A translation of Theodore Baskaran's captivating account of the true story of a Tamil brigand in Colonial India.
When we were in school, and later when we were in college, a genre of humour, heavily dependent on puns, homophones, and lateral thinking, flourished. These were the ‘kadi’ (tamil for bite) jokes. A few of us were accomplished masters, while everyone took a stab at it. At its peak, all popular magazines ran ‘kadi’ jokes, with Ananda Vikatan’s Mr. X jokes leading the way. Then slowly, the popularity of kadi jokes waned, and it went into a decline. Of course, die-hard afficionados kept the genre alive, punning away in like-minded company. Today, it seems to be making a comeback, taking the form of ‘Thathuvams,’ forwarded by email and text messages.
A couple of days ago, I was walking on Arcot Road, and to avoid the water, had to pass perilously near a transformer. I was reminded of Bijoy telling me very matter-of-factly that it was dangerous to walk under a transformer as suddenly one could be spattered with boiling oil – apparently this is a coolant and is one of the things that go wrong very often with a transformer. I couldn’t help but point out to him that it would be even more dangerous if it had Vijayakanth connected to it. Just earlier that day, Bijoy had been telling me about a movie called Narasimha, which he insisted I must watch for its sheer comic value, in which when Vijayakanth, the eopnymous hero of the movie, is tortured by the bad guys, they try to electrocute him. But he shakes his body, and the transformer explodes! Now, I haven’t watched the movie, and Bijoy’s imagination is definitely a treat to behold – was it not he who suggested, when he was knee-high and in knickerbockers (well, not exactly knee-high, more like chest high, for he is a tall lad, and definitely not in knickerbockers, bt in shorts, but what the hell – it sounds better this way!), that a good way of taking revenge on a guy with a telephone would be send him a fax – the telephone would be unable to take the load of the paper being sent through and would explode!