Manjummel Boys And The World Of Girls

Women are increasingly participating in adventure sports, even though they are still a minority. I wonder if because our regular life is so fraught with danger that we women are just too tired to go around challenging the fates.

*SPOILER ALERT* Don’t read further if you are planning to see the film.

This is not a film review though. Manjummel boys is a good film if not a great one, and definitely worth a watch. My essay is related to the film only tangentially.

Before the pandemic, I was on a solo trip and did something so uncharacteristic that my mind boggles to this day. I decided to try my hand at paragliding. This whole exciting adventure can be divided into four very scary parts and all of them have to be done by deliberately shutting down your survival instinct, the very thing that keeps you alive.

All things that are inherently dangerous, if not fatal

One, you are strapped into a strange man’s lap and praying that he’ll not grab your boob from behind while up in the air. Or worse, the thing in his pocket would be his happiness at having you sit on his lap.

Two, You have to jump off a cliff, not only voluntarily but you will also have paid a lot of money for it.

Three, you are flying in the air, testing the veracity of Bernoulli’s principle in what is basically a large nylon tote bag, and to my horror, directly above an eagle. So basically, even the eagle, whose natural home is the air, was flying lower. And my bones are not hollow like the bird’s. If Bernoulli’s principle is another wig-wearing white man’s lies then those un-hollow bones are going to be calcium dust fertilising the flora of the lower Himalaya. It was of some comfort to me that if I did crash I would at the very least drag one man’s arse with me- my contribution to feminism.

And the fourth bit, I had to somehow trust that the man whose lap I’m sitting on and the nylon tote bag would get us to safe ground. We did land and I have a video of it somewhere, where I have an insane look on my face. It was not joy, it was relief that physics: 1 and gravity: 0.

I would never paraglide again. Same for bungee jumping, base jumping, free diving, sky diving, going down in a submersible etc. My idea of sport is 10,000 slow steps a day round my colony garden wearing a large hat and 50 spf. I have raised two children, a daughter and a son. When my daughter tells me that she walked home alone at 2.30am from a party, I’m glad she told me about it the next day, because my heart couldn’t have handled that much adrenaline surge. When I see my son returning from a joyride with 6 other frisky teenagers, in the car that he learnt to drive just 6 months ago, I need to lie down immediately.

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So what has all this to do with Manjummel Boys?

Justifying the title of my essay, Manjummel Boys is a film based on a true story that unfolded in the Guna Caves of Kodaikanal.

The caves have a blood-thirsty history. Anywhere between 12 and 16 boys have fallen into the deep chasm aka Devil’s Kitchen never to be found. The Manjummel Boys story is of the only time when a boy fell into the chasm and was rescued only because one of his mates bravely volunteered to go 80 feet down the cavern and physically lift his friend back up.

My best friend and I went to watch Manjummel boys and at the point when the ‘Boys’ break the rules to go into the restricted area of the caves, both my friend and I exchanged a droll glance. We were thinking the same thing. Girls would never do this. Note that in the history of the Guna Caves there has not been a single girl who has fallen into it. All the 16 victims were boys or men.

It’s not as though girls don’t do adventurous things

More and more are participating in adventure sports, even though they are still a minority. I wonder if because our regular life is so fraught with danger that we women are just too tired to go around challenging the fates. My daughter walking home alone at 2.30 am is nothing short of high adventure.

It comes down to upbringing also, I suppose. The boys of Manjummel Boys do not have to ask for permission from their parents, one of them is even told by his parents to not drink ‘too much’. It took me 3 weeks to convince my mother to send me to my school picnic to Gorai beach that was organised by the school with half a dozen teachers chaperoning us.

And of course, boys will be boys

This is not to take away from the bravery of the man who volunteered to rescue his friend from certain death, when not even the fire fighters were willing to go down the cave shaft.

But I was mostly pissed off that when there were so many signs, there even was a giant ass padlocked gate to prevent anyone from going down to the treacherous caves. And yet these boys and the boys before them thought what? Too cool for school? Too manly for rules? I’m surprised that once the fellow was rescued, they were all not thrown into the slammer for being such assholes. Instead, they are celebrated and now there is even a film immortalising their foolhardiness and turning it into a warm and fuzzy story of fraternal love.

Different rules for boys and girls, clearly

I follow this white gent on Instagram who is walking around the planet. Just that. He walks everywhere. And he camps where his heart desires. Just like that. So fun, so fey. He has posted a reel while walking across the state of Assam. How warm and lovely are people who offer him a Gamcha and a free meal welcoming him to their land.

I wonder if I or my daughter would be welcomed in this manner. Or would we be welcomed too much. I think of the Spanish woman who was gangraped in Chhattisgarh. Remember what Sheila Dikshit had said of slain journalist Soumya Vishwanathan, “All by herself till 3 am…you know, you should not be so adventurous.”

There then are different rules of adventure for men and women. We celebrate mountain climbers’ spirit of adventure but no one has heard of their wives who are back home taking care of the children, trying to run a house, fending off advances from other men, somehow trying to work their way out of an adventure that they did not volunteer for.

Anton Chekhov is credited to having said, “Any idiot can face a crisis, it’s this day to day living that wears you out”. I wonder if because our regular life is so fraught with danger that we women are mostly an exhausted bunch who’d be happy to Netflix and chill in the literal sense of the phrase.

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About the Author

Hema Gopinathan

Hema Gopinathan left a blight of a corporate career to homeschool her two children. A teacher trained in the Waldorf/ Rudolf Steiner pedagogy, a writer, an artist, a crocheter, Hema spends half her time in read more...

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