It was raining heavy and I was really worried about my father. We heard the last bus stopping at the junction. Ammachi and I stood on the vernada and desperately tried to see if we could see the light from the pantham(home made torch) coming towards our side of the bund. There was none. The lightning flashed across the sky and at one time it lit the whole area and I could nearly see the main road junction. There was no sign of my father.
“He isn’t going to come today.” I could feel that her voice was quivering.
“Come let us go inside”. Normally Ammachi would take the hurricane lamp inside. She didn’t take it inside this time.
I regretted asking my father to come and fetch me today. I shouldn’t have stayed back in Chengannur. If anything happend to my father, I would be solely responsible, because I am the one who wanted to spend more time with Ammachi.
Ammachi and I went to her bedroom. Instead of the normal frog and cricket orchestra, tonight it is the thunder and lightining orchestra. At times the sound of the thunder was so close, I felt we would be dead soon.
“Can I lay down with you Ammachi?”
“ok, but make sure you stay still and don’t put your legs on top of me”
“ok, I won’t”
I went to lay down with my grandmother. This is the first time she ever let me sleep with her. I felt uncomfortable, trying to lay down and not move. I gently placed my hands on Ammachi and she shrieked
“Nina, don’t. I am not used to sleep with anyone next to me” and she pushed my hands away.
I was even more upset with her and I turned towards the wall and tried to sleep
“are you upset Kochumaharani?”
I didn’t respond.
“You are just like your father”
I didn’t respond.
“Those of you, who wish to hear the story of the greatest warrior of Kerala can put up their hand”. She spoke as though we have many people in our bedroom.
I couldn’t sleep and I also wanted to hear the story. My hand slowly lifted up.
Ammachi got up and fluffed her pillow, so she could lean on it.
“Why do you think whites came to India?” She asked me
“You mean British people?”
“No, white people”
“British people are white people” I argued
“Child, do you know anything about spice trail?”
I thought hard, what is spice trail? I had no idea. I shook my head and said a sad, pathetic ‘no’.
“What do they teach you in your history lesson”
I wanted to tell her, that is another joke. I have to learn everything from Malay to Malayalam and I have no idea what they are teaching me and what I am learning.
“Our land is very fertile and we have spices like pepper and cardomom, growing very well. Emperor Augustus loved pepper and cardomom. He used to send ships to our ports to get the spices.
I wanted to aske who is Emperor Augustus, but knew we would have another series of admonishing. So opted not to ask.
“How do you think the merchants came to India?”
“In their ships”. I knew that was one smart answer and I was proud of myself.
“Oh! you sit in a ship and it brings you all the way from Europe to India?
“You need a good captain” My second smart answer
“Oh Nina, those times the ships used wind force.For about four months the wind will flow from the south west to south east across the Indian ocean, this helped the merchants to travel from Europe and Middle east to Gujarat in India. From there they would travel south to Cochin and Kozhikode. Three to four months later the wind direction would reverse, that would give the merchants sufficient time to load their ship and go back to their country.”
“The traders came from all over the world, Arabs, Chinese,Portugese, and the Dutch.”
“oh” I understood
The foreigners traded mainly with the rulers of Malabar and the rulers of Cochin. Both sides were always fighting with each other. There were also in fight between the chieftains of the same side. In 1757, Zamorin of Kozhikodu invaded Palakkadu. King of Palakkadu asked help from Mysore maharaja(Hyder Ali). Hyder Ali helped the King of Palakkadu and defeated the Zamorin of Kozhikkodu. Unfortunately, Hyder Ali not only helped the king of Palakkadu, he also annexed the land of Palakkadu to his kingdom. He offered his help and took the land that he helped to free.
“But who is our famous warrior?”
“patience Kochumaharani.. why do you want to stretch your legs even before you sit?
“Sorry, now tell the story” I pleaded
“After Hyder Ali, his son Tipu Sultan became the ruler and he signed a treaty with the British East india Company (Srirangapatana truce) and all the land that belonged to Tipu Sultan now belonged to the British, including Palakkadu.”
“then what happend?”
“British did what they are best at, they started to plunder our land and even imposed tax on our pepper.”
“But the pepper is grown in our land, why should we pay tax to British?” I asked Ammachi
“Excatly, but the queen of England declared that everything in India belongs to her. So the pepper we grew suddenly belonged to the British”
“So what happend?”
“Pazhassi Raja (Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja/Lion of Kerala) was a ruler of part of Malabar and refused to collect tax on pepper. The british got angry with him and threatend him and he told them
‘if you act too much, I will tell my people to cut off all the black pepper plants’.
“Nina, imagine. What will happen if the people cut off all the pepper plants?”
“There won’t be anymore pepper for trade! “
” the british understood that. So they decided to kill the Pazhassi Raja”.
“Did they kill him?”
“Not at first. Pazhassi raja and his men attacked the british out post and killed all the men. he was the first king to revolt against the British and they knew, if they didn’t get rid of him, they would lose their control. So one of the British leader, ordered a proclamation that anyone who helps Pazhassi Raja is a rebel and will be killed.”
“Then what happend?”
“We have idiots in our land, who thought it is best to support the white man, they helped the British to attack the Pazhassi Raja’s palace. But the king escaped to the jungle with his wife. The hill people helped the king and he waged many guerilla war against the British.”
“then what happend?”
“Nobody knows exactly how the British killed him, but he died fighting for our independence, the warrior who stood up against the mighty British empire”.
“Nina, you now enjoy the freedom, because many people fought for us, but you will only know the value of your freedom when you lose it. But remember, it is not worth learning that value by losing your independence again. Never ever let the white man rule our country”
Susan send me this link about Pazhassi raja. Thanks Susan.
Note: Pazhassi Raja belonged to the Padinjare Kovilakom royal family and the Kottayam that he ruled is in Kannur(Canannore)
More abt the European Voyage to Asia