I am grateful to over fifty crème de la crème contributors who have already contributed to the Greater Purpose initiative. We spent thousands of hours researching and studying hundreds of books and source materials to derive these publications. We can write another book based on this Herculean initiative of tracing over 500 Gods. This is a living project, and hundreds of amazing contributors are yet to come.
Confessions of a Monkey-Trapped Prodigal Son of The God's Own Country
As I turned 50 and experienced a full-blown mid-life crisis, I realized I’d become Monkey-Trapped – caught clinging to an identity I no longer recognized but could not break free from. 30 years ago, I had departed from behind my roots in Kerala, the Southern state in India, fondly referred to as God’s Own Country. I have been riding a Financial Engineering Tiger like a headless chicken without knowing what the hell I am doing by distorting the distorted reality fields in the West. Three decades have flown by in and in the blink of an eye, my life is trapped in the fake ivory monkey traps of the West. The guilt of drifting away from my homeland and its rich culture has been walloping me more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic waves and the consequent loss of people near and dear to me greatly amplified my identity crisis and mental jugglery. I sought answers within my roots in a globe-trotting search for my penance; it would lead me through twenty countries. My hometown, my original identity and the only place I could curl into the comforts of ‘who I am’, started to cloud my head. Over the oceans, Kerala, God’s Own Country, and my land rose in front of me, raining down a monsoon of memories on me. This book was a consequence of this crisis. While the initial intention behind the book was a frustrated attempt to assuage my mounting guilt and wistful nostalgia, the book evolved into something much more as time passed. In the Beginning As I lean back and close my eyes, overflowing memories once again transport me to the misty evening vibes of Malabar, especially during the Christmas Holidays. I contemplate bygone days and the childhood nostalgia of chasing various Theyyams from one Theyyaparambu or Theyyakavu (places and sanctums where Theyyam is performed) to the other during the seasons. I now realize there is a fathomable reason for me to lean on the Theyyam in my soul. I was born into a Catholic community, the followers of St. Thomas (52 AD), and educated by Christian missionaries brought by colonizers from Portugal, France, and Britain. My dad was raised in an orthodox Catholic family and was an altar boy. After he completed his Master’s in Science, he joined one of the Catholic Bishops Colleges (in Kannur) as a professor. Following his profound reasons and logic, which are still unknown to me, he turned a rebel against the Catholic establishment. He even named me after a Hindu God (Lord Ganesha). As a result, he brought me up in a rebellious agnostic backdrop, and I became more interested in Ramayana and other stories from Hindu mythology than the Holy Bible. I have been to more Kavus and temples than Catholic churches. Though many temples refused to allow me inside because of my religious background, no Theyyakavu ever denied my entry. They embrace everyone regardless of their religion, color, and gender. Bordered by the UNESCO World Heritage Site - the Western Ghats - and carpeted by natural greenery, Malabar opens its off-beat paths ahead of me to explore. The rust-red laterite soil beneath my feet creates intricate patterns of artwork beneath my feet. The same earth whirls dust in the atmosphere on festival grounds. No Keralite will forget their native festivals; they are forever imprinted in our souls. A reverie of my memories of Kerala's vibrant festivals is infused with great pomp and splendor, interspersed with representations of various Gods, lights, sounds, fireworks, and unending nights. However, what makes Theyyam unique is the ‘human representation of God.’ The human-to-God transition is a memory that haunts you from the get-go and transforms you into a worshiper. Maybe not of God, but the Dravidian traditional arts for sure. There are many deities and beliefs worldwide, and some are unique to Kerala; their underlying stories are deeply rooted in the region’s incredible cultural and social history. The artists of Theyyam are versatile in their niche and can double up as costume designers, painters, musicians, artisans, drummers, and choreographers. They evolve into a mystical human form where they can walk through fire, carry heavy masses of costumes and headdresses, and perform other seemingly magical feats. Being a contrarian, I find myself following the footsteps of these ‘rebel Gods’ against the mighty establishments and centuries-old systems that were forced upon us. Understanding Theyyam is an appreciation of Kerala and its cultural history. Kerala is a small but densely populated state in India with a population of around 35 million, a tropical paradise famous in the eco-tourism industry for its abundant greenery. I was born in the Kannur district, where Theyyams are predominantly performed. I spent my childhood there, with shade from the verdant Western Ghats on one side and a cool breeze from the Arabian Sea on the other. Most months of the year are filled with monsoon rains and cold weather. As summer approaches, the atmosphere warms and fills with dust as it throws color on the greenery. The Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea perfectly balance Kerala's climate. People here are primarily farmers. They work hard for their bread and butter. I grew up among these people when Kerala worked for their upliftment. Since ancient times, India was the wealthiest country until the British invasion during the 17th century. She faced countless incursions, including Aryans, Persians, Greeks, and Mughals. Europeans, chiefly the British, were the last looters on the list. India became financially weak after surviving all these invasions. After achieving independence in 1947, India struggled to flourish politically, economically, and socially. Unifying different princely states and infusing the idea of socialism into peasants were herculean tasks for the leaders. Kerala is the first place communists became democratically elected to power in world history and have ruled since 1957. Kerala gave importance to developing social capital and many progressive movements. Catholic missionaries brought by colonizers from Europe from the 18th century onwards also helped kick-start the educational institutions in every nook and corner of the state. Hence, Kerala became the first state in India to garner complete literacy in the 1990s. The communist ideology in the minds of people acted as a double-edged sword. The resulting industrial desert brought on by Communism forced me to pack my bags after obtaining my Industrial Engineering degree and seek a job in Bombay (the commercial capital of India, now called Mumbai). Even after years of political education provided to the people, the ancient caste stratification known as Chaturvarnya still conditioned their minds . As a lungi-wearing Kala Madrasi , I soon realized that my prospects beyond the factory floor were limited by my dark skin. I wanted to react, but I was scared and did not know how. Theyyam once again dominated my thoughts. Like a Theyyam, the struggle of the lower strata of society danced in front of me. I could understand the pain each performing community had endured for centuries. I wanted to dance like them, like a frenzied human being who transformed himself into God to revolt against the Chaturvarnya system. But I could not. It was nearly impossible to rebel against a 5000-year-old Aryan system, and I could not survive. Fearing for my future, I fled to the south to escape the Chaturvarnya professional ladder. I obtained my MBA in finance as a candidate for national integration. Providentially for me, in 1990, the entire Indian economy collapsed under the weight of the half-a-century-old mighty Indian License Raj. The result was a liberalized Indian economy. The timing was impeccable, as it provided me with the opportunity to start my career as an Investment Banking Analyst. Then India’s 1996 stock market crash allowed me to move on from my investment banking career, and fortune smiled upon me again. My Prodigal Tiger Ride As mentioned earlier, Nehruvian India took the socialist route and was not in the good graces of the US Superpower. During the conflict of the 1970s with Pakistan, India declared an emergency rule. Because of the war and other non-alignments, the US and India’s relationship soured, and IBM and many western businesses abandoned India. Hail to the vacuum (to be filled), TCS and other Indian IT conglomerates were born out of desperation. They coded us in IT to kick-start the legacy computers and mainframes left behind by IBM. Thanks to the biggest blunder in business history (Y2K), IBM and the other western enterprises saw us ’Cyber Coolies ’ as a thrifty solution to fix the doomsday Armageddon code. Through this time, I managed to migrate from corporate finance to ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solutions and snatched my ‘Cyber Coolie’ passport from the epitome of capitalism, the USA. In America, I had the incredible privilege to author the global (published in 20 languages) Amazon bestseller The Gods Must Be Crazy!: From the Cradle of Communism to the Catacomb of Capitalism (Royalties to the Mother Teresa Mission). I have published and presented over 50 papers worldwide and contributed to all five major Project Management Institute Books (PMBOK, OPM3, P&PM, and PMCD standards) based on my experience with the ERP & EPM global implementations. I volunteered for the Project Management Institute globally, and I was responsible as a mentor for eight Asian countries, involving India, Pakistan, and China. I also served as the Architect of the Team India Movement and helped transform ASIA-PAC into the PMI’s most strategic region forever. Amid the economic tsunami of 2008, I served as an advisor to the CFO (Chief Financial Officer), setting up the Project Portfolio Management Office for a Fortune 10 World’s Most Admired Company. I saved them around half a billion dollars but became the victim (unemployed) of my short-term financial engineering. As a result, in 2009, I packed my bags for the Cambodian jungles in search of answers from the bottom of the pyramid through Chinese GIFT (Global Institute for Tomorrow) – a Clinton Global Young Executive Leadership Program (YLP) Graduate. After returning from the wilderness of the Cambodian killing fields, I reincarnated my career yet again, becoming an EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) consultant out of the 2008 Economic Tsunami in the BIG4 world. Monkey Trap The more I examined the Western finance world, the more disillusioned I became. Thanks to the Chinese GIFT executive leadership program (https://global-inst.com/learn/), in Cambodia’s killing fields, I found solace by trekking the jungles of Chiangmai-Chiangrai, Laos, and Myanmar in search of snake wine. While sipping the rancorous snake wine, I wondered how these resource-cursed countries became impoverished and debt-trapped slaves of the Chinese Empire. Hail to Hernando de Soto; I was born again to The Mystery of Capital Gospel. Sadly, after over three decades, I need to ride back to God’s Own Country through that Mad Max fury redemption road and climb through the apocalyptic rubble of Roosevelt’s capitalist nostalgic era. After all these extreme events, I feel embarrassed about forgetting my roots, and I see myself as a prodigal son of my culture caught in a Monkey Trap. I had the privilege of globe-trotting with my camera in various professional and volunteer roles in around 20 countries. Despite all the countries and regions that I visited, I still see my soul flying back to my sweet homeland, discerning there is no better place in this world than in this Malabar corner. I see the I see the many Theyyam Seasons that I spent running from one Theyyakkavu to the other through the viewfinder. My parents and relatives still live in Malabar (Kannur & Kasaragod, the Theyyam region). Visiting them during the Christmas holidays was an opportunity to spend nights chasing the Theyyam footprints and capturing these with the utmost enthusiasm since photography has always been a passion of mine. My Penance Theyyam has always fascinated me, ever since my childhood days. I am not aware of any other ritualistic festival and artistic form as colorful, massive, and rebellious at the same time. No pilgrimage on earth will introduce you to around five hundred Gods in a single season. Sadly, these Theyyams are underappreciated and unexplored even within Kerala, God’s Own Country. Compared to Kathakali and other aristocratic art forms promoted by Kalamandalam Deemed University, there is a scarcity of research or promotional effort on underprivileged Theyyams. While composing this text, I examined over fifty reference books. Unfortunately, most are out of print, and the ones available touch only the peripherals of these massive Theyyam Gods. The Theyyam artists are one of the most destitute communities in the world. I documented their aesthetics to construct a positive impact on their real lives. I have ideas for documentaries, movies, and collaborations with various academia, professionals, and businesspeople to promote and develop eco-cultural tourism in God’s Own Country. I finally decided to start writing as a steppingstone to test my hypothesis. The aim of this work is not just to green-wash my ‘Prodigal Son’ guilt but also to uplift my homeland – ‘God’s Own Country’ – and its Gods. I believe that the thirty years of my professional and volunteer Monkey-Trap roles have finally given me enough strength to be a rebel. I dedicate this Greater Purpose to the Theyyam rebel Gods of the long-gone past. And I hope beyond the few dollars of royalty profit that these seeds will help the deprived Gods of God’s Own Country: Theyyam Artists. I hope the book and subsequent efforts will turn the eyes of the EAST and WEST toward this precious tradition.
Spanish, CEO at Narrators Hub
English, Director & Head, Northern Arc
Tamil, Movie Director
Hebrew, E&Y Executive Director, Tel Aviv
Ranjith MV (Ranji)
Santhosh is from Vengara - The Land of Theyyam, a small village in the Kannur District of Kerala state of India. He was a finance Manager at a LogisticsGroup, in Dubai and took early retirement to pursue his Theyyam passion. He founded Travelkannur (http://travelkannur.com/), and his team has promoted Theyyam for the last 15 years and helped global visitors to experience it.
Travelkannur SERVICES: Theyyam Tour, North Kerala Tour Packages, Things do in Kannur, House Boat Services, Kalari & Ayurvedic Contacts, Temple Tour, Cultural Tourism, Car Rental & Taxi Services, Airport pick and drop off, Sight Seeing Services, Homestay Services, Accommodation Booking, Ticket Booking, Out Bound Tour Planning.
Shwetha S Kumar
Prof. Mustafa Alkilani
Essay: A Book Of Nostalgia For The Beginnings
Arabic (Tunisian) writer, critic, and thinker
Essay: Tat Twam Asi (Thou art that) and Theyyam A Nostalgia
Artist and Indian Civil Service, Refugee Resettlement, and teaching.
Essay: A Journey Through The Theyyam Universe
Senior Fellow, Central Department of Culture
Story Writer, Film Screen Play Writer
Folklore Researcher, Documentary writer
Dr. David Mason
Essay: Gods And Real People In Theyyattam
Fulbright-Nehru Fellow (2001 & 2022), Editor-in-Chief of Ecumenica.
Dr. Rolf Groesbeck
Professor of Music History/Musicology/Ethnomusicology at the University of Arkansas/Little Rock, USA.
Saji Madapat TOGAF 9, PMP, CPIM, CIERP, CSSMBB, MBA
Architect of the best seller, "The Gods Must Be Crazy!" in 20+ Languages. Graduate of Clinton Global Initiative GIFT (Global Institute for Tomorrow) Young Leadership program in China (Hong Kong & Cambodia) and the Masters in Leadership from PMI's CCL patterned executive leadership programs. TOGAF9 certified EPM & ERP Architect of Enterprise Performance with over two-decade-long experience in numerous industries through Ernst & Young global clients and beyond. Published and presented ~50 papers globally, including Architecting the future state strategic ERP & EPM business system road map to Cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), BOT's, etc. Contributed to all five major PMI Books/standards (PMBOK, OPM3, P&PM, and PMCD) based on experience with the ERP & EPM global implementations. Architect of Team India Movement, which transformed ASIA-PAC as the PMI's most strategic region forever