Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
VED from VICTORIA INSTITUTIONS
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Culture of the land

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The English Company was trying to set-up a trading relationship with a semi-barbarian land. The culture of the land was totally different from anything that the native-English could imagine or understand.


To know what the great difference is, one has to know that a social system is designed by the design codes inside the language of the social system. The languages here were feudal languages. That is, there are multiple words of many things, including that of addressing as well as referring to a person or entity. The very definition of an entity is defined by the specific words chosen for definition.


Here the reader must understand that the multitude of words is not synonyms as understood in English. They represent varying levels of existence, as one can imagine in a vertical hierarchy.


All human attributes, such as honesty, courage, valour, chivalry, word of honour, civil behaviour, rectitude etc. depend on these words. And it must also be mentioned that all the above-mentioned attributes are totally different from what they look like or feel in English.


Into such a starkly different and semi-barbarian land, the native-English were entering in all stances of dignity and daring. However there is nothing in this land to reciprocate dignified stances in a like manner. In fact, a dignified stance by a side seen to be weaker or vulnerable, is taken as an offensive stance. They will be punished just for displaying a pose of dignity. A very illustrative example is what happened to the British Sailors who were lured to the Indian coast and put into prison in Madras.


QUOTE: “On the other side stood another page, who held a gold cup with a wide rim into which the king spat; END OF QUOTE.


This is from the reception scene of the king of tiny Calicut meeting Vasco da Gama. The Calicut king had not much of an information on what all stances would give him a majestic demeanour. The very natural idea from a semi-barbarian mentality would be to do a lot of spitting, with a pageboy kept in pose of servile attendance. In fact, the real truth is that even now, people use servile subordinate around them to display a show of power.

QUOTE: The eldest female of all the branches was accustomed to some distinction, and was entitled to the sthanam (dignity) annexed to the Achamma Mupasthanam. She was nominally the head of the whole family just .............

But the executive power was in theory at least sub-divided among the five eldest male members, who were styled, respectively, in their order of seniority. END OF QUOTE


There is some great information in the above-statement. There is a general feeling that the females are weaker. That is only on husband-wife relationship, wherein she has to display her ‘respect’ to him. He has to address and refer to her in the pejorative. However, the same woman would be quite violently rude and degrading in her stance of power over all those who come under her. This is a very sly location that does not find much mention.


I personally had an experience in this. Some twenty-five years back, I had to go and meet the local area committee leader of the Communist party in his house in one place. He had been a lower primary teacher in one of the government-aided schools in the locality. He was a Nayar by caste. Even though by scholastic abilities, he was more or less a dullard, he was the acknowledged leader of the lower classes, whom he maintained a powerful leadership by addressing them as Nee (lowest you), and referring to them as Avan (lowest he / him). For this, they showered him with honour and affection.


This man used to address me with a ‘Ningal’ (middle-level you), and I used to reciprocate in a like manner.


When I went to his house, his wife came out. A typical interior village Nayar female. More or less totally unlettered ignoramus. However, she had the mien that indicated that she was used to subordinating the lower class member of her party. I had a terrific shock when she addressed me with a Inhi (ഇഞ്ഞി). It was her house and I had come to meet her husband. It was very momentary display of what must have been the stance of the relatively higher classes in the subcontinent before the English rule could dismantle the satanic power of these rude households. However, the paradox in these kinds of social themes is that the more they suppress with words, the more is the affection that the lower classes would give in return.


Now, coming back to the context, the mention of the male hierarchy is intimately connected to the language codes. However, in all hierarchical set-ups, seniority in age is generally taken up for designing the hierarchy. Even in the Monarchy of England. But then, it must also be mentioned that the English Monarchy does have some roots in the German language. I cannot say for sure if this connection has affected any structural frame of the English Monarchy. I do not think so.


QUOTE: On examining the records it is found that, as a rule, the ablest member of the family, sometimes peaceably with the consent of all the members, sometimes by force, seized the reins of power at the earliest possible opportunity, and the rest of the family, although perhaps senior to himself, were mere puppets in his hands. END OF QUOTE.


Even though the above-statement is with regard to the Kolathiri family of Cannanore, the truth is that this statement would be equally true with regard to almost all the ruling families of the various kingdoms in the subcontinent of those times. The most powerful urging for mutinous usurping of the highest title is the fear of losing ‘respect’. Once a person is below the highest, it is the highest person’s decision as to where to place him in the hierarchy. If the highest individual is not well-deposed to this individual, he can even be made lower to certain levels of lowly individuals. Maintaining one’s ‘respect’ and level is somewhat similar to being in a deep water, wherein one has to continuously beat and peddle to keep one’s head up and above the clamorous water.


Actually this is one of the reason that Pazhassiraja could not bear his uncle. His uncle did try to place him under one of his own underlings.


QUOTE: The Nayars and other Malayalis suffered in their eagerness for plunder, for a magazine blew up and killed 100 of them END OF QUOTE.


This craving for looting is what more or less gave inspiration for persons to join in all kinds of clamour activities. However, there is a slight issue. There is the mention of the ‘other Malayalis’. Why they are not specified might be a debatable point. After all this is a sort of multi-user created book. Logan simply stands a sort of gullible fool, giving a platform for many others with their own vested interests to insert in what they wanted.


QUOTE: Captain Lane reported, “cruelly—shamefully— and in violation of all laws divine and humane, most barbarously butchered” by the Nayars, notwithstanding the exertions of the English officers to save them. END OF QUOTE.


This incident is very eerily similar to what happened to SubashChandran’s natives of the Subcontinent soldiery who had shifted their loyalty from the British-Indian army to that of the Japanese side. When they surrendered, the British-Indian soldiers took turns to butcher them on the sly. Ultimately they had to be placed under the direct protection of the English soldiers.


QUOTE: If attempts were made to sow dissensions by showing forged letters, etc. (as had already happened), inter-communication between the factories was to be free in order to get rid of the distrust thereby caused. END OF QUOTE


There are very specific codes in the local feudal languages, that can make a particular lower-class section to act like a pivot on which the higher sections are made swing and carousal. Moreover, these codes can maintain the higher positioned groups in a sort of seesaw experience. It requires great insight to understand all this. So that pre-emptive measures can be taken to forestall the insidious attempts to create dissension and division.


QUOTE: The country people all know this to be false, so the Chief and factors accepted the offer, judging it would make the family contemptible in the eyes of the natives. END OF QUOTE.


Actually this is a very foolish idea. The people in the subcontinent do not necessarily support the side which has more integrity or honesty or courage. They are naturally attuned to admire the side which shows more calibre for successful deceit and treachery.


QUOTE: The factors now interposed and arranged articles of peace between the Kolattiri and the Canarese. The Chief and Mr. Lynch and the Prince Regent, on 30th August 1737, met Surapaya, the Canarese general, near Madakkara. Both parties went strongly armed and escorted fearing treachery, and the Canarese escort was described as "very ungovernable” in their demeanour. END OF QUOTE.


The basic problem is that the subordinates do not really obey instructions fully, unless they feel they can be punished. This cannot be done in the usual circumstances. Even in current-day India, the subordinate policemen, including the middle-level ‘officers’ do not actually obey orders if they can get away with it. At times, they go beyond their brief. They kill, without specific orders to do so, and the higher officers are made to stand supportive of them.


QUOTE: “It is observed that they will not go for a loan to shreffs and merchants who cannot protect them ; but if we do not comply they will have to mortgage their country to the prince, who probably could not supply them, and if he could it would subject them to him more than is consistent with their privileges. The only other people they can apply to are the Honourable Company or the French, or the Cotiote. END OF QUOTE.


Actually there is a huge information embedded in the above statement with regard to why the native rulers liked to collaborate with the English Company. If they took any kind of favour or help from anyone native to the subcontinent, immediately they come under him or her. This would reflect very sharply in the words of addressing and referring. However, in the case of the English, since they were native to a planar language, there would not be any change in the verbal codes.


To put it more candidly, if one were to become subordinated to a native of the subcontinent, the words of address, especially in letters and messages could change to the Inhi or Nee or Thoo (lowest you). And the subordinated person would have to consistently display his or her subordination in verbal codes.


QUOTE: At 2 P.M. the French troops arrived at Tellicherry with drums beating, colours flying, etc., and grounded their arms at the southern limit gate. M. Louet and the officers were received by the Chief Mr. Hodges, who returned them their swords, and M. Louet was saluted with fifteen guns as he entered the fort. END OF QUOTE.


The English were in most cases very professional and courteous when their enemy had surrendered. This is an international point to be noted. That even Napoleon did not surrender to anyone else other than the English. If it was the English army that had entered Berlin, Adolf Hitler most probably would not have committed suicide.


If it was the Russian army which had taken over Japan, the people there would have faced a lot of molestations.