Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Chapter 2 – The Quicksand

Vandiya Devan chased the girl through the thick forest. Nimble and quick, she skirted through trees, pits and mounds and would vanish from his line of sight for a while and just when he was ready to give up she would appear again. Vandiya Devan was reminded of the magical deer that Lord Rama had to chase in Pachavati. My god! This girl is not a magical deer but she has all the swiftness and the grace of a deer. And just as he was thinking about her, he also wondered why he was chasing her in the first place. To justify his actions, he also imagined a reason for it. Even as he neared Kodi Karai he was reminded of Senthan Amuthan’s description about Poonguzhali. This must be Poonguzhali, his uncle’s daughter. It might be beneficial to make friends with her and he also needed a guide to take him to the lighthouse.

Though the lighthouse was visible at a distance, he had found it difficult to approach the place once they got into the forest. Confused and disoriented, he and the physician’s son were roaming aimlessly when they came upon Poonguzhali at the temple. He had wanted to ask her for directions to go to the lighthouse but before he could open his mouth, she had started running.

What to do now? Shall we leave her and go back? But he didn’t want to acknowledge to himself that a girl had bested him in running either!

Even while he thought thus, they came out of the woods and he could see the beach ahead and the calm sea. What a glorious sight! The lighthouse was also visible and lighted with fire. Shall I leave this girl and go towards the lighthouse?

No. It will be easier to catch her in this beach and moreover she was running towards the beach. How long can she run there, he reasoned? What if she was a sea nymph? Will she disappear when she reaches the water? He regretted not bringing his horse here. Astride on the horse, he would have caught her within no time!

Running wildly after her, he saw that she had stopped running abruptly ahead of him and had turned left and was running towards the woods again. With his legs protesting loudly and breath rasping, he gave chase after her. What would she say if he caught hold of her and said, “Girl, Stop running! I have got a message from your lover in Thanjavur.” How surprised will she be? While it was true that Senthan Amuthan did not send any message to her but what of it? He just needed to give his imagination a free rein!

Thinking thus, he sprang after her hoping to catch her before she disappeared again. He didn’t know what happened exactly but found himself shouting, “Ayyo!” It took him a moment to realize what had happened. He found himself drowning in mud and he was going down on the quick sand.

My God! How did this happen? How did I end up here? The place looked dry enough when he had stepped on it but looks are deceptive. Vandiya Devan had heard of quicksand near beaches and marshy areas that have swallowed even elephants! To his horror, he realized that he was fast sinking and had nothing to hold himself and hoist up. What will happen now? What will happen to my dreams? He realized that only Poonguzhali could save him now. He shouted loudly, “Ayyo! I am dying. I am drowning in this muddy quicksand. Please save me!”

Poonguzhali stopped running and turned around. She noted his dangerous situation and decided to help him. There was a half sunken boat on the quicksand pool. She got on it nimbly and came to the other side of the pool. Bracing her legs on the hard floor, she reached out and held her hand to Vandiya Devan. Her seemingly lean arms had an iron grip that belied her slight figure. Vandiya Devan was astonished by her strength and compared it with that of Chinna Pazhuvetrayar’s iron grip.

Poonguzhali

After he came out of the quicksand, he laughed out aloud though his legs were trembling.

“Do you really think that you saved me from that quicksand? Did you perhaps think that I wouldn’t have come out of it without your help?” he asked her cheekily.

“Then why were screaming, ‘ayyo’ ‘ayyo’? asked Poonguzhali looking peeved.

  “To stop you from running.”

“Really! Then let me push you back in that quicksand. This time around, you can rescue yourself,” saying this she tried to push him back

“Ayyayo!” shouted Vandiya Devan and moved away from her warily.

“What are you scared of now?”

“I am not scared for my life but I don’t want to get muddy again. As such, I am half drowned in mud.”

Poonguzhali smiled at him and said, “There is the sea, go and wash yourself there.

“Only if you can come with me as a guide.” Said Vandiya Devan and they both started walking towards the beach.

“Why did you run so wildly after looking at me? Did you perchance think that I was some demon or a vicious ghost?”

“No. I didn’t think you were a demon. I thought you looked like an owl.” She said and laughed.

Vandiya Devan who was vain enough to acknowledge himself to be very handsome found this to be an unpardonable slight from a woman. He got very angry and muttered, “My owl-like face is a perfect match for your monkey-face.”

“What did you say?”

 “Nothing. I just asked why you ran away.”

“Why did you chase after me?”

“I wanted to ask you for directions to go towards the lighthouse.”

“There is the lighthouse. Can’t you see? Why ask me?”

“I couldn’t find the way after entering the woods. That’s why? Why did you run away?”

“Men are vicious beasts. I don’t like them.”

“Even Senthan Amuthan?”

“Who?”

“Thanjavur Senthan Amuthan.”

“What do you know about him?”

“I know that he is your lover.”

“What? What?”

“Your name is Poonguzhali isn’t it?”

“Yes. I am Poonguzhali. What did you just now say about Senthan Amuthan? He is my….”

“I said, ‘He is your lover.’”

Poonguzhali laughed out loud and said, “Who told you this?”

“Who else? Senthan Amuthan told me. “

“Thanjavur is very far away from here, that’s why he must have told you this lie.”

“Otherwise…”

“If he had told this in front of me, I would have buried him in that quicksand.”

“So what? Here is a big beach to wash all that mud off.”

“That quicksand has buried cows, horses and even elephants.”

Vandiya Devan found himself getting goose pimples. He couldn’t forget the sinking sensation he had felt as he found himself drowning within its muddy mouth inch by inch. What if Poonguzhali had not rescued him? By now, he might have been buried there up till his neck! He found himself trembling even as he thought about it.

“What else did Senthan Amuthan say about me?”

“He said that you were his uncle’s daughter and that there is no one to compare your beauty even in Devendran’s court.”

“Looks like your friend has gone all the way to Devendran’s court. What else?”

“He said that you sing very well. He said that when you sing, even the sea listens to your song. Is that true?”

“You will find out soon. Go wash yourself at the beach.” 




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