Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Chapter 9: Three in a Boat



As the day dawned, night flew away from the world like a reluctant lover who was withdrawing from the arms of the woman she loved. The goddess of night and darkness withdrew from the world with self-same reluctance and hesitancy. As she kissed the world goodbye for one more time, one might even imagine the conversation they had. “Just few more hours, my love and we shall meet again tonight!” and then she moved away from her lover with many a hesitant step.

After released from the tenacious love of Goddess of night, the world cheers happily with thousand chirping birds that herald the dawn of yet another beautiful day.

The boat sailed on smoothly through the narrow canal while the flower bearing plants that grew along the banks bloomed in the morning sun. When Poonguzhali opened her eyes, she laid it on the handsome face of the Prince who was still asleep. She wondered whether he was still asleep or unconscious due to the raging fever. Yet his face was radiant and peaceful, as he lay wrapped in a deep sleep.

Next to the Prince, Senthan Amuthan was plying the boat mechanically.

“Poonguzhali! Why did you wake up so early? Sleep some more.”

Poonguzhali smiled beautifully at her cousin and her happiness radiated through her body. Though she was born in the wild woods, the raw beauty of the nature and the wilderness never failed to amaze her.

Athaan! Will you sing a song in a ragam that signifies dawn?

“I cannot sing when a much superior singer is in front of me. You should sing.”

“But you sang in the woods yesterday!”

“I sang then to save you from mandiravadi. But now only should sing,”

“I would love to sing but what if the Prince got disturbed?”

“I won’t get disturbed. You both can sing,” said Arulmozhivarmar and opened his eyes.

Poonguzhali bent her head shyly and smiled.

“Where is the boat going?

“We are going to Nagapattinam Choodamani Viharam,”

“Then whatever I saw and heard last night was true?”

“Yes Ayya! This is my cousin who got the message from Kundavai Pirrati!”

“Tell me Amudha, what did my sister bid you to do? Did she ask the Viharam me to make a Budha Bikshu out of me?”

Senthan Amudhan who was dismayed by the Prince’s question didn’t know what to answer but the Prince looked around distracted by the sudden sound of horse hooves.

“Where is my friend? Where did the warrior from the Vanar clan go?” he asked and then closed his eyes again.

Right after that Vandiya Devan appeared on the banks on a horse and Senthan Amuthan stopped the boat. Vandiya Devan stopped the horse and came near the boat.

“No need to worry, I just came by to check whether you are fine. There is no more danger,”

“What about Mandiravadi?” asked Poonguzhali

“He doesn’t know that you are taking the Prince on this boat. He seems have believed every word that I told,”

“Did you see him?”

“Yes but I pretended as if I saw his ghost and he believed it,”

“I have never seen anyone who could lie so much,”

“I don’t lie. I just give a free reign to my powers of imagination. How is the Prince?”

“He wakes up in the middle and speaks two words and then goes back to sleep again,”

“That is typical of this shivering fever,”

“How long will it affect him?”

“Sometimes it might ravage him for a month but thankfully the Buddha Bikshus of Choodamani Viharam are well-known for their skills in medicine. They should be able to cure in two weeks. Poonguzhali! Be careful! I leave the Prince in your care. I don’t have much confidence in your cousin. He just needs to see a temple gopuram and he would start singing devaram and go for darshan!”

“Ever since I made your acquaintance I have lost the desire to serve my Lord Shiva,” 

“Did you lose that desire because of me or because of this girl? Tell the truth!”

Senthan Amuthan didn’t answer his question and instead asked, “Did you find the horse without any trouble?”

“The horse found me instead. This is the same horse that I left with you at Thanjavur isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“It saw me in the dark and neighed. During my captivity with the Arab pirates, I learnt one thing Amudha! They said that every horse should be fitted with an iron shoe, like an armour. I am going to get this horse fitted with it in the first ironsmith shop that I see today. Anyway, I had best be on my way. I may not see you again and if the Prince asks about me, tell him that I am on my way Pazhaiarai and that I will send word as soon as I reach,”

Talking thus, Vandiya Devan went back to his horse and soon disappeared from their view. 

The small boat resumed its journey through the canal and as they neared Nagapattinam their path became more scenic with lovely flowers blooming on either side of the banks. Poonguzhali thought that the path towards heaven would probably look thus.

When they neared a village, Senthan Amuthan would go there to get them some food and milk for the Prince.

Whenever the Prince regained consciousness she would stay away from him not able to meet his eyes but when he was asleep, she would sit beside him touch his forehead and muss his hair. She also enjoyed conversing with her cousin as they took turns to ply the boat and sometimes they both sang beautiful songs to while away the time.

Poonguzhali felt that she had spent many years in the Prince’s company when she had served him. A hundred memories flitted through her mind giving way to many thousand unspoken dreams.

They journeyed through the canal for one day and night and the next day they were in Nagapattinam. One of the waterways through the canal went all the way up to Nagapattinam Choodamani Viharam. Poonguzhali took the boat through that route and reached the rear entrance of the Viharam.


They could hear some unusual activity at the Viharam. A huge crowd of people had gathered in the front entrance and many Bikshus were seen roaming around here and there in an agitated manner. Senthan Amuthan got down from the boat saying that he would go inside to check what has happened.

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