Saw this guy at Kukatpally a few days ago and asked him if I could take his picture. He was ready, and took out his pipe from his bag and posed along with his bull. He also started talking to me rapidly in Telugu, the dialect of which he spoke was so totally incomprehensible to me that I couldn’t get even a single word of what he was saying. He was also going on in a very sing-song way – so there was no help even in terms of inflection or accompanying facial expression or gesture. The bull, though, seemed to understand perfectly what he was saying, and seemed to nod or shake his head rather sagely at the right moments. It was after a few minutes of this ‘conversation’ that I mimed to them that I wanted to take pictures of them and they readily acquiesced. Once the pictures were taken and money bestowed on the performer (which he was rather disappointed with, I gathered from the increased intensity of his sing-song, which also went up the scale a notch), I took my leave of them.
Later enquiries came up with the name of the art form, a different version of which I am familiar with from my childhood – the boom boom maadu of Tamilnadu. The boom boom referred to the noise made by the performer by rubbing a stick on the stretched skin of a smallish drum (called an udukkai I think). He would, in rapid Tamil which would be totally incomprehensible to anyone other than someone from the same region as himself, ask the bull questions about the target person’s fortune and future and the bull would nod or shake his head in answer. After predicting a spectacular future which would invariably include a happy marriage, several children, a promotion, a foreign trip and many such dreams, he would hopefully ask for his baksheesh, which would not always be forthcoming very readily.
The gangireddhu seems to be more fortunate in that way – people seem to be more ready to pay them today that they were to give to money the the boom boom maadu and his owner back when I was a kid.