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The Winter Winds from the West — Chapter 04

Thripundram, Thiruman, Tattoo and a fancy hand bag?

After paying a silent homage to the departed soul of the ‘King  of pop’, Michael Jackson, one of the most influential entertainers of all times, right before the house of his last stay in Hollywood,  we moved on to the Hollywood walk of Fame, a side walk along the Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. It serves as an entertainment museum, embedded with more than 2,000 five-pointed stars featuring the names of not only human celebrities but also fictional characters honored by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for their contributions to the entertainment industry. Street- shows mimicking the popular artists, display of various physical skills. enchanting parades of fictional characters and showcasing the latest trend in the fashion industry are some of the attractions on the street. You can have a photograph with  dummies of your historic heroes or a warm hug with your favorite cine star- for a price, of course.

The concrete blocks set in the front of the  Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which bear the signatures, autographs, footprints, and hand-prints of nearly 200 popular motion picture celebrities from the 1920s to the present day, are another attraction.This theater is an important land mark, opened in 1927 with the premiere of Cecil B, DeMille’s film The king of Kings and a venue for some Oscar award ceremonies and several prestigious parties.

I am not aware of any place in India,, where foot prints of celebrities are preserved though there are several holy places like, Gaya, Badarinath and Rameswaram  where the Hindus worship imprints on rock etc, believed to be the foot prints of the Gods.

I see around a large number of women proudly projecting the tattoos on their body and that sight brings to my mind the three black dots on the chin of a village girl which added abnormal beauty to her well-chiseled face. There was a black dot on her Adam’s apple too and it was exactly below the dots on her chin giving an impression that it has just dropped, after a quarrel with the others in her chin.

“Kathukuthy thakkai pottu kuriparppen, ammea!
Kuriparppen ammea!
Kanthasami vandhu undhan kurai theerppan”

That is Rakkamma, a dark skinned damsel, sitting on the ‘thinnai or raised platform in front of my house, whom, as a child, I used to watch with admiration and  enjoy her melodious songs. A bundle of colors, wrapped in a red and yellow cotton sari, long hands adorned almost up to half the length with multicolor glass bangles, the humble and humorous villager used to visit us often, carrying a friendly though caged parakeet in her basket and a magic wand. She was many things- in -one. A palmist to alleviate the anxiety on any front, a mid -wife to help the pregnant women when they needed most the help of another woman and a baby sitter when the mothers have to go to the river for a bath and a money lender for my father when he falls short of cash to pay the wages of his employees.

I do observe keenly( from a safe distance of course),the mailanchi/marudani/hanna paste, applied artistically on the hands and feet of girls and young women  during wedding and other auspicious occasions and appreciate the intricate designs of the cosmetic coloring, but on many such occasions, the three  simple dark spots on the chin of Rakkamma, used to pop up in my mind.

Here in Hollywood as well as in several other cities, women, project  the elevation, depression or even level of their body, by painting, some delicately but others elaborately and by trimming their apparels at the required level at the required places so as to obtain the maximum effect of the art work. Even men project their well developed muscles with paintings of cobra,scorpion, wild animals, birds and several other designs, an effort to show-case their masculine power, I am told.Those with impoverished muscles like mine, paint their bald head or neck. My head (exterior!) is enriched; so I do not have that option too.

Tattooing has been an age old method used for various purposes, in several countries- For branding and identification, as a mark of status, rank,decoration for bravery, sexual lure and mark of fertility.Some believed that it helped to ward of ill effects and some had religious significance for that. Slaves and convicts and outcasts were identified by these marks and so were the cattle stock.

The art of tattooing is gaining importance as a powerful tool for attracting the opposite sex, in western countries.

Ammalu, however, dislikes  the extravagant display of designs on the body and call it  derogatory-‘maha avalam!’

Looking at the big, round red colour dot on her forehead, I ask her in a slow voice.

” Don’t I lavishly paint white lines on my forehead, chest, hands and some time on my big belly too? Don’t we anoint the idols of our Gods with sacred pastes vertically or horizontally.  Even the stamping of Sanku-chakra mudras on shoulders is tattooing. You are free to express your dislike but  don’t condemn  the artistic designs as ‘maha avalam”

“What a lovely piece!” She points her finger to a hand bag displayed on a show window, without answering me but looking at another direction.

“That is maha avalam”  I tell her and I have a reason for that. Buying a fancy hand bag from a shop in Hollywood! Am I crazy?

Siva,
Baltimore,
Jan 20, 2010

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