image of a tan, black


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

Company soldiers often marched on Mangamma’s Path. They were often accompanied by people bearing loads on their heads.

Company demand for labor grew every day. They came to Gopalla looking for laborers. At first, the villagers happily joined. But it soon became a nuisance. They complained to Govindappa Nayakkar that the soldiers didn’t respect them, upsetting Govindappa. The village was close to the road, making the requests easy and frequent.

Hundreds of laborers would come from the north bearing loads on their head and dropping it off on the road before leaving. Then the villagers would take the burdens to a different spot, where the next set of laborers would take over.

The villagers tried multiple schemes to get out of this annoyance. They would stick pieces of molasses on their arms and legs and wrap the spots with old cloth, like bandages. Drawn by the sugar, flies would swarm around the fake wounds.

The white men didn’t want injured and diseased laborers. 

Not everyone could use this trick as it would be too suspicious. Akkayya came up with a different trick. He had the villagers tie garlands of neem leaves in the roads leading into the village and also had them put small bunches of neem leaves at the entrance of every house. Metal pots filled with water and neem leaves were placed in front of houses on the roads

The white men were afraid of chicken pox and would run at any sight of it. They knew the local practice of tying up neem leaf garlands in areas affected by chicken pox. 

The villagers came up with many comedic folk songs about the white man.

Ai sakka ai
Half a cup of ghee
In the white man’s hat
Light a lamp
He’s coming, he’s coming
The white man
Let the mother-fucker come
That hat-wearing man

Gopalla and the surrounding areas resisted change for many years despite Company rule.

One change, however, was the comet that appeared. Seeing it, Astrologer Enkatrayalu said, “Bad times have started for this land.”