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Will you kill your parents in the name of custom?

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Thalaikoothal

Here’s a quick question for you, think loud before answering- will you kill your parents once they reach old age? Will you commit the acts of euthanasia in the name of a custom? These are some of the toughest questions one could ever answer. The most precious thing to anyone around the world is of course their family and killing them isn’t well apprehended.  Let’s say you need to do it as a part of a tradition, will you choose to do it anyway? Relax you don’t need to answer as we know it’s not a thing that could be decided overnight. So, Bizarre as these thoughts sounds, let us take you through one of the most heinous, crude and eccentric tradition of South India that will blow your mind like never before.   

Thalaikoothal- killing the elderly!

Thalaikoothal is not any random act of assassination instead a well settled ritual of killing driven by poverty and custom. In almost 50 villages of the districts of Virudhunagar, Mandabasalai, Madurai, Thoothukudi and Theni, Tamil Nadu, the practice of Thalaikoothal is favoured. This custom involves killing people who no longer possess energy to work and thus are considered as ‘Invalid’; human cycle is indeed strange. According to the custom these invalid elders are given their final bath adorned with oil and then forced to drink 100 ml of the coconut water together with tulsi juice and milk, a so called death drink. This causes renal failures. And do you know why this death drink is given? Well, an oil bath which is followed by coconut juice, and this mixture of death drink, causes the body’s temperature to fall to 94 to 92 degrees F from the normal 98.4 degrees F? This cause tremendous reaction resulting in an electrolyte imbalance, creating devastation inside the body’s metabolism system which may also cause cardiac arrest!

Thalaikoothal

Whereas while this procedure, relatives stand chanting ‘Kasi-Kasi’ all around to house. Well these all doesn’t sound that brutal isn’t it? The lethal part of this ritual is forcing death! Yes, if a person resist dying then a hard piece of savoury are forced down their throat in order to choke and the individual is left to die by suffocation. In fact, you’ll be amazed to know that when the savoury doesn’t works out, people even go to extreme using mud mixed with water in a hope that it’ll cause indigestion and thus fell brutally to forceful death! And during these task of Thalaikoothal when the person is being killed, the rest of the family members arrange for the funeral anyway! Wait, it’s not the end. By chance if all such methods fail, these people do not hesitate giving the victim poison in the form of tablets that are anyway used for the animals such as Quickphos and Celphos. These lethal injections finally cause multi organ failure which is nearly impossible for any elderly to survive. A report suggest that there are possibly 26 different methods of killing used in the region!

Where on one hand world is screaming over the word ‘consent’, unfortunately here the Victim’s consent isn’t a part of the play. And why not? Because either the patient is terminally ill or already on their death bed and it’s the family that take up the decision on their behalf. And what’s more amusing is that, even though the truth of these deaths is murder which can have serious aftermath, they are almost always signed off by the doctors claiming the death is due to natural causes, which in their case is of course old age! Since society accepts it as normal practice, there is no hue or cry. The practice of Thalaikoothal is indeed a heinous practice which is wrapped under the blanket of justification. Sadly, people has a blame game of employment, according to them at earlier times there was always someone taking care of the elders whereas today no one is left as a caretaker due to their employment. As a part of justification for these murders, some people also say the practice enables the old to get rid of their own sufferings. It’s quite understandable that the practice of Thalaikoothal isn’t that simple and thus covering up for it is indeed needed.    

Thalaikoothal makes us ponder- is this generation really that busy with our own lives and work that we are willing to sacrifice the lives of those related to us in a name of a burden, hidden under the mask of clemency? But mostly, do we really have that right to do so?

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