bearers are lit up like chandeliers, and kaboom! That is where the suspense cracks. You shoot a second glance to that shy countenance, which you are forced to from the chill that the first one gave you, to detect the first sign of cheating. That beautifully painted face follows the very same tradition as the unbelievable bosom. The strong square jaws and burly nose squints through the dense make up. One by one, hints of machismo uncover in dull bursts. The drag disappoints you more than it excited you in the beginning. That’s a lot of men in drag! A software engineer, a gym instructor, a bus driver, a sales executive, a body builder and a guy with the thickest eyebrows in the world, are all a part of the fanfare. All cross-dressed up as the prettiest of women they can possibly transform themselves to.

This should be a new addition to the quirky list of La Tomatina, Hadaka Matsuri, Holi and the Boryeong Mud Festival. Because you are standing right in the middle of the Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku- the procession that’s a part of an annual festival where thousands of men dressed up in drag carry the traditional lamp as an offering to the Kottankulangara Bhagavati, an incarnation of Goddess Durga. The procession is a hallmark of the two-day festival, celebrated on the 10th and the 11th of Meenam month of the Malayalam calendar (March/ April) every year, at Kottankulangara Temple (with a roofless shrine) in a small town called Chavara in Kerala. The offering in no way has anything to do with one’s sexual orientation whatsoever. Their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers are actually the ones who help them mutate, and the entire process is observed with utmost solemnity and religious dedication. It is believed that the disguise pleases Goddess Bhagavati and She grants any wish you desire. Many of these macho damsels would vouch for the credibility of Her blessings from their prior experience of probably the last forty or fifty years. They include men who are cured of chronic illnesses and those who were rescued from life-threatening financial meltdowns. But one may still wonder, why all the fancy dress?
The folktale has it that, back in the day, a group of cowherd boys chanced upon a rock deep in the woods, which they used to crack a coconut. The impact did the stone harm and it started to ooze blood. Intrigued, when one of the boys ventured forth and touched the bleeding rock he dropped dead that very moment to the shock of his friends. The boys rushed back to the village and fetched the elders along with an astrologer, who examining the rock, declared a divine presence in it, and that it was a Swayambhu or a self-manifested deity. Apparently the Goddess disliked being touched by a male hence the unfortunate casualty. And therefore, to further approach the stone, in the absence of any women around, the men and boys donned the female costumes for the first time. They touched the deity, and they were unscathed this time. So it was inferred that to please the Goddess, a man had to do drag. Hence the tradition of these wo-men!

Today, owing to the growing popularity of Bhagavati’s “blessings” men from even outside the state flocks in every year to carry the lamp. In the festive season, areas surrounding the temple is transformed into hundreds of green rooms specialized in make-up and costumes of these devotees. Even the houses in the vicinity of the temple host these makeovers. While many find it extremely difficult to fit into the shoes of a woman, there are also those who effortlessly slip into place without much hue and cry. Some really burly ones stick out like sore thumbs, but there are some others that are remodeled into drop-dead gorgeous dames you can’t take your eyes off of.

Although it has the flair and fervor of any gay pride parade, a man’s sexuality is never questioned here. In fact this practice is regarded with great admiration, and during the procession, gawking or making passes at these wo-men is a strict no-no. Two nights of these processions send home thousands of comforted men who view the year to come, with great prospects.

With traditions of Ardhanareeshwara and Mohini, even though it shouldn’t come as an absolute shock to the Hindu psyche, the rest of the world must still be restraining a chuckle about this unusual practice called Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku.  But which custom has ever been exempted from the constant tease of the rest of the world that’s not a part of it? It’s only human nature, and that shouldn’t stop you from having fun.  
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...