(Author: Ki. Rajanarayanan Translation: Radha Soundar & R.S. Saha Editor: Suchitra)

(Original Novel : கோபல்ல கிராமம்)

To the left of Bullaya, staring up at the sky, was Crop Plower Bangaru Nayakkar. There’s an interesting story behind his nickname. Crop Plower’s sworn enemy Kotha Bavayya once had an abundant millet crop in his land. Bangaru Nayakkar’s stomach burned with jealousy at the sight of it. He seethed in silence until a moon-lit night when he took the bells off his bulls and plowed Kotha Bavayya’s field.

The village was shocked. The lush green that had claimed every inch of the land was now blanketed by dark soil. The villagers cursed whoever had done this, mourning how deeply he had plowed the crop.

“Just one crop a year and that’s gone too.” They lamented.

The sun shone brightly for a week and then it rained. And then, to everyone’s surprise, the crop burst through the dirt in countless shoots. While other millet crops were light green, Kotha Bavayya’s was dark green. Each villager had their own comment.

“As dark as a ghost’s slap!”

“Your spit wouldn’t hit the ground.”

“It’s pitch dark inside.”

“Dark enough for crickets to start chirping.”

“Even flies and mosquitoes can’t go in.”

The crop was so thick that a person could use it like a club and knock a man down.

That year, Kotha Bavayya harvested twice the amount of Kammam grass and the grains it produced were thick. The villagers watched in amazement. Bangaru Nayakkar was incensed by this turn of events and shouted, “I’m the one who plowed it!”

The village forgave him since his bad-intentions yielded a good result for the intended victim. Still, Bangaru Nayakkar had to pay for the temple lamp’s oil for one month. 

So Bangaru Nayakkar was not a noble man who researched and discovered the method of plowing crops to produce bountiful harvests. His bad intentions turned into a blessing for the land and so, his nickname stuck.

To Bangaru Nayakkar’s right, tying a towel around his head, was Healer Manjayya. He was always looking for medicinal herbs. He wasn’t capable of looking ahead while walking as his head was always bent towards the ground.

He knew about every plant in that area. He was eternally on the hunt for bark, roots, flowers, vegetables, and leaves. If he realized that one plant was particularly bountiful that year, he would claim that many people would get sick with a corresponding illness that year. He said that there was a specific time and day to pick each herb. Some had to be plucked from a specific direction. And some had specific incantations that had to be said while picking them.

His Saturdays were spent in one spot or another on Guru Mountain. He likened it to the mythical Sanjivi Mountain. He’d say the mountain’s breeze was enough to keep people healthy.

“When Hanuman carried Sanjivi Mountain to save Lakshman, a piece that fell off became Guru Mountain.” Manjayya would say. “Siddhas come here for medicinal herbs but we can’t see them.”

“Once, a hunter cut his hand badly. While walking from one end of the mountain to the other, the wound kept bleeding. He grabbed random leaves to wipe the wound as he went. When he left the mountain, the wound had healed!

“Obviously one of the leaves he had used was a Sanjivi leaf but he hadn’t noticed which one it was. The next day, he cut his hand and did the same thing so he could try to find the leaf again. But he never did.

“Such amazing herbs are in this Sanjivi Mountain and will be here!” Manjayya often said. 

Just to have Healer Manjayya perform a hand diagnosis felt good. He would not immediately check the pulse. Instead, he would first gently stretch out each finger and crack their knuckles. Then he would hold all the fingers together, close them, then open them, and then stretch them two or three times. Finally, he’d check the person’s pulse. People would hold their hand out to Manjayya just for the pleasure of this experience.

Men would give their right hand first and women their left to start the process but Manjayya checked both.

After taking his hand back, Manjayya would flick the ground three times with his pointer finger. A song would follow, in his amazing voice, describing the body’s processes. The treatment would also be expressed in song.

If people of the low castes came to him, he’d cover their hands with a silk cloth before proceeding with the usual.

Healer Manjayya never asked his patients to tell him their symptoms. He would check their pulse and then name their symptoms himself.

Unlike other healers, he wouldn’t torture patients by telling them to give up salt for a long time. In such cases, he would give them a powder that they could use a tiny pinch of in their food. The food would taste like it had been properly salted. 

To some he would advise a specific diet and say that would ward off all disease. Others would be told to fast for a few months and say they would feel better at the end.

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