Published: 24th February 2017
This girl from Pondy rode across Tamil Nadu on her Bullet to rouse the masses to support Jallikattu
Pondicherry girl Maheswarii Marimuthu rode her bike across Tamil Nadu to collect support for Jallikattu before the ban was lifted, following the massive protests across the state
She was eighteen when her brother used to bring home his friend’s fancy sports bikes. "He never used to let me ride them or even go near them. But that's what made me want it more," says 29-year-old Maheswarii Marimuthu, who just finished riding 2000 kilometres across Tamil Nadu on her motorcycle to collect support to lift the ban on the state's traditional bull-taming sport, Jallikattu. “I was raised to believe that it’s okay to be fiercely independent and unapologetic about your opinions. If people call me strong, it's because of my father," smiles Maheswarii. It all began when she started the bikers club, On & Off Roaders, in Puducherry that rides to create awareness on road safety, helmets, etc., on a regular basis.
Biker tripping: Maheswarii pitstops at Kangeyam
“My grandfather used to raise cows in a small town near Pudukkottai. After my father moved to Puducherry we led a typical city life. I picked up an interest in Jallikattu when I came to know of the ban. Though I have never seen it in real life, I have watched it on television and my father used to tell me stories about the sport. So, I did my research and I was surprised to know that it’s a historic Tamil tradition that’s been carried out for thousands of years and it even has references in one of The Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature, Silappathikaram. It’s a part of our Tamil culture,” says the MBA graduate.
She adds, “Bulls are treated as the pride of the family by these farmers. They spend almost half their earnings to raise them. The sport has many regulations that ensures the animal is unharmed. If the bull is hurt or cut, the player is barred from the game. The bull that cannot be tamed is the one that’s used for breeding. Now, if there’s no sport, these farmers find no purpose to raise them. Many have realised how this ban is threatening our native cattle breeds. Ten years ago, we used to have a cow-to-bull ratio of 4:1. But now it has shot up to 8:1 and it is going to slip further due to this ban.” That’s why she decided to do her bit and collect signatures across the state from people who realise the need for Jallikattu.
Bull Run: Maheswarii with her bullet during the Jallikattu ride
She started her ride on January 2, 2017 from Puducherry and covered Chennai, Vellore, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Salem, Erode, Tirupur, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi, Pudukkottai, Sivagangai, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam and Cuddalore in a span of five days. Along the way, she faced legal issues that forced her to stop for a day but that didn’t deter her from continuing her trip. “I was taken by surprise when people from different places offered me food and shelter without me even asking for it. I remember when I reached SS Kottai near Sivagangai, which is a hub for farmers who raise bulls, around midnight, a lady recognised me and asked me to stay the night at her place. Then when I was near Dharmapuri, I had some issues with a tyre and one man immediately woke up the area’s mechanic in the middle of the night to fix it for me. People treated me like I was one of their own,” says Maheswarii with a smile. She says that if we lose our native breeds we will be forced to drink milk only from Jersey cows, which will create a number of health issues
When people saw me, the first question they asked was ‘Any help?’ It’s extremely touching to see their love and support for the sport
Maheswarii Marimuthu, Biker and Activist
From her trip she collected around 8000 signatures from people who support Jallikattu. She said one 35-year-old lady who used to raise bulls and has never stepped out of her hometown even offered to come along with me and create more awareness for the sport. “People confuse animal cruelty with this sport. It’s not like Spain’s bullfighting where the bull is killed. These farmers worship the bulls after the game. And during my trip, there was absolutely no one who came up to me and said they are against Jallikattu,” says Maheswarii.