Author: Ki. Rajanarayanan Translation: Radha Soundar & R.S. Saha Editor: Suchitra)
(Original Novel : கோபல்ல கிராமம்)
In the later part of his life, Akkayya was teasingly called Divan by the villagers due to him managing the affairs of the Kottaiyar house.
He has been known for his sense of humor since he was young. He would never start teasing anyone on his own, but if anyone tried to tease him he wouldn’t spare them.
Weavers, bearing a load of saris on their head, arrived at the Kottaiyar house. Akkayya joined the household in looking at the saris. He found some of the colors beautiful and silently appreciated the craftsmanship that must have gone into weaving the saris.
“Will the colors run?” Sundarappa Nayakkar jokingly asked Akkayya.
Here comes trouble.
Akkayya looked at him with his usual style and said, “If you wash it in a pond it won’t run.”
No one understood what he meant. The weavers looked at him, confused. What does he mean by that? They wondered.
Akkayya continued, “But if you wash it in a river the dye will run. Since a pond has borders, the dye won’t.”
Everyone understood what he had initially meant and broke out laughing.
Akkayya’s entire family had been killed by smallpox, sparing just him.
All he owned was a small house. After he had been orphaned, Mangathayaru Ammal brought him to the Kottaiyar house.
Akkayya cried for his family for many days. He retreated into a silent shell. He would silently do any work given to him. When he was given food, he’d eat it if he felt like it. At all other times, his eyes would be fixed on any little thing on the floor. Everyone was moved by this sight.
He recovered as days passed. Something new could be seen in him. Though he never smiled, mischief would twinkle in his eyes. He was energetic by nature and couldn’t be matched in getting things done. As he became an adult he became known for his intelligence and insight.
Once Naranappa Nayakkar was getting ready to go into an empty granary to clean it. He paused when he heard a hissing. Two cobras had somehow fallen into the granary and everyone was shocked. The snakes had to be killed, but how? As everyone tried to figure out what to do, Akkayya arrived. He had tied an old blanket around his legs and feet, securing it with a rope. In his right hand he had a kuttutaram, a stick with a sharp hook that was used for killing snakes. He jumped into the granary and killed the snakes. He was only 14 years old.
It was normal for him to grab a snake by the tail, spin it around, and then smash it against the ground.
The snake killing incident created a chance for the villagers to learn and talk about him. He did something similarly noteworthy when he was 21. He had gone into the forest to get thorn bushes to use as a fence.
He cut off enough for him to bear on his head and tied the bushes around a long stick that had a v-shaped tip. He placed the load on his head and walked with his hands gripping both legs of the v. He was confronted by two robbers that ordered him to hand over his gold stud earrings.
“Is that all? I’ll stand still. Just come over, to my right and left, and take them off yourselves.” Akkayya said.
As they did, Akkayaa pressed down with his arms and trapped them under his armpits. He reached the village in that manner with the thorn bushes intact.
The entire village was stunned by his strength. The village youths hung the robbers upside down from a fig tree near a pond. Then, using a tamarind tree’s branch, they flogged the robbers. A crowd gathered from neighboring villages to watch the punishment. After two days, the robbers were let down and allowed to run off with their lives. They were warned to not even sleep with their heads in the village’s direction.
Govindappa Nayakkar often said that Akkayya’s strength was due to his celibacy. He would often say loudly whenever his youngest brother was in hearing distance.
Both men and women made fun of Akkayya’s celibacy. Men, however, did it discreetly while women teased him to his face. Akkayya would forgive the women anyway and would never try to get revenge.
Akkaya’s humor, wit, presence of mind and smartness is well brought out when asked about the sari dye’s durability!!
His personality along with his innate bravery is well portrayed!!
Also, the lines from the original tamil version “ உள்ளே ‘ சீத்’தடிக்கும் சத்தம் கேட்டு “ has been translated well by the” hissing sound” . Great one to read!!