Fowl Play

Veeraswamy Krishnaraj

June 5, 2016

Santapuri was a small town with a railway station. It was right along the north-south corridor in the East moving people and goods. The rail line went through temple towns and commercial hubs.  The locomotive ran on coal and steam.

Koziman ran a small business near the railway station selling newspapers, candies, cigarettes… He made a good living. His oldest son and his wife helped him run the business. Most of the time, he was on the road and about town looking for novelties to sell in his ramshackle shop with tin roof.

Among his suppliers were the nomadic tribes, who hunted small animals. They were in the periphery of the society. They sold ornamental beads in bulk and in retail. The people called them bird-catchers. They cast small nets, catch birds, roasted them on open fire pit and ate them. They were a common sight in villages and small towns. They are classified as aboriginals.

குருவிக்காரன் kuruvi-k-kāra. 1. Bird-catcher, bird-fancier; குருவிபிடிப்போன். 2. A class of bird-catchers, who decoy birds by concealing themselves and successfully imitating their cries.  Tamil Lexicon

They looked different from the local population. They were brown rather than black. They had straight hair. They spoke a language alien to the local people.

A family of bird catchers


Recently (May 2016), in Chennai airport, birds became a nuisance and a danger for aircrafts.  The airport hired the Narikravars to catch the birds.

Koziman arranged cock fights between two roosters in a cockpit and made substantial money from the participants. He cut off the combs, wattles and earlobes so they don't get injured. He trained them well and took care of them until their fated encounter with another rooster.

When the family, the relatives and community ostracized him, he changed his ways. Before he changed, he used to steal the cocks from barns, villagers… He used to go the forest and catch feral cocks. He fitted their legs with razor blades and made sure they had sharp beaks.  Many cocks died of shock from blade cuts, shock and exsanguination. The dead ones were sold as chicken meat.  In the outlying villages, he stole the chickens, hid them and joined the village search party as a concerned citizen.  Over years, the people in the adjoining villages figured out his devious methods and ostracized him.

This is how this Tamil proverb came into vogue.

271. கோழி திருடியும் கூடிக்குலாவுகிறான்.

Though he has stolen the fowl he joins the others in going about searching for it. 241, 256, 264. -

“May the man be damned and never grow fat, who wears two faces under one hat.”   Translation and quote Rev. Herman Jensen

கூடிக் குலாவுதல் = To enjoy a person's society, take pleasure in one's company. Tamil Lexicon

Besides stealing the fowl, he is having fun joining his comrades (search party).   Krishnaraj