William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
VED from VICTORIA INSTITUTIONS
The terror that perched upon the Nayars
Now about the terror that the Nayars had with regard to mentioning the Marumakkathaya Thiyyas of north Malabar.
The language of the land is feudal. That means, the lower-placed persons are differently defined in the verbal codes. They then exist as different kind of human beings. Their very words can cause harm. They do not have to even touch. If they look at a ‘respected’ persons with a disdainful eye, then that person will be negatively affected.
It is like this: An IPS women officer. She suddenly understands that the police constables are referring to her as Aval അവൾ (Oal ഓള് in Malabari). This information is enough to make her confined to her cabin. When the constables view her as an Aval, literally she is molested by them by means of profane usages.
This is a terrific information. But then how to convey this to a native-Englishman?
This is more or less the same terrifying issue before the Nayars. The moment the Marumakkathaya Thiyyas develop socially, their far-distant links in the social system (their relatives) would also go up. They are the persons whose profane words and looks can wither up a upper-caste individual’s personality features.
Historically this kind of scenarios would not happen. It is like saying that constables would never address an IPS officer as a Nee or refer to him or her as an Avan or Aval. But then, the entry of the English Company rule made this totally impossible situation to happen. It was like a new administration taking over the country and ordering the constables to address the IPS officers as Nee and refer to them as Avan and Aval.
Even though the Nayars generally collaborated with the English rule, the above-mentioned topsy-turvying of the social equations was one thing that still hurts some of them. There is one person from this caste, who literally received an immensity of glorious content from English. He is on a campaign to make England pay a compensation for improving the subcontinent. Even though he does not mention this in so many words, it is quite evident that many of his household members cannot still forgive the English for giving the Thiyyas and other lower castes, an escape route from their subordinated positions.
If a calculation is done on the hundreds of years of slavery his household must have inflicted on the various lower castes here, it is possible that all his wealth would not be enough to pay the rightful compensation that the erstwhile slave families have a right to.
Before concluding this chapter on Nayars, I think that it would be correct on my part to mention a very positive input about them. It is simply their attitude that they are not ‘low-class’ or ‘low-caste’. This is actually a wonderful mental stamina, which most of the populations in the subcontinent does not seem to have.
This being a low-caste is a big business in India as of now. Once a low-caste tag has been taken possession of, all kinds of shady reserved seats become available for these ‘low-castes’. There is reservation for all professional college seats, including the much-desired Medical colleges. There is reservation for the much-dreamed of government jobs.
In fact, when Kerala was formed by amalgamating Malabar with Travancore-Cochin state, a section of the Thiyyas took up the stance that they were low-caste like the Ezhavas, who had already been given reservation in such things. A particular percentage of the Thiyyas took up the stance that the Thiyyas are not low-castes. However, the ‘we are low-caste’ lobby won the day, and the Thiyyas were given the same reservation that had already been given to Ezhavas.
With this, the standard demeanour of the Thiyya officer class of Malabar went in for drastic change. From a personality of extreme standards, it changed to an personality of the exact opposite. The change was so powerful that if anyone had taken the care to observe it, it would have felt that a golden goose was changing into a dry rat.
The daring of the Nayar folks to take a stand that they are not low-caste, but would demand reservation on the basis of being precluded out by the rabid imposition of reservations on everything was most exemplary.
However, it is tragic that the birdbrain who is campaigning in England for ‘reparations for English colonial rule’ happens to be from this caste. It is most tragic that his ancestors escaped the notice of the Mysorean invaders. Possibly they must have run to the English Company for protection.
I need to say that the third quote given in beginning of this book is apt to connect with them.