(Author: Ki. Rajanarayanan Translation: Radha Soundar & R.S. Saha Editor: Suchitra)
(Original Novel : கோபல்ல கிராமம்)
The man next to Chinayya Nayakkar was Dirt Eater Renga Nayakkar. He didn’t earn this name because he ate dirt as a child like many malnourished children do. He could judge the quality of land and its strength. If someone wanted to buy land, they would take him there for him to judge. He’d take a pinch of dirt and chew on it. Then he would tell them what would grow well and what wouldn’t and whether the land was fertile or not. He was always right.
The broad shouldered and gigantic man next to Dirt Eater was Kind Hearted Tiravathi Nayakkar. The story behind his nickname was interesting.
Tiravathi Nayakkar was fourteen or fifteen. He was toned and muscular. He was kind hearted in that he would not give way to a person if they were walking towards each other. He would keep walking like he was going to knock them over, expecting them to move instead.
One day, he filled his stomach with the goat curry they made in his house. They were also frying lentil vadai that he had eaten fifteen or twenty of. His body overflowed with energy after that meal and could barely control his urge to wrestle someone.
He stepped onto the street outside his house. Just then, Vaani Chettiyar’s son Chinnathambi Chettiyar was returning from selling sesame oil in a neighboring village. He was carrying a pot glistening with oil that was as dark as him.
Tiravathi Nayakkar was glad to see a worthy opponent.
Chinnathambi was also a strong, healthy, and carefree lad. Each of his fingers were as wide as two. He ate his rice with ladlefuls of oil. After he went to bed, his mother would clean the house. Then she would fill up a pot full of rice mixed with a generous amount of lentils and leave it next to him along with a large cup of sesame oil.
He would wake up in the middle of the night and urinate outside with his eyes still shut.
He would then come in and pick up the pot of rice. Chinnathambi would pour in the oil and eat huge handfuls. When he was done, he would wash his hands in the pot and rinse his mouth, spitting into the pot. Without drying his hand, Chinnathambi would lie down and resume his unbroken sequence of sleeping.
Everyone had three meals but Chinnathambi needed four without question.
Tiravathi gestured Chinnathambi over with a friendly smile. The latter respectfully listened.
“Set the pot down,” Tiravathi said.
Chinnathambi did as he was told.
“Alright.” Tiravathi gripped Chinnathambi’s shoulder. “Wrestle with me.”
“What? You’re acting like a kid.” Chinnathambi laughed. He pleaded with Tiravathi, saying that he hadn’t even eaten yet after his day of sales. “Let me go.”
Tiravathi refused, stubborn like a mad man.
He shoved Chinnathambi to the ground and sat on him.
“Alright. You’ve beaten me,” Chinnathambi said, wanting this mess to be over. “Let me go.”
“No. You have to wrestle me to the ground.”
“Okay.” Chinnathambi easily pushed him off and pinned him.
A crowd gathered and Tiravathi calmed them down by saying that he and Chinnathambi were just wrestling.
“Chinnathambi!” Tiravathi returned his attention to his opponent. “Now I’m going to pin you.”
But he was unable to.
“Should I let go?” Chinnathambi whispered, angering Tiravathi.
“Let me go? Is that why I asked you to wrestle?” Tiravathi bellowed and used all his strength to beat Chinnathambi. The latter simply settled onto Tiravathi’s like Ganesha the Elephant God.
The crowd laughed and cheered for Tiravathi, who continued to do his best. He gracefully accepted defeat and asked Chinnathambi to release him.
When Tiravathi got up, Chinnathambi dusted off Tiravathi with his bare hands.
“You have a really kind heart, Chinnathambi!” Tiravathi said.
From then on, everyone in the village called him Kind Hearted Tiravathi.
Sitting next to him was Loud Mouth Kottayya. He always spoke at the top of his voice as that’s how his vocal chords were. His voice could be heard in any crowd of people. Nayakkars were possibly known for being loud due to men like him. Not many knew the reason for his booming voice. His wife was so deaf that she couldn’t even hear cannon fire so the shouting he did at home continued everywhere else.
Next was Snuff Genga Nayakkar. Snuff was made in his house. High quality tobacco was bought and ground into a fine powder with a tamarind wood pestle. The work was done quickly and without pause. The snuff they made was famous in their village and in the surrounding area. People would come with kammam grass and happily trade it for snuff wrapped in leaves. And so, he became Snuff Genga Nayakkar. Not only did he use it, he made it for others as well.
Concrete House Lechumana Nayakkar was next, sitting on his haunches. His ancestors were the first to build a concrete house.
Next was Wrist Band Suppanna who was also known as Tiger Stabber Suppanna. A wrist band was tied to him during his wedding and he wasn’t supposed to do any work until it was removed. However, a tiger from the jungle came into the village that day. It made it all the way to the house the wedding was happening in. While the guests ran terrified and unsure of what to do, Suppanna speared the tiger and killed it. Due to his heroism, he earned himself two nicknames.