Have you ever witnessed a bull race? It is a sheer display of exhilaration, heroism and raw energy. A few years ago, we watched a local bull race near Ullal, in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka and it was quite an experience.
As we approached the venue, we saw huge hordes of people from surrounding villages making their way to witness the event. We didn’t have to ask for any directions for we simply followed the crowds. The local villagers had already taken the best spots and the VIPs were seated in a temporarily erected shamiana. We managed to find a place for ourselves close to the VIPs so that we too could enjoy a great view. It seemed to be primarily a male sport as I could hardly find any women among the spectators. There were two tracks covered with ankle-deep muddy water and separated from each other and the spectators by red mud embankments. We realized that the contestants would have to race in pairs in perhaps a dozen heats. Soon the contestants flaunting their bare chests, turbans and bright coloured folded veshtis and shorts paraded with their respective pairs of bulls. The bulls were also decorated with bright ribbons, woolen flowers and bells. Each contestant was accompanied by a couple of men- perhaps their coaches and strategists - helping them to keep their nerves.
The spectators were in complete frenzy when the race started. The contestants raced amidst complete cacophony of cheering crowds, village drums and whistles. We were sure this egged the bulls and their men to get into the zone and sprint through the muddy waters. The bulls ran like crazy and the men tried to keep pace by not letting go off the rope that connected the two. It was not clear who was controlling whom, if the men were racing the bulls or if the bulls were dragging the men at a speed beyond their limits. The men who got the prizes became instant heroes bringing glory to their families and villages. The bulls got their share of indulgence and the spectators went back charged contagiously with the raw energy that filled the air.