While reading about the ingenuity of the pattars (the Tamilspeaking brahmins settled in Kerala a few centuries ago), I am reminded of an old joke going the rounds in Palakkad.
Once upon a time, there was a huge flood in Palakkad and the Kalpathy river was running amok,covering and inundating the banks and carrying uprooted trees, and huts and hapless domestic animals in its onward torrential course .
Hundreds of people were watching with fear and anxiety the flow of the river standing along one of the comparatively safer banks.
Suddenly a middle-aged pattar was seen jumping into the running waters.
Everyone was shouting, " Sami, what are you doing? If you wanted to die, there are easier methods. Was this necessary?"
People were closing their eyes tightly expecting a big tragedy.
A few minutes passed.
Nothing was seen of the Pattar.
Then, lo and behold, the pattar was swimming back enthusiastically, with consummate deftness, and was catching up with the river-bank. And, he was holding fast to a big bunch of coconuts which he had secured from one of the uprooted trees which were being carried away by the torrential flood.
When the pattar reached the banks, everyone was remarking,
" Onnum Kaanaathe pattar vellathil chadilla"(ഒന്നും കാണാതെ പട്ടര് വെള്ളത്തില് ചാടില്ല) meaning the Pattar would not have jumped into the waters if he did not see any material benefit.
This is your pattar for you