Last month, I got an interesting phone call. It was from a friend in Kochi.
“Would you want to celebrate the mouse god with me this Sunday?” my friend asked.
“We have one?” I inquired incredulously.
“Yes, he’s small, wears a yellow body suit, a red cape and goes by Dinkan!”
I laughed out loud. My friend was clearly pulling a fast one. Not that I was any stranger to the coolness of Dinkan, the tiny mouse who had appropriated superhero powers after being abducted by a group of aliens. Dinkan’s special powers were used to save anyone in distress as long as they called out his name. But wasn’t Dinkan’s heroics only confined to the pages of Balamangalam, the Malayalee comic book we devoured as kids?
In 2008, Dinkoism was started as a “mock” religion by a group of rationalists in Kerala, who were fed up with superstition and religious orthodoxy and decided to adopt “Dinkan the supermouse” as their “god”. It gained popularity online, garnering thousands of likes and shares on social media, especially for making fun of (in internet lingo, trolling) organised religion. Dinkoists don’t have any temple but the places where they gather to discuss or debate are called Dinkalayams, and their Holy book, the Dinkapuranam. Humour and satire, of course, are the guiding principles of Dinkoists.
I didn’t end up going to “celebrate the mouse god” with my friend. But the first Mega Dinkan Religious Convention in Kochi turned out to be a raging success. More than 500 people showed up in their Dinkan T-shirts, my friend among them.
I smiled to myself when I read an article in the Times Of India on the Monday after the “conference”. “Fans of Mallu comic superhero seek ‘minority’ tag” read the headline. Kerala, the place I called home, was truly a land of paradoxes. On one hand, Kerala is home to several temples, churches and mosques. Temples especially, centuries old, abound all over the state. We have rituals and festivals every other month. People from around the country trek up to Guruvayoor and Bhagvathy temples in the hope that their pilgrimage will make their wishes come true. Most Malayalees are a god-fearing lot — a shrub today might become a shrine tomorrow! And yet, Malayalees are probably the only community in India who can get away with holding a “religious” Dinkan conference!
Talking about paradoxes, did you know that Kerala is known to be the only state in India (apart from Pondicherry) to have a positive sex ratio? What does that mean? As per the 2011 Census, women outnumber men in Kerala and have been doing so for almost a century. But then despite this, women continue to be as oppressed and mistreated as they are in other parts of India. An even more surprising fact is that Kerala was historically a matrilineal society where property and inheritance were traced through women. However, this never meant that the region was a matriarchy, where the women functioned as the head of the household. In that way, matriarchy still remains an imagined construct in India.
So one can safely assume that Kerala remains a conservative society. But wait, is it really? Only last year the Kerala assembly decided to announce a transgender-inclusive policy, the first state in India to do so. The policy aims at not only recognising the Third Gender but also bringing them into the fold of mainstream society by providing access to employment and education. And yet again, we have another paradox: while Kerala might be trying to accommodate the aspirations of the third gender on one hand, on the other, the Supreme Court’s judgement on Section 377 that re-criminalised consensual sexual activity is still in place!
Whether it comes to religion, politics, economics or society, the dichotomous land of Kerala will never fail to amaze. Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India and a model of economic development which the world looks at for reference. Despite having the heaviest drinkers in the country! According to a BBC article, “Kerala has India’s highest per capita alcohol consumption at more than eight litres per person yearly.” Last year the government introduced a prohibitory ban in the hope that the state will become liquor free within the next decade. How will that pan out? One can’t really say. Anything is possible in the land of paradoxes.