Saturday, 20 September 2014

Chapter 8: The Ghost Island

It seems that the sky goddess is as intelligent as the humans. We humans ignore the God within us and search for him everywhere from temples to holy places. In the same manner, the Sky Goddess lets the Sun God slip out of her grasp into the sea and searches for him all through the night with her million starry eyes.

When Vandiya Devan gained consciousness, he felt as if innumerable firelights were lighted up on the sky. Soon he realized that they were not firelights but stars and that he was lying prone in the boat in his wet clothes. His hand automatically touched his waistcloth to note whether the important oolai and his other belongings were intact or not.  He also realized that he was tied to the middle plank of the boat with a sturdy rope. Taking a deep breath he looked at the sky and found himself at peace. With a gentle breeze serenading him, he heard a lovely familiar song.

“That strange girl, Poonguzhali! He realized that she must have rescued him somehow after he had recklessly jumped into the sea. If she had harboured cruel intentions with an ulterior motive, why would she save him? How did she manage to get me into this boat? It must have been quite difficult.

“Why is she getting up now?  Aha! She is raising the sails for the boat. That is such a difficult task. Let me help her.”

“Poonguzhali! Poonguzhali!”

“Untie me. Let me help you too.”

“It is enough if you sit quietly. That itself is a big help. You can untie yourself if you want but please don’t jump into the sea again.”

Vandiya Devan untied himself and sat down while Poonguzhali raised the sail. Once the sail was up, the boat seemed to speed along with the winds.

“Samudra Kumari!”

“What is it?”

“I am thirsty.”

“That’s to be expected. You drank a lot of salt water last night,” saying thus, she took a small jug from the boat and handed it over to him.

“I even managed to get food for you but it got lost when you jumped into the sea, thankfully this jug did not fall in,”

Vandiya Devan handed jug back to her and said, “I misunderstood you Poonguzhali. I am sorry.”

“That’s alright. I am a boat girl and you are a stranger. Come dawn, we are going to part,”

“What hour is it?”

“Look at the Saptarishi mandal to find out.”

Vandiya Devan looked up and noted that the Saptarishi mandal had travel half way across the sky since the last time he had last noted it. But Dhruva natchatram (Pole Star) was rooted on the sky at the same place. So many people must have used this star to know their position on the sea. Someone had compared this star to someone… who was it? Yes. That astrologer, Kudhanthai Jodhithar. Didn’t he tell me that Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar was like Dhruva natchatram (Pole Star)? Will I really see him soon?

Pooguzhali asked, “Did you find the time? It will soon be dawn. The winds are favourable now. We will reach Naga theevu (snake island) soon.”

“Snake Island!”

“Yes. In the north of Eelangai, there are many small islands. If you get down there, you don’t have to take the boat again. You can walk along the coast to reach the mainland,”

“What will you do after you leave me there?”

“How does it concern you?”

“Why shouldn’t it concern me? You have done a huge favour on me by bringing me here in your boat. I am indebted to you. You told me yesterday that you would ask me something in return, what do you want?”

“I have changed my mind about it. You do not owe me anything and I have no intention of asking you to return the favour. You are an ungrateful man.”

Vandiya Devan lowered his eyes with shame and felt that she was justified in saying thus.

“Samudra Kumari! I am ashamed by my actions yesterday. It was wrong of me to suspect you thus. Please forgive me.”

“Alright. Forget everything and think about what you are going to do in Eelangai. What will you do after I leave you there? Would you be able to find the Prince on your own?”

“God helped me to cross this sea. He will help me to find the Prince.”

“Looks like you trust the God above all else. Do you really think that God cares about mere human beings like us?”

“I don’t know that. I have never tried to analyse God and his ways thus. Whenever I am in trouble, I think about God and he sends me help. When I had to cross the sea, God sent you to me.”

“God did not send me to help you and nor did he come in my dreams asking me to help you…”

“Then why did you help me? Why did you save me?”

“It’s got nothing to do with you. It’s personal.”

Vandiya Devan sat thinking for long about her reasons. His vain mind initially thought that Poonguzhali might have started liking his handsome person but he rejected it outright. It was too fanciful a thought even for him. No. She is not in love with me, there must be some other reason for helping me. Let me try and speak with her and get the truth.

“I am a bit worried about one thing though…”

“What would that be?”

“I have heard that there are many mountains and forests in Eelangai.”

“Half of Eelangai is covered with forests and mountains.”

“They say that there are many wild and ferocious animals…”

“There are hoards of wild elephants in the forests there. Sometimes they even come out of the forest…”

“I have heard that people in Eelangai are savages…”

“That is a lie.”

“Alright. If you say it is a lie, it must be so. But I am worried about how I will find Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar there.”

“But didn’t you say that God will help you, a few moments ago.”

“Yes. I thought that it wouldn’t be difficult to find the Sun amidst the clouds…”

“Then…”

“But what if clouds hide the sun within them…”

“No cloud can hide the sun that you seek. If they try, they too would start glowing as bright as the sun…”

Vandiya Devan noted Poonguzhali’s enthusiasm when she spoke about Prince Arul Mozhi. Just as the other people in Chola Kingdom, she too seemed to have boundless love and respect for this Prince.

“You will need to enquire about the whereabouts of Chola army in Eelangai and you will find the Prince…”

“But… I heard that Chola army is spread all over Eelangai…”

“That is true. From Maandotham to Pulastiya nagaram, the Chola armies are encamped in places they have captured.”

“In that case, how will I find the Prince? It will take days and days before I know for sure where he is exactly? And you know how urgent and important this oolai is?”

Samudra Kumari was silent for a while…

“If there is a way to find out where the Prince is, then I need not roam around here and there aimlessly…”

“There is a way…”

“I knew that you would be able to find one. That’s why I asked you…”

“Next to naga theevu (Snake Island), there is boodha theevu (ghost island).”

“The name of the island sounds very scary…”

“There is no need to get scared. Once this island was called Boudha theevu (Island of Budha). With time and age, the name got distorted to Boodha theevu (ghost island). Nowadays, many people get scared hearing the name of the island so not many venture out there…”

“…except for brave girls like you apparently,” finished Vandiya Devan.

“If you wait at the shores of Boodha theevu, I can find out where Ponniyin Selvar is at present…”

“Whom will you ask in Boodha theevu?”

“There is a ghost in Boodha theevu. That’s whom I will ask,”

“Will you show me that ghost?”

“No. You will have to promise me to stay ashore with the boat, only then I will go inside the island and get the information for you.”

“Alright. As you wish.”

With a gentle breeze blowing and the steady movement of the boat, Vandiya Devan settled down to sleep again even as the dawn was breaking in the sky.




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Volume 1 - New Flood