Dinkan: the divine embodiment of a parody culture in god's own country

In Kerala satire is the strongest weapon against threats to states secular culture
news Kerala Piravi Tuesday, November 01, 2016 - 13:14

By Rema Rajeshwari 

It’s Kerala Piravi. On this day, the state got its geographical contours defined through a political exercise called linguistic reorganization in 1956. But it’s not the usual November 1st. I am yet to receive clichéd smses on my phone. 

There comes a text with the caricature of a rodent god with greetings. Clad in a yellow body suit, a red cape and Superman underwear, with a prophetic prediction of a resurrection. It’s Dinkan. Dinkan, who? A Darius Fo in the offing or a farcical genre to lay bare the hypocrisies?

It’s no surprise to us that the quintessential Malayali way of life is defined by a subtle timbre of satire. It runs through all the possible existential factors which are otherwise hard to seep through. Political activism- art -of the evolved kind (Ottam thullal, Chakiar koothu etc). Remittance economy -a unique economic model where one family member toils abroad, while the rest make merry. 

It’s called the Kerala Model of Development.  Hailed as one of its kind, mocked in ways, hard to comprehend by a layman. Talk of the Keralite ability to make anything look beautifully dysfunctional. 

We live in a time where, in a supposedly humorous response to rising infant mortality among tribals, a legislator shirks away by saying pregnancy was conceived during the previous regime and he cannot be held responsible for the death at the time of delivery!

Lampooning hence comes to us quite naturally. Be it against rising intolerance against diversity, or bigotry of the divisive kind. We have come a long way from the glorious mythological origin of the state, attributed to the warrior sage Parashuram’s axe.  

Today, a virulent satire is directed against the systemic apathy in the form of a rising religion of parody – Dinkoism, thanks to the all-invasive social media. It didn’t take heritage-bred ascetics to travel the length and breadth of the landscape to spread its wings of ideology. 

Dinkan is the new god who appeals to the alter-ego of the socially-conscious, politically-active and highly opinionated Keralite, for whom the most potent tool to take a dig at anything that is unsuitable to the Malayali palate is mockery. 

Thus was Dinkan born circa 2008. It draws inspiration from the comic superhero mouse character –Dinkan- popularized by a children’s magazine Balamangalam.

Malayalis had crafted this genetically altered mouse with super alien powers in the early 80s, much before the “perils of genetical-engineering” debates reached the political consciousness of an average Indian.  

Dinkan lived in the Pankila forest to save fellow animals from the evil lurking around. At the behest of the then editor Soma Shekaran, artist Baby crafted this rodent hero, who heads into the jungle to herald a new era. 

Today, it is not uncommon to sight a well-read Malayali holding a placard which says ‘Dinkan exists’ and ‘In Dinkan, we trust’. So much so that on 30 January 2016, there was an organized protest, high on emotions, held against the popular Malayalam film actor, Dileep for his proposed 3-D film ‘Professor Dinkan’. The Mooshikasena (Rat Army) felt that the storyline hurt their religious sentiments.

Social media sources claiming to be the creators of this ‘ism’ impel portray Dinkan as an all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe. And their holy scriptures -Balamangalam and Dinkapuranam- are ingrained on quantum physics, theory of relativity, artificial intelligence and everything that is beyond layman perception. 

They do have a big-bang causative theory to attribute to its evolution.  As the belief goes, the universe came into being through the laughter which followed on an unusually boring day in Dinkan’s life, while he was eating kappa (tapioca -a staple food of Malayalis). 

Proponents believe that this tool of ridicule is the answer to the growing threats to the secular fabric of the state, a quantum expression of the universal power on the lines of ‘Pastafarianism’.

I remember my first encounter with parody as a potent literary tool against the trivialized societal hypocrisy -‘The Rape of the Lock’ by the 18th century poet Alexander Pope, an exquisitely witty and balanced burlesque, displaying literary virtuosity. 

Parodies have come to be the mainstay of even poll campaigns in Kerala, and are definitely rational and uncompromising in its aesthetics. 

Dinkoism, comes across as an epic device to establish an ironic contrast between the contemporary follies and the established beliefs. It forces us to look at the trivialities of distorted secularism of a so-called ‘high-on-social development’ society. 

It is a wake-up call to the whimsical interpreters of the secular fabric, a humble attempt to save the secular model that Keralites have beautifully crafted over the years. It lays bare the pretended perfection of the now-emerging dubious morality standards. 

Here is a state, which in its very first democratic exercise held in 1957, showed the world that democracy can be set in motion through communist mobilization too. Kerala’s uniqueness has to be understood in the context of its redistributive policy, rather than that of accumulation, irrespective of the party in power. 

As is seen in post-independence India, class has been a relatively weak line of conflict when compared to caste, religion or ethnicity. Contrary to popular apprehension, it is not quite easy to divide Kerala society along these lines. The fact that thousands flocked to the first mega Dinkan Religious Convention held in Kozhikode in March 2016 stands testimony to the rationalist foundation of Kerala. 

This is not to suggest that Dinkoism holds the key to the secular credentials of the state. It is far from cheap theatrics. There is method in its madness, rather it makes madness its method. Kerala’s identity lies in its way of life, where education plays a crucial role, art comes across more as a rational response, and no religion is an absolute minority. 

Happy 60th birthday to us! 

(Rema Rajeshwari IPS is the Superintendent of Police of Mahbubnagar District)

 

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