Thursday, 24 September 2015

Chapter 5: Rakkammal

After Pazhuvetarayar and Parthibendran left to oversee the search for the lost Prince, Nandini stood by the beach watching the sea in silent contemplation.

Rani Amma!” called out a voice and she turned back to find the daughter-in-law of Thyaga Vida Karayar standing there.

“Who are you?” asked Nandini

“I am Rakkammal,”

“What do you want?”

Instead of replying to Nandini, Rakkammal stared at her face with a strange expression.

“What are you looking at? What’s there in my face?”

“Forgive me amma! I was reminded of somebody else when I saw your face. But that can’t be so,”

“What are you blabbering?

“No, that’s not possible. There can be no relation between that mad mute woman and yourself,”

“Who is that mad woman?”

“There is a mad woman in Elangai. She is my father-in-law’s uncle’s daughter. Sometimes she would come here too,”

“Why are you reminded of her when you see me?”

“There can be no relation as far as I can see but you resemble her,”

“Rakkammal! Where is that woman now?”

“In Elangai I suppose. She comes very rarely here. But like I said there can be no relation,”

“Why are you so sure?”

Rani! You are from Pandya Kingdom, aren’t you?”

“Yes, and you?”

“I too am from Pandya Kingdom. But that the mute mad woman is from Chola Kingdom, therefore…”

“No matter; there are many others who have told me about her. If you happen to see her again, bring her to me. If you do, I will reward you amply,”

Rani! Trying to bring her anywhere would be impossible. She is like a ‘storm’. She will not be listen to anybody and nor stay in one place. She has lost her senses and is mad…”

“Fine. Be that as it may. Why are you here now?”

Rani! A few days ago, some people came here on a royal errand from you,”

“Did they say my name?”

“Yes. They said that they had to go to Elangai on a task that you had set upon them. I sent my husband along with them to ferry them across the sea,”
“Is he back?”

“No. That’s why I am worried. What if something had befallen him…”

“Don’t worry. Nothing would have happened to him. If at all something unfortunate has occurred, I will look after your well being. What about the people who went with your husband? Do you know anything?”

“They have come back. Didn’t you hear that owl’s call a little while ago?”

“I heard but what of it?”

“Didn’t you recognize it as Mandiravadi’s voice?”

“How do you know about him? Are you one of them?”

“Yes Rani!” she said and bent down to draw a secret symbol on the sand.

Nandini looked at her in surprise and asked, “Where is Mandiravadi? Do you know?”

“He is waiting to meet you.”

“Then why didn’t he come? Why wait?”

“He doesn’t wish to meet the Pallavan who was here a little while ago. He has met him in Elangai it seems. And he doesn’t wish to meet your Lord Husband either,”

“Did you meet him?”

“Yes. I heard the owl’s call and went into the woods. He sent me here to bring you to him. He is waiting near Kuzhagar temple,”

“But how could I go? What will I tell my husband?”

“Tell him that you are visiting the temple,”

“That’s a good idea. Should I bring an escort?”

“Not necessary but if you wish I will send Senthan Amuthan along with you,”

“Who is he?”

“He is the son of Thanjavur mute woman,”

“Shiva Shiva! How many mute women are around here?”

“Our family is cursed. Some are born mute while some remain mute despite the gift of speech, like my husband,”

“Does that Elangai mute woman have children?”

“I heard that she had given birth to twin children once but no one knows what happened to them. I tried to find out the secret but in vain,”

“Why is Senthan Amuthan here?”

“He has come in search of Poonguzhali, his uncle’s daughter. She is not here hence he is waiting for her,”

“Where has she gone?”

“I meant to tell you about her. Two people came here right after my husband left with Mandiravadi. One of them wanted to go to Elangai but some Pazhuvur soldiers came here to capture him but Poonguzhali helped him to escape and she took him in her boat to Elangai,”

“Does she know to ply a boat?”

“That’s how she makes her living. When she is not in the sea, she is normally found roaming around the beach or the woods. There isn’t a nook in the woods that she hasn’t explored,”

“If she hasn’t come back so long, what do you guess could have happened to her?”

“The whole of Kodi Karai is searching for someone who is lost at sea but I am not so sure about it until Poonguzhali comes back,”

“What if Poonguzhali too had drowned in that storm?”

“She will not drown. The sea is but a cradle for her. Moreover…”

“Moreover what?”

“I was atop the lighthouse a little while ago, and I saw a small boat approaching the beach…”

“And then?”

“But it didn’t come,”

“What do you think happened to it?”

“I think the boat might not have approached the beach because of the crowd. They might have taken it towards the backwaters…”

“Is that possible?”

“Nothing is impossible for Poonguzhali. Senthan Amuthan was with me in the lighthouse and he too thought the same,”

“Fine. Let’s then go to Kuzhagar temple,”

“Shall I call Senthan Amuthan?

“No. Let him search for his uncle’s daughter,”

Both walked through the beach and entered the woods. Rakkammal too was very familiar with the quick sands that abound the woods of Kodi Karai and she guided Nandini around them carefully.

When they reach the Kuzhagar temple, the priest was very surprised. “Rani! What’s this? How could you come alone so far? Where are the guards? If you had only told me earlier I would have welcomed you in a more befitting manner!”

“I fear that wouldn’t be appropriate battarey! A great mishap has befallen the Chola Kingdom. The most beloved Prince of the Cholas is lost in the sea. I came here to pray for his safety,”

“Do not worry Rani! The Samudra Rajan will not harm the Prince, I am sure of it,”

“How are you so sure about this?”

“The Prince’s horoscope has many favourable planets and stars. He was born to rule this world and not even the Samudra Rajan can dare to drown him. He would come back safe,”

Saying thus, the priest showed the Aarathi to Kuzhagar and brought out the holy flame for Nandini.

Amma! I am very pleased to see you living so nobly with your Lord Husband,”

“Do you know me, before I got married battarey?”

“Yes Amma! I have seen you many times in Pazhaiarai and later near the Vaigai river island temple. Your brother Thirumalai, how is he faring these days?”

“He goes around from one place to around singing the divine verses of Azhwars. I haven’t seen him in a very long while,”

“He too is pained by the fact that you haven’t met him since your marriage. The last time I saw him, he told me all about it with great sorrow,”

“What can I do ayya? My lord husband’s family are staunch Saivars. Thirumalai is a Veera Vaishnavan who bears the name ‘Azhwarkadiyan’. He goes around challenging the Saivars for debates and indulges in petty skirmishes. How can I claim my relationship when he acts thus? My Lord Husband’s noble family name will be shamed by his actions,”

“Very true Amma! It is your duty to act in a manner that pleases your husband’s family. Azhwarkadiyan can go to hell,”

Nandini then took her leave from the priest brushing aside the Priest’s concerns for her safety.

Amma! You are leaving alone. If you could tarry for a while, I can escort you back,”

“That wouldn’t be necessary Ayya! You need not hurry through your daily chores just for our sake. I will be quite safe. This woman knows her way through the woods and will guide me safely. Moreover today Kodikarai is overrun by Pazhuvur soldiers who are guarding the beach. I have no fear. I will take your leave now,”

They both then came out of the temple and then headed towards the woods again. Rakkammal led Nandini through the dense forest by holding her hand carefully and soon they were near the canal.

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