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Valiya Kappithaan

December 11, 2010

1760 AD:

The man, dressed in a frayed, blue military uniform, which had seen better days, stood still at the mast of the leading ship, looking ahead through his telescope. The natural sway of the ship did little to disturb him. His watchful blue eyes, trained through years of practice did not miss anything and his long pointed face coupled with an extremely pale complexion and unkempt blonde hair gave him an aura of invincibility.

He had been living the sailor’s life since he was 8 and he practically knew more about the sea; its funny mannerisms and its quirky idiosyncrasies than most others. The fleet, which consisted of seven ships, was making its way northwards hugging the coastline. In a distance, the man could spot the beaches and the palm groves that marked the wonderful coast of the exotic yet mysterious land known as “Keralam”. He had been living there for many years now but still could not fathom its unique traits.

The sea was calm and the winds were steady and he knew that they could put in many miles before the end of the day.

His good friend, Aaromal Unni came up to him. He was only 5 foot 5 inches tall; but with powerful shoulders and an even bigger appetite for violence, the man was practically a legend in the Nair Pattalam!

He said, “Valiya Kappithaan, our course has been set. As we learnt this morning in Mattanchery, there are reports that Hyder Ali’s fleet is patrolling the area to our north-west. Do we go after them?

Eustachius De Lannoy checked his sextant, a new invention that had changed the dynamics of naval navigation, nodded his head in response and gave the coordinates to Aaromal, who went back to his position to convey the orders, with a broad grin.

Aaromal is a good warrior; a man of honor but he is always itching to fight,” he thought to himself as the ships slightly changed their course to the west; away from the land!

The seemingly placid waters of the “Arabi-kadal” had become the new battle ground for conflict! The new king; Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma knew that maintaining naval superiority was a must in the new age; and he gave his men, a free hand to control the waters and plunder any enemy ships.

We are all just cogs in the late king Marthanda Varma’s grand plan of unification and defense,” he said out loudly in Dutch. He often practiced speaking Dutch when alone; his mother tongue as he did not want to lose touch with his roots.

He stood out, not because he was the captain of the fleet but because he was a Caucasian, currently serving under his Travancore king!

Ever since the defeat of his Dutch fleet, at the hands of Marthanda Varma in the Battle of Colachel in 1741, he had been serving the Travancore kingdom; helping them modernize their army and their fleet. The king has been astute enough to realize that the only way forward was to learn from the “enemy” and adopt new technologies. After the battle where his Dutch fleet was defeated convincingly, the king had offered Eustachius and a few others, an offer that they could not refuse! Allegiance or death!

Eustachius had initially accepted the king’s offer because he wanted to live! But in the span of 19 years, he had come to respect and love his new kingdom; a kingdom which had become a sanctuary for people who kept pouring in; fearing the religious zealots, up north.

The king, sensing the threat from the Islamic kingdom of Mysore; had left no stone unturned to protect his kingdom and his citizens. The king had personally instructed Eustachius De Lannoy to construct the Nedumkotta and also maintain naval superiority in the waters. The latest report from their spies had further strengthened the king’s belief.

It seemed that Hyder Ali had started amassing a large army and artillery and also had started to construct a large fleet, which was exactly the reason why they had to destroy it first.

Eustachius De Lannoy just hoped that he could complete the “job” soon and get back home soon.

Home”; the word has attained a whole new meaning for him now!

The 19 years that he lived in the subcontinent had changed him in every possible way; and he had even come to believe in Karma!

And the ships shot forth through the calm waters; he wondered for the nth time, “Will I ever see my people again? My hometown and my family? What does karma have in store for me? Do I get to have a say in it?

As he looked upwards for an answer, the clear blue sky presented its stoic usual self to him……


PS: Eustachius De Lannoy went on to live and die in the Travancore kingdom serving under kings who would go on to become the makers of modern Travancore and he lies interred at the Udayagiri Fort.

Listening to this song now.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2010 5:31 pm

    Well articulated, as all ezhuthukaran posts! 😀

    So when in school we thought “How will history help me shape my future, why don’t they scrap the subject”… this def wasn’t in mind!! History with imagination seems to go a long way 😀

    I recall Ash commenting that she’ll be sending her kids to you for history lessons. Count my kid in!!! :mrgreen:

    What? Advance payment? *Crafty gone stone deaf*

  2. December 12, 2010 6:55 am

    Good one ! How do you remember these names so perfectly ??

    Anyways, count my kids for the history lessons too !! But dont get any of your weird ‘initial’ friends nearby ! 😀 😀 😀

  3. December 12, 2010 7:46 am

    You have to publish this as a series, OG, U are really good at this!!

  4. December 13, 2010 10:25 pm

    Thanks Public!

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