Veteran bull tamer wears scars of wounds with pride
MADURAI: Even after multiple fractures, many injuries and over 125 sutures to treat wounds, this man is bubbling with enthusiasm and is zealous about participating in the bull taming sport Jallikattu and training others to enable them to take part in it.
“The ability to endure pain is very important and a passion for the game and a spiritual inclination is the foundation to build endurance that makes you strong, both physically and emotionally,” says Mudakkathan Mani, a veteran bull tamer.
Baring his chest, he recalls fracture to his rib cage and other incidents over the past many years that led to broken bones, muscle tears and so on. “In all there are 138 sutures in my body.”
“I broke my left wrist once. Even today, there are some challenges due to that. These incidents strengthened my resolve. What matters is satisfaction by being a part of the sport. That is the driving force. When I tamed as many as 39 bulls on a single day (2009), I was ecstatic. It makes pain fade,” he told PTI.
On the challenges, he says the sport often becomes tricky and intriguing when vested interests operate as a team on the arena to prevent talented men from approaching bulls.
“We call them blockers. They surround a man with a good potential to win. Sometimes the prospective winner is blocked by holding his T-shirt from behind. Or they may use any trick like thrusting all of a sudden their legs in front of the man likely to win.” In the melee, a relatively ‘less talent’ will try to embrace the bull and win.
A specialist in training people, he says he has so far trained nearly 1,000 young men in a span of over 10 years. “The people I trained today are champions. I am happy to not only play jallikattu but also to pass on my knowledge to all those who are interested. That gives me joy and contentment. Jallikattu is my life and I am living and will live for it,” he says.
Mani, in his late 30s was a Kabaddi player who switched to jallikattu and has successfully tamed over 3,500 bulls. His career graph is sparkling with an envious collection of prizes and trophies, a chunk of which he says he donated to orphans through the district authorities.
To a question, he says it is mandatory to stay away from alcoholic beverages and maintain a life of discipline. “Thadumaritta thadam mariduveenga,” he says. The meaning is wavering from commitment would eventually lead to a different path.
“We don’t regard this as a mere sport and bull as only an animal. Bull is one of the symbolisms you find in the theme of spiritual values and practices that is built on the principle of harmonious living and co-existence.”
In recent years, Mani says the growing popularity of the sport well beyond the rural regions has led to politics and bickering to an extent which in turn influences the judgment made by some local committees on picking victors.
“Winners should be chosen in a transparent, fair and honest manner. They should honour talent without giving room for any kind of bias.”
A photograph of Mani holding a ferocious bull in tight embrace was the model for a jallikattu statue of a bull and a tamer in Tiruchy and for other kinds of promotional materials, including paintings, his trainees say and display them with a smile. “That image could be summed up as the quintessential posture for a correct embrace and it serves as a guide for aspirants like me. The statue in Tiruchy and the image found in other promotional themes is that of our Guru and you could spot him easily,” Akash and other trainees say with pride.