Thoppi/Topi/Tope?

Chaaleh Kaduvapulli Umuntharavan Naavaleppeh Thattaankuniyan

Chevake Thanni paambu Sabu Katchi Theande Umantharom Peruchchaali Chale

leppeh

pattani

Kumblee

Osenas

koppli

Family names. Indian muslims in Singapore have unique and ridiculous family names. My family name is Thoppi. It means hat. According to mother the name derived from the job nature of her ancesters. She believes that her ancesters were Hat traders when they first came to Singapore. Thus, they were known as Thoppis. However, what I noticed while questioning my mother is that all these informations were not concrete as there were many assumptions. This would mean that the history and the real meaning behind the family names could have been distorted as it got passed down.

There is also another story behind Thoppi. Because when I asked my mother to spell “Thoppi” she spelled it as “Topi”. This got me reminded of Ramachandra Pandurang Topi. He was an Indian leader during 18th/19th century India. He was better known as Tatya Tope. He was executed by the British government at Shivpuri in 1859. Deceived by his friend, he faced death like a hero, for the sake of his country. He pledged his loyalty to the Peshwars. The country was ripe for the revolution in the 1857 rebellion cause. Nana Saheb rose to the occasion and appointed Tatia Topi as the commander in chief of the Peshwa. An unexpected incident occurred in Barrackpore. The hero to fire the first shot was Mangal Pandey. Topi brought all the prince, kings, regiments together for the war to drive the British out of India. To them he was bound by no ties. The English government by depriving the heir of the Peshwa. Topi was sentenced to be hanged. He was no born servant of the English rule. He was under no obligation to serve faithfully and truly the race which had robbed his master. He was charged with fighting against the English. On that charge alone he was convicted and hanged. Surely the punishment was greater than the offence. It is rumoured that our family name derived from this great man.

Thoppi can also be seen as a quirky tale of my family due to a general lack of romance. When my mum started to speak about her family members and family history the visuals that came to my mind were a charming rural landscape and eccentric characters. My great great grandfather came from a strange village populated by stranger- entertaining- occupants. They were a generation of robbers. In Tamil we would say Kutra Parambarai and they loved ‘maan kari’ (deer curry). This is another myth.

Tamil muslims. Started from Penang. 1870, they came to Singapore. Some were barbers. Some were traders. They were accompanied by a British named Captain Francis Light. Chola Empire. I don’t have any information regarding this empire.

Kadayanallur. Traders. First groups of Indian to travel. Most of them were hand loom weavers. One of the oldest immigrants’ name is Haja Muhydeen. My ancestors were textile experts. Therefore, it makes sense that they were fabric experts thus making all the hats and blankets and clothes. Some were poets too, like Umar Pulavar and my grandfather’s friend, Iqbal.