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Effigy-burning a dying art

Whatever happened to the times when people would break out the petrol and matches after just about every game of cricket?

R Rajkumar

Comments: 8 | Text size: A | A
Protesters burn an effigy of Lalit Modi, Ahmedabad, April 24, 2010
Protesters boogie on down as they burn, baby, burn in the bell-bottom-friendly heyday of the effigy © Associated Press
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The time-honoured tradition of burning effigies of hated cricket players is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.

Bangalore's FG Road, which once bustled with the energy of effigy-wallahs selling their goods to fans too furious with the object of their ire to pursue a bargain, now wears a sadly deserted look. The rare shop still open only sells old effigies that are a pale, less-flammable shadow of their former selves.

"That no one's come to us even after a near-unprecedented Test series loss to England makes this all the more painful," said Pradeep Agnimitra, who comes from a long line of effigy-makers and has tended the family shop on FG Road almost all his life.

"My father made his fortune selling effigies of Chetan Sharma after Javed Miandad hit him for that last-ball six in Sharjah," he said wistfully. "We used to be so overrun with orders that we struggled to find enough hair for all the beards. We used only the best quality material, see?" he added, running his fingers along the head of a ragged, particularly hirsute effigy of what may or may not have been a likeness of Zaheer Khan, post-World Cup 2003 final. "This is real human hair."

Times have changed for Agnimitra and the other craftsmen on the street, as they struggle to keep afloat in a market that has seen demand for effigies drop drastically in recent years. "Now we consider ourselves lucky if we make a sale at all," he admitted with a sigh. "This in spite of our throwing in a free bottle of kerosene and box of matches with each purchase."

What is it that has caused business to slow? "People just aren't as passionate about the game anymore," said Peter Muckenfuss, a spokesman for Lynchers Without Borders, an organisation founded on the principle that all people, regardless of race, religion, class or gender, have the right to violent, incendiary expression. LWB is just one of many NGOs that help try and preserve the art of effigy-making while working to provide craftsmen other ways in which they can make a living. "We're trying to divert their energies from making effigies of cricket players to those of politicians," added Muckenfuss, "but the side-effect of sudden death that apparently comes with that is proving to be a pesky deterrent."

Another reason for the decline of the effigy is because more modern alternatives have taken its place. The increased accessibility of the web has meant that people no longer need to leave their homes to express their disgust. The internet - specifically the comments section of articles published on the internet - has come to replace the effigy as the most favoured, and easiest, form of mass lynching.

But there is hope yet for the old way of doing things. With the help of NGOs like LWB and others who have come to realise the importance of preserving an ancient art form, effigy-burning might yet survive. An awareness-raising three-day pyromania cultural festival is in the works, where effigy-makers from across the world can find a platform to exhibit the unique ways in which an effigy doll can be made and burnt. Proceeds from the event will go towards supporting out-of-work effigy craftsmen and their families.

The craftsmen themselves remain hopeful that there is a way out yet. "The Indian team's recent performances in Tests have given us hope that people will not be so quick to forget us after all," said Agnimitra. "I'm working on a prototype of a Sachin Tendulkar doll that should sell like hot cakes. We've also got an extra-flammable, pre-haircut Dhoni doll in the works.

"If people get tired of being keyboard warriors, hiding behind their computer screens, they can come to us and find out what it means to have your anger consumed by fire."

R Rajkumar tweets here

All quotes and "facts" in this article are made up, but you knew that already, didn't you?

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Posted by Dummy4 on (December 26, 2012, 19:24 GMT)

Well-written ! Full credit

Posted by Dummy4 on (December 25, 2012, 18:30 GMT)

Too true…the recent generation of cricketers are also preoccupied with modelling assignments, brand ambassadorship, stewardship & endorsements so fans & well wishers will surely find alternate ways to win their affection. Cricket is only part of the story these days…If we consider Cricketers like Dhoni, Kohli, Yuvraj & Sachin, its only when these sportspersons don the national whites (Tests) or blues (ODI's) that us Indians start dissecting their performances under a microscope. Otherwise, we're all caught up in a vortex of illusory admiration for these & others as demigods. Many years ago Cricket was the life of these players & they had to be on their guard if they gave a poor performance or bad efforts. Fans wouldn't hesitate to herd their homes or garland their portraits with a string of chhapals besides burning effigies of course. These days the entire team underperforming puts things in a complex perspective as you can't burn over 10 effigies as that dilutes the very purpose

Posted by Sarthak on (December 25, 2012, 8:32 GMT)

The religious obsession has become a secular interest.

Posted by Dummy4 on (December 25, 2012, 7:19 GMT)

Does Martin Crowe (allegedly) burning his debut team blazer count? That seems like a form of effigy burning- particularly if you consider NZ cricket a religion (and given the torment the side has put me through the years- and for me to have stuck with them- I'd guess that would make me a believer!)

Posted by Dummy4 on (December 25, 2012, 2:27 GMT)

When was the last time we heard of the effigy burners :) ??

Posted by Harsh on (December 24, 2012, 19:51 GMT)

They killed the goose that laid golden eggs. No one feels the same about Cricket anymore. With folks like Rahul, Ganguly, Sachin, Anil, VVS, Ponting, Warne and Waughs gone, there not much reason anymore for us 80's and 90's cricket fans to anticipate the spark. The younger generation seems to dig the bland incarnation of Cricket. It was fun while it lasted though.

Posted by Bilal on (December 24, 2012, 10:03 GMT)

This flurry of boundaries -fours n sixes - had no effect on my long face when I was watching an IPL game. But it wasn't just me, the players on the ground were equally feeling-less. Long faces and emotionless body language at fall of wicket, hardly any congregation of fielders to get around the bowler n congratulate him. The commentators were desperately trying to breathe life in the game but there was no intensity, no emotion and no enthusiasm left in anyone. There is just WAY TOO MUCH cricket being in this day n age for anyone to have any emotions left to display. Yawns to all those sixes and fours in a 65 yard boundary line. Thank u IPL, BPL, this PL n that PL.

Posted by RAJARAMAN on (December 24, 2012, 8:07 GMT)

Keyboard warriors ... taking over from effigy burners ... good comparison ... KWs mostly have to fight lonely in hiding with occasional support from unknown faces while EBs fight in groups often in the open without resistance from opposition ... anyway ... nobody cares ... both the burner and the burnt ...

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