देडूकच्छेदनाद्वा विशति यदि गृहं तत्र नो नो विचारः |
किं त्वस्माकं सुरङ्गाकलनयति पुरे घोषयामास यस्मा
त्तस्मादेतत्सुरङ्गाधिप इति बिरुदं प्रोचुरेतत्पुरस्थाः ||
Once, thieves burgled a rich man’s house in a village in the Bobbili province of Andhrapradesh and took away all his belongings. The owner of the house lodged a complaint with the head of the province and asked that the thieves be punished. However, the head of the province, a dumbhead, declared that a burglary can be considered as one only if it is perpetrated by tunneling into the house. He therefore turned down the complaint. He even went so far as to make a formal announcement in the province that such complaints of ‘burglary’ that did not involve tunneling into a house, would no longer be entertained by the administration. Maṅgaleśvara-śāstri, who was annoyed by such stupidity, penned the above verse ridiculing the leader:
‘We are not worried whether a thief enters the house through the roof, by breaking the door, by digging through the main entrance, or by breaking through the rear wall of the house. Since our leader has formally declared that only burglary by tunneling into the house (suranga) can be considered a burglary, people in the town have given him the honorary title of ‘Suraṅgādhipa’ – or ‘Tunnel King’’.
The real name of the head of the province was Raṅgādhipa. The name ‘Su+ Raṅgādhipa’, in the positive sense means that he is a ‘good’ Raṅgādhipa. However, if it is split as ‘Suraṅga+adhipa’, the sarcasm is hard to miss.
Adapted from Kannada by Arjun Bharadwaj
(The original article is from the anthology Kavitegondu Kathe)