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Thalaikoothal: The ‘Custom’ Of Murdering One’s Parents in Tamil Nadu

I believe- if some of the best emotions are poured into an article you write, or a work you do- when you’re fervid with anger or some feeling strong enough to melt your heart… you’d also move the human race and perhaps make it more human. I’d add that it is when the heart is rendered helpless and unsupported by our loved ones… the realities show their ugly face and tell us just how inhuman humanity or a part of it-could be. Something that happens in the districts of Tamil Nadu in India could unravel all the composure we maintain as sons and lovers of Mother Nature. The practice of thalaikoothal raged my heartbeats. I’m appalled even by the mere cacophonous sound of this very word-thalaikoothal especially after I knew what it stood for.

Shahina KK of Tehelka perfectly puts it, “Several glasses of coconut water. A mouthful of mud. Perhaps a poison injection. She is just one of many old parents in Tamil Nadu dying in this way. But no one blinks at these ritual murders.” Shahina is talking about Mariamma who could be killed because her family cannot afford to have her anymore. Yes, if you could add a mind over this matter-Mariamma is an old woman in Tamil Nadu. And she is not angry. She has accepted this as a matter of fate and circumstances. There are many more such parents who’re starved for days and then made to gulp down milk. So much milk, and in a ‘close the nose’ fashion that the milk being poured in the throat reaches the respiratory track and ultimately kills the person as “A starving person cannot withstand even a moment’s suffocation,” says 60-year-old Paul Raj, co-ordinator of a district elders’ welfare association in Shahina’s report.

This brings us to a level perhaps the greatest of leaders may not have expected as visionaries of a country that teaches children to believe that “Parents are Supreme Gods”. India has faced riots, famines, floods and draughts. So many unnamed mortals died a silent death under the plethora of money-less existence. Truly, the rich is becoming richer. And the poor is unfortunately, being murdered-by the sweat of reality and the dust and grime left of the ash of their dreams-broken, killed and burnt.

A reader, Bhaskarjyoti Mali rightly says, “I was reading an article about how a family was inviting the whole Bollywood for a wedding, spending several crores and then this! Such a contrast!” Another reader Jaimin Desai adds, “Hunger, poverty kills thousands daily. But nobody gives it a second thought. ‘India shining’ is true only for those who’ve got a few shillings.”.

Thalaikoothal is an accepted practice in all the poverty-stricken districts of Tamil Nadu. So should we simply build a well in every district of every town-so that anyone who thinks he has an ‘expensive’ family member can have them go and jump in? Wouldn’t that also reduce all the head-ache of buying so much oil, milk and injections? Should the children who murder their parents be allowed to have children of their own? There are questions most authorities fail to ask. Local doctors, village heads and district magistrates are witnesses to the ritual murders and collective abandoning from the distinction between crime, custom and reality.

Are we so poor that we unmask the devil of helpless poverty to kill our parents by our own hands? Helpless poverty. That’s a term we’ve heard a million times-mostly over-used. Has poverty depressed our humanity to a blithe? Can we improve the situation? Can we change what we see? Is the urban India even aware that people are not just dying out of poverty but they’re killing too? Or are we too late already?

Comments

Dear Sharontina,
Today I am reading Mukut's account of witch hunts & now your account of Thalaikonnthal: two practices which I had no idea were happening.
Your story brought me to tears, and I think how did we get here?! And I remember- it is because we have forgotten to see ourselves in another. Because we have forgotten that great truth. But if we could remember, we would change everything on this planet of ours.
Our voices can help others remember.
I am grateful that you are bringing this to light,
Carrie

Sharontina's picture

Thanks

Yes dear Carrie,

I am doing more case studies on this right now. In addition to this the so called honor killings and sacrificing their first borns is also practised in the villages here. Juts imagine if these parents do have hearts or eyes to look into the eyes of those innocent lives before slaughtering them.

I will get back to you with more details and the efforts being taken by our ngos to stop this.

regards

Merlin Sharontina

Wendyiscalm's picture

APPALLING

Sharontina, I want to say "thank you" for sharing this with me but I am disgusted and beyond words. It really makes me question humankind and how we have not come very far. In America, young people are valued. Old people are not. That has always been disgusting to me. I thought India valued age and wisdom. I just don't know what the answer is, as no one does. It definitely makes me know I have to sit down with myself and discuss with myself what life is REALLY for, what it is about and what it isn't. Who is there for us and who isn't. Sometimes the very people you expect to be there for you no matter what aren't. What do you call that? Unless the people doing this horrible act, have some knowledge of the afterlife that none of the rest of us are sure of, it is pure diabolical and inhumane. I suppose it is one thing if people want Dr. Khevorkian to end their life, which I never quite "got" but this. It will be interesting to read how some other WP people feel. Thanks for the courage to tell us about this. it couldn't have been easy for you to write.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together).

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Sharontina's picture

i will get back to you

Yes dear Carrie,

I am doing more case studies on this right now. In addition to this the so called honor killings and sacrifcing their first borns is also practised in the villages here. Juts imagine if these parents do have hearts or eyes to look into the eyes of thos innocent lives before slaughtering them.

I will get back to you with more details and the efforts being taken by our ngos to stop this.

Merlin Sharontina

Sharontina's picture

Of course disgusting

Yes Wendy,

Anyone is disgusted and beyond words coming across such a news. These murders keep happening and no one is guilty or punished for this crime. Its just another day for them to carry out their daily routine.
I will get back to WP with some news on this.

Merlin Sharontina

Wendyiscalm's picture

Amnesty International

Sharontina,

Don't know if my last message went through so I am repeating it.

Have you contacted Amnesty International at all. They are known worldwide for making change in impossible situations where others can't seem to. I suggest you contact them as a starting point AIUSA.ORG or google Amnesty International. I have been involved in their take action program for years and have seen the impossible done. It is worth a try for a start.

Let me know how else I can help. I don't have money but I am creative and am known for making things happen. This is a big one though.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),

Wendy

It is not enough for me to cry over these things. I have to at least move my feet in the direction of change even though sometimes it won't work. Sometimes when a person works really hard towards something and you can't make it happen, God or Allah or the universe or whoever is running this messy world we live in, steps in and brings a solution from a completely different source because he sees we deserve it. That's waht I think anyhow.

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Sharontina's picture

Thanks Wendy

Yes Wendy,

Anyone is disgusted and beyond words coming across such a news. These murders keep happening and no one is guilty or punished for this crime. Its just another day for them to carry out their daily routine.
I will get back to WP with some news on this.

Merlin Sharontina

Sharontina's picture

Sorry

Dear Wendy,

Those were encouraging. But i have come with something else now. Yes, its my story. i am not sure if you read my posting "Shun the sight of a widow". My husband was murdered last Sep, 28. I have been facing a lot of problems, life threats and tortures from then on from his people. Its all for money. They wanted the house, insurance money, and then some gold (actually gold is given in plenty by the girl's family as dowry here in India, especially in Kanyakumari where i live this dowry issue brings an increase in the death toll of young women). Now that my husband is no more, i am doing everything and all that i can do to protect myself and my kids from them.

After so much of struggle running to the police station and the church authorities now after four days i have been given a break by this cruel fate. its yet to continue. But for now, at least for two days i have some rest in my town. I am not sure when this struggle is going to end. But my struggle to fight for womankind will continue too along with this and all those issues that come to my notice and disturb around me - my voice will raise high and am there. So for now i am sorry that i promised to bring some news on this thalaikoothal issue and case studies. Give me some time and i will be back with a response from Amnesty international also.

Merlin Sharontina

Sharontina's picture

Sorry for the delay

Dear Wendy,

Those were encouraging. But i have come with something else now. Yes, its my story. i am not sure if you read my posting "Shun the sight of a widow". My husband was murdered last Sep, 28. I have been facing a lot of problems, life threats and tortures from then on from his people. Its all for money. They wanted the house, insurance money, and then some gold (actually gold is given in plenty by the girl's family as dowry here in India, especially in Kanyakumari where i live this dowry issue brings an increase in the death toll of young women). Now that my husband is no more, i am doing everything and all that i can do to protect myself and my kids from them.

After so much of struggle running to the police station and the church authorities now after four days i have been given a break by this cruel fate. its yet to continue. But for now, at least for two days i have some rest in my town. I am not sure when this struggle is going to end. But my struggle to fight for womankind will continue too along with this and all those issues that come to my notice and disturb around me - my voice will raise high and am there. So for now i am sorry that i promised to bring some news on this thalaikoothal issue and case studies. Give me some time and i will be back with a response from Amnesty international also.

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

Wendyiscalm's picture

Hi Sharontina

Just got your message as I have been in Africa working with my street orphans.

Please my dear, do not worry about reporting to me or anyone as you had planned to do. God is keeping you working overtime, testing you if you will, and personally I find you AMAZING. Take care of your needs one step at a time one hour at a time if necessary and know that we are all praying for you and loving you.

Ubuntu,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Sharontina's picture

Thanks a lot!

Dear Wendy,

Thats an energy booster from you. Those words were so encouraging. I can feel that you are there for me.

Much love.

Merlin Sharontina

Wendyiscalm's picture

Answer

I AM here for you, Sharontina.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Sangita Thapa's picture

thanks for sharing!

Dear Sharontina,

Its really sad that we human have lost our humanity and have succumbed to the evil, corruption and criminal customs. It is such a shame that we although claim to be civilized and think that we have come a long way in development, the fate of thousands of such old and poverty stricken people still challenges our vain pride and meagre achievement. It’s equally shocking and appalling to hear that how such an evil practice is naturalized and made to appear so normal in the name of custom where it is more important to follow this cruel tradition than to respect a life. Of course there’re culprits and criminals to be blamed but its not the true fault of those malnourished and impoverished people inasmuch as it is the fault of government and loathsome power politics that leads to this dreadful chain of poverty, the consequences of which then manifests in many such heinous crimes and customs that forces people to kill their own parents. Such structural poverty is not the case of India alone, but has become an incurable fate of Nepal and many such other developing countries. It’s such a relief to hear that local NGOs are putting their efforts to prevent such hundreds of old and disabled Mariamma.

Im so sorry to hear about the demise of your husband and everything you’re going through. I truly appreciate your courage, patience and spirit that you’re struggling for your rights. Truth is always mighty and triumphant, and I so firmly believe God will bestow the best upon you. May God grant you all the peace and happiness you deserve my sister!

with love,

Sangita

Sharontina's picture

Thanks dear Sisi

Thanks for your concern. Every word of hope and love heals a person no matter how wounded she is. I believe the friends of WP keep healing me each time communicating the words of togetherness and hope.

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

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