'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

'Edunshaple' etc..

A few weeks back, at home in central Kerala, I read 'The Story of a Village', a novel by SK Pottekkat. The scene is an early 20th century boy's school in north Kerala. Like any class, Sridharan's (the main character of this novel) class has its share of bullies who terrorize those who cant physically stand up to them; but even the biggest bully does not touch Kumaran (not sure about the name) who is quite short and frail. Sridharan asks a classmate about the secret of Kumaran's 'immunity': the answer is "They are scared of his dad - he is an 'edunshaple' "

(Note: The 'u' in the word is that of 'cut'; the 'a' is the one of 'shape'; and the 'e' at the end of this word ought to be pronounced as the 'e' in German word 'danke' or 'u' of 'Tamil Nadu' -well, these two sounds sound pretty close to me!. Moreover, the 'd' and the 'l' are retroflexed).

I muse: "well, that is a new word! 'Edunshaple'could possibly only be 'Head Constable', since from the context, the gentleman seems to be in the police. Interesting!"

I mention this word to Pop. He says: "Nothing new in it. It used to be a common word - even in my own village - for a policeman (it is a respectful word, mind you!), even in the 1970's."

Yeah, respectful it is. An 'entry level'cop would feel 'elevated' when called "head constable" - just like say, a lecturer would if addressed: "Professor!". I tell Pop: "Nice word, it rolls so smoothly off the tongue (note: the 'p' can easily go to 'b' in 'Mallu' and then it rolls even better)! Sad, the spread of education and stuff has probably killed off such earthy innovations."


Just a couple of days later. I set off for a long walk in the countryside from another Keralan town (not all that far from where I had the above exchange with Pop). When I start off, I am told, by way of guidance: "You turn off the (tarred) road and then a little distance inside, you see a (water) pipeline. Just follow the pipe and you can go deep into the country and also get back without losing your way".

I find the pipeline uneventfully. A kilometer or so farther down, it hits a shallow valley of lush rice paddies - a concrete footbridge runs across the valley and also carries the pipeline. On the other side, it is wildly green and very quiet. Tempted to explore, I take a foot-trail diverging from the pipeline it and follow it into progressively denser greenery and to further trails; and it is not very long before I discover I am sort of lost. I look for someone to ask how to get back.

A a bunch of school boys all about 10 years of age, come in the opposite direction. Their faces wear an odd, puzzled expression on seeing me. As I deliberate whether to ask them the way (and also what could possibly be so mysterious about self to them), they pass me. A little ahead, one of them asks the others aloud: "What is your name?" (in English). Collective laughter! Then, there is a louder response from another boy: "tumhara naam kya hai?"(means the same as the previous query, in Hindi) and more laughter! Oh, yeah, these guys think I don't know Malayalam! What do they take me for, a Hindi-wallah on a walkabout in Kerala or what??

Anyways, I call after them: "Hey, I seem to have lost my way. Can you guys help?" The boys stop and stare, perhaps more puzzled on hearing Malayalam.

Finally, one of them asks: "yes, where do you want to go?". Self: "See, I came across that bridge over there and well, I need to get back to it". Silence. They don't seem to know!

One of them eventually asks: "Which bridge?". Self: "The bridge with that pipeline on it; it must be about 3-4 kilometers from here"

A smart bloke from the gang figured it out: "Oh, you mean 'akkidett'!. Say THAT. What you do is... (he gives some directions and then adds) .. "if you get confused again and ask someone the way, ask for 'akkidett'. Do remember that!"

Needless to say, he meant 'AQUEDUCT', and that is what looked like a footbridge to me really is!. Amazing, is this ancient Rome or what, in the ruralest Kerala?!

And yes, 'Edunshaple' might have passed on, but at least some of 'his' siblings are very much around!

1. Just a thought, spelling the word 'edunSCHaple' could perhaps give it a very authentic German feel!

2. Am reminded of a literary episode - from Chandu Menon's classic novel 'Sarada'. A lawyer's servant tells a visiting client "Master is not at home; went to 'kolomb' for a meeting". The client searches long and hard for "kolomb, where the lawyers have a meeting" and gets all kinds of answers from folks including "it is a place on an Island in the south. Why on Earth would local lawyers hold meetings there?!" until finally he finds out: "it is not kolomb, but 'kolobb'!".

2. If I remember right, Yakov Perelman's 'Physics for Entertainment' has a scathing critique of the physics of Roman aqueducts. Those monumental structures, many of which still stand in the Italian countryside, won't even have happened if their engineers had known even basic hydraulics!


  • At 9:21 AM, Blogger Sunil said…

    Edunshaple, akkidect......amazing and wonderful.

  • At 8:36 PM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    Thanks Sunil.

    And it also probably furnishes an example of how going for a walk can yield something to write (your own uncle's advice :) ). Well, I could dsay, "it gave me half of something to write about" since the first half of the post was obtained more 'sedentarily'!

  • At 6:03 AM, Blogger പാപ്പാന്‍‌/mahout said…

    kolobb == club, I presume?

    My high-schooling was done in a small villag enamed Veettoor in Ernakulam Dist. There is a real aqueduct there (an elevated canal of the Periyar Valley Irrigation Project) which is referred to as "akkideyt" by the local population.

    Many people there were members of the Indian Pentecostal Church. The Pentecostal church building is called 'faith home', and the locals had converted it into "pythombu".

    You also get a bonus point for mentioning Y Perelman (oh, nostalgia!) :-) I would love to get one of his books now (I lost all of mine) -- now that the USSR is no more, it is probably going to be a difficult task.

  • At 7:39 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    Thanks Mahout,

    'Pythombu' is a knockout!

    Yes, 'kolobb' was indeed 'club'.

    And yes, Perelman, Irodov, and so many other luminaries and their work are now, largely confined to wistful memories.


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