(Author: Ki. Rajanarayanan Translation: Radha Soundar & R.S. Saha Editor: Suchitra)
(Original Novel : கோபல்ல கிராமம்)
One day, Krishnappa Nayakkar was not feeling well so Sundarappa Nayakkar stepped in to hold the plowshare. The summer harvest had just ended and they were ready to till the land after the first rain showers. They would then plant the seeds in the tilled fields in time for the next bout of rain. This rainfall would remove any weeds that sprouted after the first tilling and properly drenched the fields for the planted seeds.
They normally used a single plow to till the field for the first round. Even if they rushed, the second round of rain would arrive before they finished. Akkayya wondered if it would be possible to attach two plowshares to one pair of bulls but he knew it would be too hard on the beasts. He continued to think.
He called the loom-maker and made him remove the heavy wooden attachment from the plow and replace it with a lighter teak wood. Akkayya picked up the old, worn out shares and sharpened their edges to reduce their weight before attaching them back to the plows. He built two light-weight plowshares in this manner.
Sundarappa Nayakkar arrived then and laughed. “Hey, Mama. What are these plowshares for? To play with?”
A small crowd had gathered to watch. Krishnappa Nayakkar didn’t say a thing. Govindappa Nayakkar responded in a soft and calm voice, “There’s always a point to everything he does.”
But his brothers doubted Akkayya’s prowess this time. The women listened in on the banter and laughed.
The next day, Akkayya got up at the crack of dawn and woke up Krishnappa Nayakkar as well. They went out to the nearest field to try out the new plowshares.
They tied the plowshares, touched the handle of the plow, prayed, and began tilling. The bulls had no difficulty pulling the new plowshares. However, Akkayya and Krishnappa Nayakker’s hands would rub together uncomfortably no matter how they oriented the plowshares. They stopped and started thinking over the problem. Krishnappa Nayakkar suggested putting one plowshare in front and the other in the back. Akkayya agreed that this might be a good idea. With one on the left in front and one on the right in the back, it was easier but became crowded and difficult when it came time to turn. They stopped again and thought.
“The ideas were fine,” Krishnappa Nayakkar said and recalled a Telugu folktale. He smiled at Akkayya. “But surely our elders would have thought about this?”
Akkayya did not seem to have heard him at all. His face lit up and he snapped his fingers. He tied the right plowshare to the front and the left plowshare to the back. It was a small adjustment, but it worked! The bulls moved swiftly and there were no hitches.
At each turn, the plowshares moved smoothly without touching and hindering each other. They pressed the plowshares deep. The soil swelled like a blooming flower. Mother Earth was happily responding to the tilling.
Akkayya’s invention, the twin plowshare, caused a big change in the region. However, the system wasn’t suitable for sowing in the summer when the ground had to be tilled deep and the bulls could only comfortably pull one plowshare.
Sundarappa Naykkar and Akkayya went to till a distant field with the twin plowshares. Akkayya walked with the usual innocent expression on his face while Sundarappa Nayakkar teased him relentlessly. Akkayya was carrying a pot of gruel on his head. It was filled with twelve millet balls soaking in whey that were each the size of a coconut. The pot also contained a coconut shell that held vegetable fritters and pickled lemons. The pot was covered by a small plate that had thick chutney. Sundarappa Nayakkar carried a pot of water.
The plowshares clattered against the road as they were dragged by the bulls. Akkayya and Sundarappa Nayakkar walked behind, carrying the pots on their heads and preparing betel leaves to chew.
Sundarappa Nayakkar had a reason for being upset with Akkayya. The night before, they were sitting under the moon for a post-dinner betel chewing. Akkayya pleasantly invited Sundarappa Nayakkar into joining. His tone made it difficult to tell whether he was being genuine or had a prank planned.
As soon as Sundarappa Nayakkar came near, Akkaya held out two betel nuts and said, “Did you eat a lot today?”
Sundarappa Nayakkar made sure he had actually been handed betel nuts by holding them up to the moonlight. Once he was sure, he popped them in his mouth.
Akkayya had placed a leaf on his lap with white lime spread on it. “This is new lime. Be careful how much you spread on the betel leaf or you’ll end up with a burned tongue.” He then stuck his tongue out like a victim, his tongue hanging out. Everyone laughed.
Sundarappa Nayakkar didn’t like the betel leaf as it was too hot. He spat it out in the corner of the front yard.
“What have you done this time, Mama?” Chellapillai Kanappa asked as he approached Akkayya. Akkayya pointed at the blob of lime on his thigh. Kanappa was still confused. As though it was enough to explain his joke, Akkayya held the leaf down with his ring finger and spread the lime with his middle finger before popping it in his mouth.
A little later, Kanappa laughed loudly. Everyone ran up to Akkayya and he held the leaf up for everyone to see. The leaf had a round hole in it.
Everyone asked him to show the trick again.
He placed a new leaf with a hole on his lap. Then, he pulled out a pinch of his white veshti through the hole. It looked like the white lime that needed to be added to make the betel leaves more palatable. With a drop of water to wet the veshti peaking through, it was enough to even fool someone touching it into thinking it was the white lime.
Govindappa Nayakkar was impressed by Akkayya’s mischievous mind. He wondered where he got his ideas from.