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Thoughts on Grease Yaka from across the Palk Strait

Dilshan Boange's review of Grease Yaka made interesting reading for multiple reasons. At one level, it touches upon the phenomenon of urban legends and how these take hold of public imagination.

It reminded me of the Monkey Man episode in the early 2000s in Delhi where a monkey man - supposedly with red, glowing eyes and dark fur - caused panic for weeks.


A scene from the play

Reports of people being attacked and injured by this monster - who according to some eyewitnesses was about four feet tall while others claimed was five feet plus - created a mass hysteria of sorts. Sightings were reported every day. But just as mysteriously as the monkey man had appeared, it vanished never to be heard of again.

So what triggered this "hysteria"? While psychologists have attributed such instances to fear, depression and public hysteria, what is indeed amazing is how one man's fears feeds into and exacerbates those of thousands of others.

How easily private fears cross into the public space.

At another level, Grease Yaka explores how cultural motifs play a role in the propagation of these legends and their undying resonance through the generations. How lines between good and evil, conscious and subconscious, reason and superstition begin to blur!

The changing meanings of yaksha and yakshini and their significance in both India and Sri Lankan is just one example.

Grease Yaka seems to take the discourse to yet another level by exploring how these elements are channellised by powerful people as a means to their political ends.

Therein, lies the power of plays...giving rise to many more questions that arise from the blend of all these different strains of reality, fantasy, mythology and private lives. Fascinating review and kudos to Dilshan Boange for such a detailed and insightful study of cultural phenomena that resonates through the subcontinent.

Adite Banerjie, the writer of this 'reader response', is a New Delhi based writer with over 20 years experience as a journalist working for publications such as The Economic Times and Business Today. She is also a romance novelist published by Harlequin Mills & Boon.

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