Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bull Fight at Madrid – 01 June 2013

The overriding principle of ‘experiencing everything at least once’ made most of us watch a bull fight. How, one can visit Spain and not witness a bull fight was the thought, foremost in my mind. None of us really knew how a bull fight would unfold. Our scanty knowledge was from novels, movies and hearsay. My respect for the bovines had increased manifold since the time I saw a National Geographic clip of an African buffalo taking on the mighty lion.

I come from a land, where bulls and cows are revered and worshiped  My childhood days were spent in the playing fields of ‘Bugle Rock’ in Basavanagudi (meaning Temple of the Bull) Bangalore. Adjoining the play field is located the famous Bull Temple of Bangalore. In fact the road is named the ‘Bull Temple Road’. Many evenings were spent visiting the temple and praying.   

Figure 1 – The Bull

The huge idol of Nandi (Bull) stands approximately 15 feet tall and 20 feet in width. This idol is said to have been carved out of a single rock. It was installed in 1537 by Kempegowda the First, the founder of Bangalore and a feudatory ruler under the Vijayanagar Empire. The Nandi is the vehicle of Lord Shiva.

It is also very common to find a decorated bull and its handler parading on the streets of Bangalore. The appearance of the bull is seen as a good omen.

Figure 2 – Decorated bull doing the rounds with its handlers

My only other association with the term ‘Bull’ having reference to the restaurant ‘The Bull and Bush’ in and the bar ‘Cock and Bull’ in

Incidentally bullfighting was banned in the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia by a vote of the Catalan Parliament in July 2010. The ban came into effect on 1st January 2012. The last bullfight in the region took place in Barcelona in September 2011.

Figure 3 - Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

I went to watch a bull fight in the ‘Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas’ a famous bullring in Madrid. "Las Ventas" is divided into a ring or arena and a group of zones called "patios". The arena has a diameter of 60 meters. The seating capacity is divided into 10 "tendidos" (group of 27 rows around the arena), some of them in the shade and the rest in the sun. It has a capacity of 23,000 spectators.

Figure 4 - Toreros statue outside Las Ventas bullring, Madrid, Spain

Figure 5 - Antonio Bienvenida a very famous Spanish bullfighter

Figure 6 – The arena

Figure 7 – Waiting in somewhat tremulous anticipation

Spectators arrive in hoards to watch the bull fight. The whole place gets filled up with fans eagerly waiting to see the action - girls, boys, children, old people, make up the scene. Food and drinks are freely available to add to the spectacle. As time progresses the crowd becomes restless and starts cheering. The mood inside is charged and electric. Finally the bugles sound the commencement .The Picadors enter the scene with aplomb and are received with thunderous applause. For the crowd there is no going back – the action has commenced. The crowd enter into a trance – a make believe world reflecting the virtues of human power over animals. It’s not about survival - hunting in the jungle to kill, eat and stay alive. We are not in the Paleolithic age, when man competed with animals to rule the earth. This crowd is now in the year 2013 AD in modern Spain, waiting to satisfy its meanest instincts – to maim, wound, draw blood and kill.

Figure 8 - Picadors enter the scene

The Picadors along with various henchmen enter the arena with fanfare. As in a military parade, they go around the arena waving and saluting. The crowd explodes in approval. Then a man holds a placard proudly proclaiming the details of the bull – mainly its weight.

Figure 9 – 460 Kg bull

The most anticipated event of the day happens. All of a sudden, the bull appears in the arena. The animal is totally confused and bewildered not knowing what to do and where to go. It is in a strange and unfriendly environment. I later learnt that the bull has been severely handicapped during the last two days, with the primary aim of making it weak, disoriented and submissive. Only a sick mind can do this. The bull has already been maimed with a short spear marking the spot for further mutilation. Bull fighting has been glorified over centuries as a contest between a wild and uncontrollable beast and a brave Matador. The junior Matador commences his serious business of tiring the animal. The bull runs around the arena aimlessly, tiring itself in the bargain. The brave Picadors safely seated on horseback, wait for an opportune moment to drive a javelin-like spear into the bull’s back. The horse is protected by a metal blanket as the bull stops to gorge. The Picador bravely inserts the spear into the bull and it starts to wriggle free from pain. The Picador is relentless in his pursuit and with single minded devotion continues to stab and gorge the bull. The bull charges in anger and our heroic men take shelter behind a steel wall. The crowd applauds and shows their marked appreciation by waving out white handkerchiefs. As the bull bleeds, the chief matador enters the act, teasing and further wounding the animal with the Banderillas a sharp, harpoon-like barbed instrument. These are plunged into the bull’s body repeatedly. Five to six Banderillas are pierced with surgical precision as the bull staggers and groans in pain. During all this acts of bravery the Matador is helped by Picadors and a number of assistants. The bull has no chance and is cornered. In a final act of subhuman cowardice the Matador plunges a knife into the tired and helpless bull. The bugle blares, heralding the end of a gruesome display of a one sided ugly sport. The bull never had a chance from the very beginning. A medieval sport without any meaning continues to thrive in modern Spain – encouraged by the locals and tourists. I understand a top Matador is paid up to 350,000 Euros for every fight and he does four in a year. As the defenseless and maimed bull falls, he attacks it once again to seal the killing. The worst happens thereafter. The dead bull is unceremoniously dragged by horses out of the arena as the crowds boo and jeer him. Now at peace for the first time, the bull departs the arena after twenty minutes of the most atrocious and unfair treatment by so called civilized men.

The barbaric show is over. We cannot take it any longer. We decide to call it quits and skip the next three fights. We slowly troop out, with heads hanging in shame, guilt and a deep sense of remorse. Never again! Some are bound to say ‘Why the first time itself?

Figure 10 - All of a sudden, the bull appears in the arena

Figure 11 - The junior Matador commences his serious business of tiring the animal

Figure 12 - The brave Picador safely seated on horseback waits for an opportune moment to drive the javelin like spear into the bull’s back

Figure 13 - The bull charges in anger and our heroic men take shelter behind a steel wall

Figure 14 - As the bull bleeds the chief matador enters the act

Figure 15 - Five to six Banderillas are pierced with surgical precision

Figure 16 - Matador is helped by Picadors and a number of assistants

Figure 17 - Matador plunges a knife into the tired and helpless bull.

Figure 18 - Defenseless and maimed, the bull falls, he attacks it once again to seal the killing

Figure 19 - The dead bull is unceremoniously dragged out

On our return to the hotel Jayanti wrote a poem to get the horrid spectacle out of her system.

With a flurry of tradition
The toreadors and other horsemen
Walk into the ring
Flourish their capes
Arrogant and sure
Excitement fills the air
Anticipation fills the lungs
I enter
Look around,
I do not know why I’m here
They have pierced me
and sent me in
My blood boils,
I scent danger
They tease and
arouse my worst instincts
I charge wildly
this way and that
A dance of death-
Dodging me, they wound me
Again and again
Wildly helpless, bloodied and still strong
I charge
The rider on horse back
uses his three headed spear
The Toreador makes his move
Alas! I can take no more
I die as the thundering sound of applause fills the air



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