Kovval is a magic place- It is the macondo of payyanurians especially gramakai (Can we call them gramers ?) Every village will have a space for holding meetings and other functions. In gramam we have kovval – patrat kovval to be exact -as the public sphere. It is a sin to call it a mere ground . There used to be several groups sitting in circles on hours on dry evenings engaged in ever ending gossips. It is said that no one will leave such a gathering prematurely as he is destined to become the subject of gossip for the remaining period of the day. All gramers will have fond memories of kovval- It may be the memory of a foot ball match they had won, the first meeting place of their love (of course the aradhana drumbeats in the background), the first dance or drama of their beloved, speech by their leaders or the like. We love kovval as we all love our childhood days. The nostalgia of kovval is so large that the gramers have constructed a second kovval where ever they live- in India and abroad. Even in Dubai there is said to be a kovval- the name is synonymous to a common meeting place of gramers.
Gramers study everything from kovval. The first lessons of childhood fantasies, the first speech (full of shivering due to stage fright) the first attempt as an actor dancer, player and as an adult. Kovval is a playground of all human interactions. No newspaper is necessary if you frequent kovval. Every kind of reporters -there were a few best- reports in their masterly fashion. Some are specialized in local politics, some in human affairs, in sex and anything under the sun. Only thing is you have to be a patient hearer. Every one likes to be heard. At some moments the speaker lowers his voice and explains in great detail how he chanced to come upon someone in an awkward situation.
It is in one of such sittings that I learned of Gramers Casanova who frequented the palilvalappu, a local forest, along with his love every day on the pretext of answering to the natures calls. But the villain who was plucking goose berries, which were plenty in that season, was watching the duo from above. While the game is in progress he gave a start to the lovers jumping down and caught them red handed. He had only one demand –He will make the affair public if she do not consent to his wishes- Here the story has a twist- One version is that the lover deserted the love mercilessly for shame. The other version is more romantic- She declared that she will not consent to his wish even if she dies. The third version seems more real. There was no such incident. It is the enmity of the tree climber against the Casanova which resulted in the gossip.
Kovval is also a historic place. It is here that the great feast in ‘Payyanur pattu ‘ was held. Neelakeshi's brothers were executed here. Here settlement might have stated centuries back- humans have played life’s drama a thousand times. In the beginning after the advent of Brahmin settlers, the great Subramanya Swamy temple came into existence. Ten poduval families were transplanted from neighboring places . They grew in number and the present gramers are their off springs. Brahmins were the ruling class who had a special place in the social ladder. Poduval chiefs acted as their secretaries and when time passed they also grew prominent. Being a typical gramam belonging to the 64 gramams of old Kerala people belonging to all castes live in gramam with their own 'kavus' and theyyams.
At the time of freedom struggle Payyanur played a lead role. It is called ‘randam bardoli’ thanks to the scores of freedom fighters from the area. The library in Gramam originally conceived for enlightening people towards freedom movement was named Mahadeva desai smaraka grandhalayam in fond memory of Desai, the Secretary of Gandhi( or was it because gramers know well the importance of secretaries to men of importance as they themselves were in the past?)
Chindattan's tea shop ,Bhaskarettans stationery shop, Murali's tea shop are the silent remainders of the old times when Kammarettans tea shop (with its famous idly and kadla ) and Chandu's and Muliyan govindan's grocery shops ruled the poor customers with unpaid debts.
Fine arts society, Gramam Prathibha, Cultural Movement Payyanur Arts and Charitable trust and several other cultural organizations add spice to the lives of gramers.