MALAPPURAM : Mygurudu. No, it’s not a fledgling startup or a new learning app. You wish! Used by freedom fighters in Northern Kerala during the Malabar Rebellion in 1921 to communicate with each other in prison, the language is today confined to a clique.
Pramod Irumbuzhi, during his research at the Calicut University in 2008, came across a mention of Mygurudu in a book on Paniyas in the state.
A few months later, Pramod heard two septuagenarians chatting in a strange lingo at a tea shop at Irumbuzhi in Malappuram. Later, the young scholar found out what he heard was indeed Mygurudu, the mystical language. Hooked, Pramod got it down pat and began conversing with the elders in the village.
Jail lingo like tap code was used by prisoners of war during the Vietnam war. The guards were unable to decipher the messages being communicated by the POWs. The same was the motive behind the use of Mygurudu.
“Most jail wardens were Malayalees. They used Mygurudu in jails to pass messages discreetly,” says Pramod.
According to Ramachandran P, who studied the language after he picked it up from farmers during his school days in 1950s, said the peasants scared of the landlords talked to each other in this dialect.In Mygurudu, Malayalam alphabets are swapped with each other. For instance, ‘Ra’ is used instead of ‘Cha’ while ‘Pa’ isused for ‘Na’.
The language was also a popular mode of communication for labourers in beedi manufacturing companies across Malabar in 1950s and 1960s. As the beedi companies closed down, the dialect also slowly faded into oblivion. Now, giving a ray of hope for linguists, the Mygurudu Language Collective has taken steps to revive it. The language is spoken by around 400 people in Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad, Thrissur and Ernakulam districts.
Under the patronage of the collective, five gatherings have been held in Malappuram district. “In the group, over 10 speakers are youngsters,” Pramod said.
The book published by the collective on Mygurudu has evoked a good response among teachers and professionals across Malabar. Over 2000 copies of the book were sold within two months of publication.To make the language popular, the collective is now looking to organise classes for students across the state.