Saturday, 31 December 2016

Chapter 46 – And Vanathi Laughed!

While the Prince and Kundavai were speaking in the Nandi Mandapam, Senthan Amuthan and Poonguzhali too were have a very serious conversation while they were waiting in the boat.

Amudha! If I ask you something, will you tell the truth?”

“It is difficult for me to speak anything other than the truth Poonguzhali. That’s why I haven’t seen or spoken to anyone for the past four days!”

“There are some, who can’t speak the truth ever. Your friend Vandiya Devan is like that.”

“Still he is a good man. He never lies to cause harm to anyone.”

“He told me something about you. I wish to know whether that is true or not.”

“There is no reason for Vandiya Devan to lie about me. What did he tell you?”

“He told me that you praised me a lot.”

“That’s true.”

“He told me that you love me very much and that you wished to wed me.”

“Did he truly say that to you?”

“Yes, Amudha. He did.”

“I will have to thank him, the next time I meet him.”


“I don’t think I would have ever revealed what’s in my heart to you. Instead, he told you of my desires and laid my heart open to you. I am thankful to him for that.”

“Then whatever he told me is true?”

“Yes, Poonguzhali. It is true.”

“Why do you love me Amudha?”

“Can one reason with the heart? How can anyone tell why love happens?”

“Try. I am sure if you think carefully, you will know the reason.”

“One can’t really know how affection, love and care are born in our heart.”

“Don’t people look at each other’s beauty and fall in love?”

“Yes they do. People look at each other’s beauty and fall in love, some fall in lust but that’s not true love and nor does it last. You spoke about Vandiya Devan now, do you know he became friends with me, the minute we met and I dared Thanjavur’s underground prison just so that he can escape Pazhuvur soldiers. Do you think he fell in love with my beauty and became my friend?”

“But your friend waxed eloquent about my beauty and praised it to the sky?”

“Yes, he admired your beauty but didn’t fall in love with you. He described Pazhuvur Queen’s beauty a hundred times over but didn’t fall in love with her.”

“I know the reason for that.”

“What is that?”

“That’s because he has lost his heart to Princess Kundavai.”

“Don’t you agree then there is no connection between love and beauty?”

“Do you then mean to say that I am beautiful than Princess Kundavai?”

“Have no doubts on that score Poonguzhali. You are indeed more beautiful than Kundavai or Vanathi. Even Nandini who everyone claims to be a seductress can’t possibly be more beautiful than you. It is this divine beauty of yours that is swaying my mind away from my Lord. Fear clouds my mind all the time when I think about you. Surely a beauty like you, cannot ever desire a man like me.”

Poonguzhali looked thoughtful for a while and then said, “Amudha! If I tell you that I do not love you, what would you do?”

“I will wait for a while with patience and hope that you change your mind.”

“How will it change?”

“Mind is a strange being. It changes all the time. Many people remain unaware of what they really want for a long time. That’s because things that they choose to believe, cloud their mind and reason. It is an illusion. When this illusion vanishes, the truth of what they want is laid bare.”

“Alright. You wait patiently for me to change my mind. But if my decision is final, what will you do?”

“Then I will try to change my mind and my desires.”

“Would that be possible?”

“Yes if I try it would be possible. I will try to focus my attention on Lord Shiva instead and try to forget my heart’s desire. Our elders have done the same with great results, I will try to follow their example and try to forget you.”

Amudha! I don’t think your love for me is true by any measure.”

“Why do you think so? What do you think makes ‘true love’?”

“If you had truly loved me, you would be angry enough to kill me just for rejecting you. And if you knew that my love and affections are forfeit to somebody else, you would be angry enough to kill that person too.”

Poonguzhali! My love for you is true, pure and honourable while the love that you describe is bestial and cruel.”

“I know not what is honourable or bestial. I know only of human nature. I believe that love should only give happiness and pleasure, not heart-wrenching sadness or sorrow. If we truly love someone but they do not reciprocate it, then it is but natural to hate them, isn’t it? Shouldn’t one avenge them for not accepting our love?”

“No. It is not natural. It isn’t human nature. It is the nature of a demon to avenge one’s self. If we truly love someone we will cherish them and then their happiness will become ours. If they reject our love, it will be difficult to accept at first but even that hurt and sadness will fade when we see our loved one happy. Our happiness will multiply to see them happy rather than sad and miserable.”

“What you describe is definitely not human nature and nor is it possible for men to act so nobly. Along with Vandiya Devan, that physician’s son came to Kodi Karai. He fell in love with me the minute he saw me and desired to wed me. When I rejected him, he thought that I was in love with Vandiya Devan and he became so angry with his so-called friend that he tried to betray him to Pazhuvur soldiers. I am sure he might have killed me too if he had the opportunity.”

“If that is so then he is not a human being. He must be a demon.”

“There do you see that Kodumbalur Princess? It is obvious that she has lost her heart to the Prince. If the Prince rejects her, won’t she try to poison him? And if she learns that the Prince desires some other woman, wouldn’t she try to kill her too?”

“Never Poonguzhali! Gentle Vanathi would never do anything like that.”

“Maybe you are right. But if I was in her place, I would do that.”

“I will pray to God so that he forgives you.”

“Who is this God who thinks he is great enough to forgive me? It is ‘I’ who should forgive the God instead.”

“God will forgive even these blasphemous words.”

“Amudha! You are truly a good man. You are more like our older aunt in character.”

“What is this you are saying suddenly?”

“You know our aunt, the one that our family claims to have died long back?”

“Who? My mother’s twin sister?”

“Yes. She is not dead.”

“I have heard rumours about her.”

“She is roaming through the forests of Elangai like a mad woman.”

“A family curse! What can anybody do?”

“Her plight today is not only because of the family curse. A Chola Prince’s deceit and rejection, is the sole reason for her madness.”


“When our aunt was young, she lived in an island, near Elangai. A young Prince, who got marooned there, told her that he loved her. She believed his words but he rejected her once he became the King.”

“How do you know all this Poonguzhali?”

“I spoke to my aunt with the help of sign language. That’s how I learned all this. There is more Amudha. Some time ago, I happened to meet many Pandya soldiers who wanted to seek vengeance against the Cholas. I was itching to join them. I wanted to avenge my aunt and bring down the King who rejected her love and drove her to madness. But my aunt didn’t seek vengeance. There is no room for hatred or revenge in her heart. She had not only forgiven the man who had wronged her but had also saved his son’s life countless times in Elangai. The love that you describe is what I have seen in her. But I am not my aunt and nor will I ever be like her.”

“Then what will you do?”

“If any Prince rejects me and my love, then I will turn against him and murder him. I will also murder the woman for whom he has rejected me. And then I will kill myself and die happily.”

“My God! Why are you talking thus?”

“Amudha! You know not the torment that I have been undergoing for the past two years, that’s why you are giving me all this Godly advice.”

“Why can’t you be more like our aunt?”

“I am not my aunt and this is my affair and I choose to conduct it in whatever way I think is appropriate.”

“What are you saying Poonguzhali?”

Amudha! If you take some of my blood and some of Vanathi’s blood, would there be any difference?”

“There won’t be any difference?”

“Is she superior than me in any way? In beauty, brains or in talent?”

“No, she isn’t. You were born in the sea while she is palace born and bred. You will kill a wild animal and will not blink an eye. You will ply a boat in storms and save those who are lost in the sea. Vanathi will be terrified of waves even while standing on the shores. Even a bold tomcat can scare her to bits and if she hears some unfortunate news, she would swoon away.”

“Then why does Kundavai have such a low opinion about me while she pours out all her love on that meek girl?”

Poonguzhali! You are being unfair to Princess Kundavai. Vanathi has been her companion and friend for many years now while she has met you only now. Didn’t she express her heart-felt gratitude for saving the Prince’s life?”

“Ah! Who wants the gratitude of that Princess? She can keep it with her. Amudha! When the Prince returns, please ply the boat alone. I might just capsize the boat if I take on the oars. I am that angry.”

“You won’t do that Poonguzhali! What has the Prince ever done to you that you would try to something like that?”

Amudha! My mind is not under my control. I can only think of the wrong that his father did to our aunt. What if I lose my mind and try to avenge her by killing the Prince? It would be best if you row the boat.”

“Alright! I will take the Prince back to the Viharam. What will you do in the meanwhile?”

“I will follow that Vanathi and throw a stone on her blessed head.”

Saying thus, she took a rock that lay on the bed of the bank. At the same moment from among the grove of coconut trees, a well-built bull came out and walked towards the bank with a languorous gait. Poonguzhali threw the rock on the bull instead and it immediately turned and started racing.

Ayyo! What have you done? Why did you throw the stone on the bull?”

“So what?”

“So what! Poor animal. It can’t defend itself and you are throwing stones at it.”

“I know a woman who was born in my family as deaf and mute. She too couldn’t defend herself and a Prince wronged her for life. What do you think she should do instead?”

“So you are throwing a stone on this bull so that you can avenge our aunt. Your logic makes perfect sense indeed!”

“This bull isn’t all that defenceless. Doesn’t it have sharp horns? What did my aunt have? She couldn’t do anything but become mad and roam through the forests. If any Prince dared to wrong me like that I will make his life miserable.”

“Of course you will. You will throw a stone at a bull. That too while sitting safely in a boat in the middle of the canal! The bull can’t come and attack you here.”

“Let it go and gore anyone to death, for all I care.”

“Of course. Just as you showed your anger on a poor defenceless animal, you wouldn’t care would you?”

The bull didn’t hear any of this conversation but it did exactly what Poonguzhali had predicted (or rather wished for). It couldn’t get near the boat from where the stone was thrown so instead it raced through the coconut grove. At that moment, Vanathi who was walking towards the palanquin that was waiting with their entourage encountered the bull. First, when she saw the racing bull, she felt exhilarated but as it neared her with its head bowed and its gleaming horns poised to attack, she panicked. She started running toward the banks of the canal. There was no place to run but to the edge of canal bank – a small cliff overlooking the canal.

That’s when she shouted, “Ayyo! Ayyo! Akka! Akka!

Kundavai and the Arul Mozhi startled and looked for Vanathi. They spotted her on top of the bank looking at something with a horrified expression. It was soon apparent as to what had terrified her so, because they could see the bull that was racing through her. The Prince immediately ran towards the canal bank and caught her as she fell down the cliff.

Kundavai who was at first terrified for her friend was happy to see her brother come towards her bearing her in his arms.

Akka! Here is your friend. Take her. I know not how this girl was born in the brave Velir clan of Kodumbalur.”

Thambi! How could you do this? How can you touch a maiden like Vanathi?”
“Now is that a crime? What should I have done then? Watch her fall headlong into the canal? Thank God! She didn’t know that I caught her. She must have swooned before she fell into my hands. Here, take her.”

Vanathi laughed gaily and jumped out of Arul Varma’s hands.

“Sneaky girl! You were conscious all this while.”

“Ask her why she pretended to be unconscious, akka.”

“I didn’t pretend or anything. I felt shy when he caught me, so I closed my eyes that’s all.”

“Now how would I know that? Your friend has the habit of fainting away all the time.”

“I will never faint again and even if I did, it won’t be anywhere near him. I just hope he remembers the help that I rendered him today and stays grateful to me.”

“What? What? Is she really saying that she helped me today?”

Kundavai looked at Vanathi and asked, “What are you saying Vanathi? Are you saying that you are grateful to him for saving you?”

“No akka, it was ‘I’ who helped him today so he should be grateful to me.”

“So ‘I’ have to be grateful to ‘her’ for saving ‘her’ from falling headlong into the canal. Akka, is your friend of sound mind?”

“I am of sound mind thank you. Let me explain akka. When your brother was young, he fell into the river and a woman came to his rescue. And a few days ago, when he was lost in the sea, again a woman came to his rescue. Your brother has gotten into the habit of being rescued by woman all the time. Thanks to me, at least he can now claim that he happened to rescue a woman who was about to fall into the canal. That’s why he should thank me.”

Saying thus, Vanathi laughed gaily and Kundavai and the Prince joined her. Hearing them laugh, on the other end of the canal, Poonguzhali and Senthan Amuthan looked in their direction. “Amutha! Why are these people laughing like this?” said Poonguzhali and laughed.

With the coconut groove and the banks of the canal echoing with the laughter, the bull too threw its head out and let out a grunt.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Chapter 45 – Vanathi in Danger!

Akka! Do you remember how I almost drowned when I was five years of age? Do you remember how Kaveri Amman rescued me and took me back to the boat?”

“How can you ask me this question thambi? How can I forget that? Don’t we call you ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ because of that incident?”
“I met the ‘Kaveri Amman’ who saved my life in ElangaiAkka why are you silent? Aren’t you surprised?”

“I am not surprised nor am I shocked but I do have an ardent interest to learn more about her. Tell me everything you know.”

“It is difficult. There is so much tell… a day wouldn’t be enough for sure. She saved my life all those years ago and that’s not all, in Elangai she has saved my life countless times. Akka! I am not beholden to her just for saving my life… it’s the great affection that she bears for me that has me enslaved. There is no substitute for that kind of love… why even the love that you bear for me would be secondary.”

“You don’t have to hesitate to tell me that. I would be the first to admit that my love for you isn’t pure. It comes along with many strings, desires, ambitions and dreams that I hope to fulfil through you. Let me be frank with you. My life is tied to this Kingdom and anyone who would be instrumental in making this land ‘great’ will find a place in my heart. I love you all the more because I believe that under your rule, this beautiful kingdom would flourish. But if you or anyone would strive to crush this dream of mine, I might turn against them too. But the love of this deaf and mute woman has no such selfish motives. She showers on you the love that she bore for our father, twenty years ago. There cannot be any comparison for love such as that.”

“When did you learn this?”

“What are you referring to?”

“That she is our step mother?”

“I guessed it from what father told me and later from Vandiya Devar too. Does she think you are her own son or another woman’s son?”

“Neither she and nor I have entertained such thoughts ever. Why do you differentiate thus?”

“Our mother became the queen of this kingdom in her stead and despite knowing that she showers you with love and affection… you who is the son of her rival. Isn’t that special?”

“I am sure she knows that I am not her son. If not anything else, the difference in our ages is quite obvious. She can’t talk... can’t express anything. She draws pictures and whatever we can understand from that is what we can learn from her. Apart from the love that she bears me… if you but knew that extent of love that she bears for our father, it breaks my heart to pieces. Akka! Did father look exactly like me when he was my age?”

“No! Father was as handsome of Manmathan when he was your age. Our clan was well known for bravery and glorious deeds in war but not for beauty. Our grandfather, Aringhzha Chola married Kalyani Devi who belonged to the Vaithumbaraya clan after being enamoured by her beauty. I have heard that when they married, her complexion was that of gold and her beauty could only be compared to that of a full moon. Even today, after so many years, she still looks beautiful and that’s how our father ended up being the most handsome king in the Chola dynasty, so much so that his own given name ‘Paranthakan’ is rarely used. Our brother, you and I have taken after our mother in appearance. The Thirukovalur clan hates beauty in any form and they believe that bravery and beauty can’t go hand in hand.”

“I know not whether bravery and beauty can go hand in hand but I do know one thing for sure, there is no connection between affection and beauty. Otherwise…”

“Otherwise why is this girl Vanathi looking at you without blinking her eyes? Why are Senthan Amuthan and Poonguzhali looking at you from over the boat?”

The Prince smiled at her and said, “Akka! You have strayed away from the subject of our conversation. I was talking about the love that Kaveri Amman bore for me. Leave that aside… do you think it’s possible for one person to look exactly like another?”

“Why not? If they are twins by birth, it is very much possible. Mother and daughter can look the same when they are of the same age. That apart there has been many instances where two people who are not related by birth to look the same. It is one of the mysteries of nature.”

“I am wondering whether Pazhuvur queen and our stepmother can resemble each other as Vandiya Devar claims. I have seen Nandini when she was very young. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet her properly after she became Pazhuvetrayar’s wife. What do you think?”

“I have met Nandini but I haven’t seen our stepmother but I believe Vandiya Devar because what he told me also matches with what our father related about his past.”

“Father spoke to you? When?”

“Few days ago, Vanathi and I went to Thanjavur and that’s when he narrated many of the past events that had happened when he was of your age. He told me how he was marooned at an island near Elangai and how he met a deaf and mute girl and their love for each other. He was found and brought back to the Kingdom by one of the searching party that his grandfather had sent out for him. The day he was anointed as the crown prince of the Kingdom, he saw her in the crowd that was standing outside the palace. She vanished soon after that and he sent Prime Minister Anirudhar to find her but he learned that she had fallen to her death from the lighthouse of Kodi Karai. Her death had a dreadful impact on him and ever since, the guilt is eating through him. He is reliving her death with every breath that he takes and it has taken a serious toll on his health. He believes that she has died because of him. Leave aside our dreams, ambitions and aspiration for our clan and dynasty… our first duty is to our father. We should find relief for the torment he suffers everyday. You will need to somehow bring Kaveri Amman here and we need to prove to our father that she is well and alive and by no means dead. Unless we do this, he will not know peace neither in this life or the next.”

Akka! Off late, I have been at the death’s door many times and each time I had only one regret about my life… that I am dying without uniting Kaveri Amman with my father. Whenever I think about her, my heart bursts with sorrow. Those with the gift of speech can speak and express themselves and those who can hear can at least listen to words of solace that others will give you but she can do neither. Just imagine her plight! All these years, she has buried, love, affection, sorrows and regrets deep within her heart… I am not surprised that she is roaming through the jungles of Elangai like a mad woman. I do wish to reunite her with our father, but do you think he would want that?”

“Whether he wishes it or not, I believe it is our duty to bring her to him. Do you know that for the past 20 years he believes that he is seeing the ghost of this woman, wanting to avenge for him for her death. It is this guilt, fear and shame that torment him day and night. That’s why his health is not improving by any measure.”

“How did you know this? Did father tell you?”

“Yes father told me… and so did Vanathi.”

Vanathi… What’s this got to do with her? Did you tell about this?”

“No I didn’t. I will let her tell you everything that happened one night when we were in Thanjavur. I think you are being very rude and ungracious. You haven’t spoken a word to the Kodumbalur Princess and nor have you enquired after her health? Is this the way you would greet the daughter of noble Siriya Vellar who gave up his life for the glory of Cholas?”

Akka! Why should I enquire after her specially when you are looking after her?”

“Is that so? Now keep that mouth of yours shut and be gracious. Vanathi! Come here my sweet… the Prince wishes to greet you properly.”

Vanathi came near them but didn’t look at the Prince. Instead, she looked at Kundavai and said, “Akka, why do you speak such lies? Your brother doesn’t wish to meet me his gaze is on the boat at all times. It is obvious that he wishes to go back .” Obviously, she meant Poonguzhali when she spoke about the boat!

The Prince laughed out aloud and said, “Akka! Your friend can speak! And here I was wondering whether she too is deaf and mute among the others in our family.”

Akka! I do become mute when I am in his presence. Sometimes I wonder whether I have really been struck mute.”

“That’s good I say! In Kodi Karai there is this man, Poonguzhali’s brother. With others, he manages to speak somewhat but when he is in the presence of his wife, he becomes mute. Therefore his family calls him ‘mute’ despite the contrary.”

“This Princess too is like that. When she first came to us, she used to chatter constantly but ever since you went to Elangai the first time, she has changed completely. She doesn’t talk to anyone and strays away alone to daydream. Vanathi! I want you to tell the Prince about what happened that night at the Thanjavur palace.”

“Let the Kodumbalur Princess sit and narrate her story. If her uncle sees her standing for so long, he would get worried for her health. When I was in Elangai, he used to enquire about her health whenever he happened to meet me. You never used to send me any message about her and I used to wonder what I could tell him.”

“I had sent a message with Vandiya Devar, didn’t he give it to you?”

“He would have given the message, akka but your brother might not paid any heed to it. He must have been too busy thinking about other things.”

“That’s very true. After seeing your Olai, I have been very preoccupied indeed. I feel as if this fever has affected my ears as well, ask your friend to speak a bit louder.”

Then with Kundavai’s skilful coaxing, Vanathi narrated all that had happened that night when she had tried to find her way to the palace terrace and the King’s wails. She also described whom she saw at the King’s chambers that night when she overlooked the room from the balcony. Many a time, she would glance up and meet the Prince’s eyes and would forget what she had been saying. Kundavai would then prompt and remind her to finish her tale much to the enjoyment of the Prince.

The Prince listened to her with avid interest and then finally said, “Akka! Your friend has forgotten one important thing. After seeing and hearing all these things, I am sure she must have swooned!”

 Vanathi bent her head shyly while Kundavai and the Prince laughed out aloud.

Kundavai then told her, “Vanathi! Why don’t you roam around the banks of the canal? Or if you want, you can go and wait with our entourage in the palanquin. Arul Varman will be here for a few days, we will meet again.”

“Alright akka! I will roam around the banks and wait for you.” Said Vanathi and left with an enthusiastic gait.

Arul Varman waited until she left and then turned towards his sister, “Akka, I can understand the reason behind father’s wails but what do you think about what he saw in his room? If whatever he saw was his own vision born of guilt then how could your friend see it?”

“Our father didn’t see a vision and nor did Vanathi imagine things. Whatever happened that night was a midnight drama enacted by Pazhuvur Queen Nandini Devi. I guessed the truth even then and now I know for sure why she must have done, thanks to you and Vandiya Devar.”

“What was the purpose of this drama? What did she hope to learn?”

Nandini has always been suspicious about the secret of her birth. She also knows that the Emperor had swooned the first time he time he saw her. After that incident, she never graced his presence publicly but she must have been curious and wanted to glean as much truth of as possible from him. By enacting this sort of drama, she hoped to learn the truth from him.”

“Do you think she has learned the truth?”

“I know not, Arul Varma. Not even the Lord Brahma can hope to understand what lies beneath her heart. When I think about Periya Pazhuvetarayar’s plight in her hands, I feel sorry for him. We spoke about beauty, a few moments ago. If you were to ask who is the most beautiful woman among all, then I would name Nandini. We can’t compete nor compare with her beauty. Hers is a kind of beauty that enslaves men and makes them her devoted slaves for life. Pazhuvetarayar, Thirumalaiappan, Kandanmaran and now Parthibendran… Our Prime Minister is scared to go near her, lest she enslaves him. Aditya Karikalan doesn’t come to Thanjavur for the same reason. There was only one man who has braved her mesmerizing beauty and is not affected by it…”

“You are talking about Vandiya Devan, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Him. That’s why I have sent him to Kanchi, to guard Aditya Karikalan.”


Pazhuvur Queen has issued an invitation to Karikalan, asking him to meet her at Kadambur Palace. I sent him there to stop him from going there and if that’s not possible then I have asked him not to allow them to meet alone. Karikalan doesn’t know that Nandini is our sister and I do not know whether she knows this truth or not.”

“Are you sure about this, that she is our sister?”

“I have no doubt about it. And ever since, I learnt it my heart has undergone a transformation. When we were young I hated her, I was jealous of her beauty. I planned and schemed to humiliate her, I tried my utmost for you and Kariklan to hate her too. Even after she left to Pandya Kingdom, my hate and envy for her remained the same. When she came to Thanjavur as the bride of the old man, I mocked her many times and have insulted her to the face. I have decided to atone for these sins…”


“The next time I meet her, I am going to fall at her feet and beg her forgiveness and I will happily accept any punishment that she deems appropriate for my sins.”

“If you are planning to do any such thing, I will not allow you in her presence ever. There is no need for you to beg anybody’s forgiveness and there is no one in this world with power enough to punish you. You didn’t envy Nandini’s beauty; it was she who was jealous of you. It was she who hated you with every breath that she took.”

“You told me that your heart is filled with sorrow for our stepmother who is roaming through the jungles of Elangai but have you ever thought about Nandini and what she has undergone in her life. When I think about her, my heart bleeds. She became the ultimate victim of other people’s blunders. My sister, who was born before me is now the wife of an old man…”

Akka… Do you know anything about how all this happened? Why did our father think that Kaveri Amman is dead? How did Nandini end up in some priest’s house, brought up by strangers?”

“I have been thinking about this for a long time but I am able to guess very few details for sure. There are only two people who can shed some light on these secrets. Our grandmother Sembiyanmadevi must know these secrets and the second is Anirudhar, who probably knows everything. I don’t think we can learn anything from these two people not unless they choose to reveal. Anirudhar’s disciple Thirumalai must know everything as well, but he is more close-mouthed than his guru and will never reveal anything. But I don’t think it is important to know these secrets now. What we need to do right now is to ensure that Nandini does not endanger her own family and clan with her schemes. Vandiya Devar told me that she has a sword in her possession that is engraved with the royal emblem of Pandyas  - a fish. He told me that she worships that sword every day and is planning to use it to fulfil her oath. Ever since I heard that, fear and anxiety has filled my heart. I am terrified that she would seek vengeance on her own blood…”

“What if we tell the truth to Nandini?”

“I doubt if that would help. Her anger and wrath would surely increase but we need to do what is right and appropriate.”

“You have sent Vandiya Devan to guard our brother. That’s the right move but what about our father? Why should he drown in guilt? Shouldn’t we tell him everything? Shall we start for Thanjavur right away?”

“No. I will leave for Thanjavur in two days but you need to stay at Choodamani Viharam for some more time.”

“Why do you say that? Do you want me to hide myself away just to escape from our father’s orders?”

“Yes. If you come to Thanjavur, the entire kingdom will be in turmoil. People are already furious with the Pazhuvur brothers and with Madhuranthakan. Some people are also angry with the Emperor for trying to imprison you. If the people come to know that you are well and alive, the tide of their emotions will turn and the outcome of it would be catastrophic for the Kingdom. They might demand that the Emperor abdicate the throne and crown you as the King immediately. They will lay siege to the palace and to the capital and make demands that can’t be fulfilled. I called you home from Elangai to avert the many dangers that we are facing but now I wish you could go back there for the same reason.”

“I am not going anywhere, without meeting our father. If revealing myself to the public will cause problems, then I will go to Thanjavur in disguise and meet him. I need to meet him somehow and tell him all about Kaveri Amman.”

“I can tell all this to our father… do you really have to come just for this?”

“I have seen her in flesh and if I tell him about her, he will believe me. I am sure. And when I meet him, I can seek his permission to bring her here.”

Arul Varma, I will not dissuade you if you feel that you need to meet him but stay at the Viharam for another week. I will go to Thanjavur and tell him that you are alive and well and then send word to you. I came here to meet you for one more purpose. I want you to grant me a boon. If you would but grant me this boon, I would never seek anything else from you, ever. You have courted great danger to your life in these few days and there is aught that I can do to help you. I want you to grant this request of mine before any other danger befalls you.”

“Why so formal akka? When have I refused any request from you?”

“No you have never refused me that’s why I am asking this of you. Aditya Karikalan didn’t marry and nor does it seem like he would. Our father’s line can continue only through you. That is my request to you.”

“If I agree to your request, will you allow me to wed a woman of my choice?”

“Why do you ask thus? For twenty years, our likes and dislikes have been the same. Why would it change now?”

Akka! The woman that I marry must stand by me and help me fulfil the dreams that I have.”

Thambi! Truly! You wish to fulfil your dreams with the help of a woman?”

At the same moment, they heard Vanathi shout, “Ayyo! Ayyo! Akka! Help me.”



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Volume 1 - New Flood