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Codes of reality!

What is language!

Tints of the English rule

Later as I grew up, I was to find that the facial expression of the majority Thiyyas were of the inferior quality, cruder type. Later when I lived in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, in South Kerala, in the year 1980, I did hear of the talk of the ‘British-blooded’ Thiyya officers. For, when the Malabar part of Madras state was amalgamated with the state of Travancore-Cochin to form Kerala, many officers from Malabar opted for Kerala service and became Kerala state government officers. Many of them belonged to the Thiyya caste.

They were good in English and honest in public affairs to a fault. It may be mentioned that the Travancore-Cochin states were independent kingdoms, where corrupt officialdom was a living reality during the times of British rule in British-India. While corruption among the officer class in British ruled Malabar was a non-existent theme.

The officers who came to south Kerala bore a markedly different physical and facial personality. Even my own mother was mentioned as a Brahmin lady, even though she was not Brahmin in any sense of the word. Moreover, I do not think that she had any typical Brahmin personality, either in mind or in physical features.

It took me years to connect the change of physical and mental personality to the British rule in Malabar. Even though the British were rarely in Malabar in terms of numbers, the mental impact of the British rule was very much felt in such areas as Cannanore and Tellichery. First was the removal of the political superiority of the Brahmin and Kshatryiya (kingly families) castes.

Below these two castes came the Nairs, who were the serving castes of the two superior castes. The Thiyya caste had been deprived of many political rights as well as social freedoms that the two superior castes had. The Nair caste also did enjoy rights due to their close proximity to the two superior castes.

The very replacement of the higher political positions by the British was a mental elevation for the Thiyya. Along with this, was the establishment of English primary and higher schools. Then came the Brennen College, which during the British times was, unlike now, a reputed institution. These educational institutions gave the lower caste Thiyyas an historical opportunity to get English education at more or less free cost.

This had its social tragedies. For the higher castes were naturally in great mental trauma at this social development. For, if they were to send their children to the local English schools, their children would have to sit with the crude lower caste children. This issue more or less sieved out the higher castes from the opportunity for English education.

As the inputs of English slowly entered into the Thiyya social domain, they were to get infused by the social codes of English. Along this was the fact that they were not subordinated by lower level Malayalam codes to higher castes. Later, when the public service opportunities came up, the English educated Thiyya individuals got for the first time in recorded history the chance to become part of the government machinery.

Yet, it may be mentioned in passing that even though the British gave the English educated Thiyyas a chance to break out of their slavish existence, they on their own did not concede any such concessions to persons who existed on the lower side of the society. Many of them saw their social elevation as due to their own intellectual superiority. No mention of British contribution was ever seen cited.

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