A Dusi Day - Last month I was in Dusi, a small village situated at a distance of ‘4 rupee bus fare’ from Kanchipuram to video archive the well known Tamil folk art form Therukoothu…a dance-drama-song-story telling art form. The event went on for 10 days…in fact 10 colorful nights. It gave me an exposure to quite a lot unexpected events that are, since then ‘archived’ as unforgettable-nostalgic experiences. Thinking about this, I can’t be but speak about the cold ghostly touch of a cyclone that left us stay the whole night without any light, soaked in rain at the ground of Drupadi Amman temple.
Like all the other days, my partner Sundar and I arrived at the temple around 7 pm with the camera, tripod and other equipments. Usually I have this weird way of carrying camera ‘just’ wrapped in a bathroom towel. My definition for this gentle act is that I have no time to unzip the camera bag, take it out and then put the battery- tape followed by an easy shoot. Carrying it in towel- fully loaded like a soldier’s gun- gives me all kind of flexibility with her - feeling her tight on my arms ready for action. Having said this I assure that I am not a camera person for planned actions but for a ‘hiding animal’ movement. May be I can fit for the role of a wildlife-news-sports cinematographer than a filmer. But on that specific day, for some strange reason I felt like carrying the cam in the bag itself. As Vinod sir once said, just follow self-intutions…it works for your good, in a way everyone’s.
It was the 6th night of Therukoothu. Koothu normally starts at 10-11pm and will continue to the next day morning 7-8 am. The ground is always crowded with village women and children; mostly grand moms with the tiny ones of family. Like every other Indian village art form, Theru koothu also happens during the summer time. It used to be the only source of entertainment for the village lot out of the dirty summer heat. During koothu we can find the entire village crowds present there as early as possible marking their own territory on the ground with mats or plastic sheets, finally ending up sleeping there enjoying the gentle breeze of the open space. For that weather it’s better to keep ourselves close to the sand in the ground coz that’s really ‘Kewl’.
Being in the village for 12 days made me realize a few things. My life in Kerala, and then in metro’s like Hyd, Chennai, Pune or Mumbai failed to teach me anything about India. Now I really do understand why Gandhi said that the heart of India beats in the villages. India is not a city – it is a big village. Every single person of Dusi have this Qn for you whether u r a known or unknown, “Sapitingala ?” ( Had food?). I heard the same Qn from each of them- one person repeating it as many number of times as possible and at almost any hour of the day when they see you. The people there live on bare minimums. I had 2 rupee tea and 1 rupee idly for first time. Capitalism is eating these places too. It was very obvious. U find all handsets and connections there but no toilets.
A cyclone and rain during the summer, was so unexpected. Suddenly it became so windy around 9 pm and Dusi (Dusi means Dust) started flying. Along with the Koothu artists, Sunder and I, got into a school building where the villagers provide us with a good dinner. For our bad luck the dust fell all over our body and the plates. The doors and windows started behaving so rude with the wind. If I have had taken an ariel shot of the whole place, I am sure, the school would’ve been like a huge insect waving it’s wings. The power went off and it became pitch dark. For a while we felt like there is an earth quake and the whole building is shaking. The ‘Koothu’ of the weather went on for half an hour. Finally Vayu (God of wind) gave way to Indra (God of rain and the King of all). The winds stopped and it started raining heavily.
The Therukoothu of the night got cancelled. We went back to the temple side and lied down on the floor. Late night, when the rain stopped for a while, villagers started with a few interesting rituals. Leaving Sundar back to take care of equipments, I got into one of the bullock carts with the camera. Naughty Indra, after his Kit-kat break, continued to shower ‘blessings’ soaking my camera. The only solution was to continue shooting, covering her with my T-shirt. So did I, in no time removed my t-shirt and covered the cam keeping it's mouth alone exposed for shoot. Well, i guess being a male has one such advantage. :)
I saw the first animal sacrifice in my life and people getting processed and all. Came back half naked, fully drenched with camera half covered with the t-shirt. T-shirt tricks always worked well with me. Just thought of a similar experience happened while studying in Madras Christian College. While editing a college project at MRC editing suit, the cooler started leaking. (There was no AC then, I guess a cooler was hired). It was late at night 2 or 3am and I was all alone. The water spread all over and I was doubtful whether it will spoil the equipments. Guess what, the editor was found on the floor wiping the whole editing suit with t-shirt.
Well, leaving all that...a lot is there to speak about the village Dusi, probably I must retire from everything on day and scribble these memories.