Saturday, June 13, 2009
Tall men meet for their tenth anniversary celebrations of their association and speak about the joys and problems of being closer to the sky than other human beings
Photo: The 6' 10" tall Thumboor Shibu next to his vehicle
By Shevlin Sebastian
On May 3, Suresh Kumar went to attend the annual Pooram festival at Thrissur. Somehow he ended up standing next to an elephant, Cherakkal Kalidasan. Suddenly, the elephant swung his tusks sideways and grazed Suresh on the ribs. He fell down. The mahout rushed forward and calmed down the elephant.
“Later, the mahout told me that when I stood next to Kalidasan, I had blocked his vision, because I was at the eye-level,” says Suresh, who is 6’ 6” tall. “So in a panic, he had attacked me.”
Anyway, the injury was not serious although Suresh suffered from intermittent pain for the next three weeks. “This is one of the disadvantages of being tall,” he says, with a smile.
It was when he was in Class eight at the Gurukulum high school at Alathur in Thrissur district that Suresh realised he was tall. In basketball matches he scored easily. In swimming competitions he came first.
But there were bad experiences also. “The students would call me a long tree or stick,” he says. “They would say this long stick is good for plucking mangoes. I used to get hurt.”
Once when the class was going on an excursion on a bus, it was difficult for Suresh to sit because of the low ceiling and the small seats. “The headmaster advised me not to go since it was going to be a long journey,” he says. “I felt very disappointed.”
Standing next to Suresh is the 6’ 10” Tumbur Shibu in a bright red T-shirt and designer goggles. He is the chief captain of the executive force of the Kerala Tall Men’s Association (KTMA).
“We provide security for mega events like fairs, concerts and weddings,” he says.
Their last major assignment was handling the huge crowds at the A.R Rehman concert held on May 3 at the Corporation stadium at Kozhikode.
“Tall men are better able to command the crowd, as compared to short people,” says Shibu.
So what are the disadvantages and advantages of being a tall man?
Shibu lists the plus points quickly. “Thanks to my height I was able to act as a tall man in the film, ‘Albutha Dweep’,” he says. “It was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.” Later he acted in several other films including ‘Crazy Gopalan’ and television serials like ‘Kayamkulam Kochunni’.
Thanks to their height, they have a commanding presence. Zachariah Joseph, the founder of the KTMA, who is 6’ 3”, was walking down a street in Kunnumkalam when he saw two men fighting.
“I just went up to them and shouted, ‘What is going on?’ Stop it,’ and immediately the men disappeared,” he says. “They obeyed me only because of my height. If a short man spoke like that, they would have told him to get lost.”
But there are obvious disadvantages. Travel in public transport is extremely difficult. “In buses, I have to bend my head and stand,” says Suresh. “It is a torture. Even if I get a seat it is difficult to sit because the seats are so small. I need two seats to sit.” The best place to sit is at the back.
The situation is a bit better in trains. “However, when I sit down my knees will touch the legs of the passenger sitting on the opposite side,” says Shibhu. “When I sleep on the berth, my legs jut out. This is the case with hotel beds.”
It is impossible to travel in small cars and as for autorickshaws, Shibu had the mortification of sitting in one such vehicle and it tilted to one side because of his weight of 170 kgs.
Actor Unda Pakru, who is 2’ 6” tall, says, tongue-in-cheek: “I sympathise with my tall friends. But, for me, the main hurdle is to get onto the first step of the bus. Once I am able to do that, the seats are like a double-sized bed for me.”
Meanwhile, Shibu is searching hard for somebody to share his bed with. “It is not easy to get a tall woman for a wife,” he says. He has been searching vainly for the past two years. As for those who are married, they usually have tall wives. For example, Suresh’s wife is 6’ 1”.
“After a lot of difficulty I managed to find a tall girl,” says Suresh. “My wife had also been searching for two years for a tall man.”
The interesting thing about meeting the tall men was the sense of placidity that they exuded. “We rarely lose our temper,” admits Zachariah Joseph. “Somehow, tall people are calm and peaceful.” And it is also rare to find a tall person committing a crime. “One reason could be that we will be spotted easily,” he says, smiling.
On May 24, a humid but overcast Sunday morning, the tall men had gathered for the tenth anniversary celebrations of the Kerala Tall Men’s Association (KTMA) at Chalakudi.
The KTMA was started in Kunnumkulam, near Thrissur, in 1999 by P. Zachariah Joseph, along with his friends, Jimmy Iype and P.I. Jose. “We wanted an association for tall people,” says Joseph. Initially, there were 300 members. Now, there are more than a thousand. The minimum height required to become a member is 6 feet.
At the Lions Club hall there are more than 200 tall people present. Suresh Kumar, Palakkad zilla unit president says that one of the big advantages of being a member is that they don’t have to bend to talk to people. “Since people are tall, we can talk face to face,” he says. “And that is a big relief.”
At the meeting, KTMA state president Tigris Antony asks for a special quota for tall men in the police and the army. “We urge the government to utilise our advantage of height,” he says. “Sometimes when we see these short policemen we wonder how they are able to impose law and order especially during riots and disturbances.”
Titus says that in many instances where the police and the executive security force of the tall men had worked side by side, it was the tall men who were better able impose control over the crowd.
1. Robert Wadlow – 8' 11.1"
2. John Rogan – 8' 9 ½"
3. Don Koehler – 8' 2"
4. Zhao Liang - 8' 1.1"
5. Väinö Myllyrinne – 8'1"
Tall heroes in Hollywood
Clint Eastwood: 6’ 4”
Liam Neeson: 6’ 4”
Arnold Schwarzenegger: 6’ 2”
Will Smith: 6’ 2”
Jim Carrey: 6’ 2”
Keanu Reeves: 6’1”
(The New Indian Express, Chennai)