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

(Original Novel : கோபல்ல கிராமம்)

Due to the cattle coming out of the Kottaiyar house sheds, the two officers were forced into waiting atop their horses.

The cows continued to flow out. They were a local breed with unique coloring, horns curving in multiple different ways, and wore bells that chimed with differing pitches.

“Seems there are a lot of cows,” the white officer observed.

“Yes. The village’s wealth is in its cattle and land. Specifically, the Kottaiyar family, the ones we are waiting to meet, are the richest in the village.”

Due to some cows being frightened of the horses, the two officers retreated to a side of the street outside the house. After the cows had left the shed, the two tried to enter. But then buffalos came streaming out. The officers smiled at each other from the surprise.

“How much milk would the cows produce?”

“They don’t measure it here as they believe they shouldn’t. The cows are milked into big pots or small cups. On average, a cow makes two naazhis of milk.”

The white man didn’t know what a naazhi was. While the dark-skinned officer was wondering how to explain it to him, two buffaloes began ramming their horns together.

When rams fought, they would retreat a few steps and then charge towards each other. Buffaloes didn’t do that. Instead, they would stand close, pressing their skulls and the base of their horns together. The stronger one would eventually push the other’s head down and away. The defeated buffalo would immediately retreat and run, plowing through anything in its way without regard and reducing the obstacle into a pulp. And so, people would carefully watch from a distance.

The two horsemen moved a short distance away and resumed watching.

The two buffaloes fought as equals, making it hard to say which one would win. The officers smiled at each other.

Suddenly, one of the buffaloes began its retreat. The winner remained in his spot. The white man cheered in his language, letting go of the reins to clap.

“When animals fight and one loses, the winner doesn’t chase after it,” the dark-skinned officer commented. “I wonder why humans do not do the same.”

The white officer appreciated the question and its subtleties before responding. “Just as men have noble qualities, so do animals.”

After the commotion caused by the cattle settled down, the two went into the Kottaiyar house.

Govindappa Nayakkar was momentarily shocked by the surprise visitors, but he rose to greet them. After some introductions, the white officer shook Govindappa’s hands. It was a strange moment for the Nayakkar.

The visitors were given milk to drink. The white officer thanked them and praised the milk’s taste and smell.

The area’s high quality milk was due to the grass the cattle grazed on as well as the cotton seed and millet feed they were given.

To commemorate the visit, the white officer gave Govindappa a sword from his homeland. Govindappa was so happy he was unsure of what to do with himself.

After a while, the white officer asked to talk to Govindappa in private. As the villagers had gathered to see the white man, it took some time for that privacy to be achieved.

The dark-skinned officer translated between the two.

“This Lord is planning on putting you in charge of this village on behalf of the Company,” the dark-skinned officer said. “And he wants to know what you think.”

Govindappa Nayakkar was shocked, his face turning red. He glanced at his brothers who were standing at a distance. They had no clue what was being discussed. However, Krishnappa Nayakkar sensed that his brother wanted to speak to them.