Saturday, 25 June 2016

Chapter 24: She Regained Consciousness





Vanathi fainted yet again and for a while she remained unaware of what was happening around her. Soon, she started to regain her senses and became aware of the fact that she did not marry the Prince of her dreams beneath the seas. She remembered hearing the distressful news about the Prince’s death at the sea and coming to the lake. She remembered fainting and falling into the waters. As soon as she realized this she felt an almost physical pain of a hundred spears searing her heart apart. She tried to open her eyes but they seemed to weigh upon her with a heavy burden and refused to open. She wondered for a while who could have saved her and then remembered seeing Princess Kundavai’s boat in the lake.

Why did she save me? Why didn’t she leave me to my fate?

She wanted to open her eyes and fight with the Princess. ‘Why did you save me? Do you love your brother so little that you would not want me to join him in the afterlife?”

There now, the Princess is talking something. Who is she talking to?

“She is not in her senses. She is talking in her dreams. If our boat were any farther, she would have been dead by now. I shudder to think that we came very close to such a possibility.”

“If she had drowned today, it would have been a sweet end for this girl. You saved her out of the goodness of your heart but unfortunately she will undergo more suffering all through her life.”

“How can you speak such heartless words? You might just prove the fact that all men are beasts with nary a heart within them.”

“Devi! What did I say? How can you call me heartless?”

“You just now said that it would have been good if she had died. Isn’t that enough? I have nurtured and taken care of this girl for so long…”

“Didn’t you hear what she just now said?”
“What did you hear?”

“I thought I heard her talking something about marrying the Prince.”

“Yes. Even while unconscious she did speak something about it. Her love for the Prince is deep and pure…and she dreams of marrying him.”

“I don’t think she should harbour such impossible dreams in her heart. It isn’t good for her. She will only gain disappointment and regrets through such dreams.”

“Why do you say that? What does she lack that makes her so unfit a bride for my brother? Can you find another highborn maiden such as her? Don’t you know that Kodumballur clan is one of the oldest and proudest clans in our Kingdom?”

“I know that but you are not understanding what I am trying to say. No matter how highborn this girl might be, her dream will never be fulfilled.”

“It will be fulfilled. This is not merely her dream but my desire as well and my decision.”

“I regret to say, your decision in this matter will not be fulfilled.”

“Why do you keep saying that? Isn’t the Prince safe at Nagapattinam Choodamani Viharam?”

Aha! What a relief? The Prince is safe and sound. He is in Nagapattinam Choodamani Viharam. How fortunate am I? I will have to thank Princess Kundavai for saving me from drowning after all. I am indebted to the Princess for many things and now I owe my life to her. But why is he saying such things about me? Why do I feel dread and fear even as I hear him speak?

“Devi! The Prince is safe. However that doesn’t mean that he would consent to marry this girl tomorrow. I feel that he wouldn’t marry her…”

“You are free to think whatever you fancy. In this world, there is a man who would listen to me and accede to my decision – that’s my brother Arul Mozhi.”

“Princess! You forget that I too exist in this world just to do your bidding.”

“If that is so, then you are being so pessimistic about everything. Who could possibly throw hurdles in our way? Do you think the Pazhuvur brothers would object…?”

“I do not know that. I do know that the Prince has boundless love for you. He might listen to you in other matters. He has no wish to rule over a kingdom. He refused the throne of Elangai before my very eyes. However if you insist he might even agree to rule the Kingdom but he will not marry this girl…”

“Why would he do that? What possible imperfection does he see in her? What do you think is wrong with her?”

“Devi! I see no fault in this girl and even if I see I would not believe it. In my opinion, the women in your Palace, be it the lowest of the servant or handmaiden would seem like an apsara to my eyes. Those adorable white rabbits in your garden seem like Iravatham (Indra’s white elephant) to my eyes. I don’t think that the Prince sees any imperfection in so fair a maiden but I fear that he might have lost his heart to somebody else…”

Ayyo!  Why is this man hurting me with such words? Doesn’t he know that my heart is already bleeding?

“Vandiya Devarey! I do not understand the meaning of your words. Why are you saying such lies and falsehood about my brother?”

“They are not lies and falsehood if they are true. I am merely stating the fact as I had seen and heard it.”

“Alright. Tell me everything. I think I can bear to hear the worst of what you have to say.”

Poonguzhali
“I told you about the boat girl Poonguzhali didn’t I? It was she who had taken me to Elangai. When the Prince and I were struggling to survive in the storm, it was she who had saved our life. She has now taken the Prince to Choodamani Viharam. I left the Prince in her care because I know for a fact that she would give her life thousand times over before she let any harm befell him.”

“So what? She is still just a boat girl. Would she dare to dream of marrying a Prince who would one day rule the world? Can a little sparrow dream of joining its fate with that of the mighty Garuda?”

“Why do you think it’s not possible? The sparrow can look up the sky and Garuda too can look down and desire the sparrow.”

“If my brother is harbouring such unwanted desires then I will ensure that they are removed from his heart. This cannot happen and nor will I allow it. I have protected my brother and have kept his safe from many dangers. I will bring him out of the seductive net that this boat girl has weaved around him.”

“Do you think so less of a boat girl? Is one’s birth and family so important that it eclipses their own value? Doesn’t the boat girl’s blood run red? Do you think that she suffers any less than a Princess born in a palace? When you come to think of it, one might even say that the Princess’s love for your brother is self-serving. She might want to rule over the Kingdom as a Queen but the boat girl’s love is pure and unsullied with such desires. That’s what the Prince believes. Why should we throw hurdles upon such pure a love? Now… take me for an example. If only I could open my heart and reveal what lies beneath…”

“No. I do wish that you could keep your heart to yourself and guard it safely. That would be most prudent course of action for all concerned. Common people have the freedom to indulge in their desires of heart but those who are born in the royal family should learn to rein in their heart and marry their equals. If they fail to do so, the repercussion of such an action would be catastrophic. There is one such example in my own family. When my father was young, no one thought that he would ascend the throne in the later years. He had met a young woman in the forest and… But why am I telling you all these things. This girl is regaining consciousness. Don’t you have anything else to talk about? You did say that you encountered many other dangers while in Elangai? Tell me more about it.”

“Yes Princess. It happened the night the Prince had refused the throne of Elangai. We were walking by a deserted road in Anuradhapuram that night when a house almost collapsed on us. If we had tarried there a second longer, we would have been buried alive. Thankfully a woman appeared suddenly and called the Prince aside…”

“My God! Another woman! You both seem to need women around you at all times to rescue you from dangers. Who is this woman?”

“I don’t know who she was but the Prince was acquainted with her…Devi! Don’t get so agitated. This woman is older than him.”

“How old?”

“Old enough to be his mother and she is also deaf and mute.”

“Ayya! What are you saying? Did you really see such a woman in Elangai? What else do you know about her? Where is she from?”

“She is from one of the many islands that are near Elangai.”

Kundavai’s excitement reached its peak when she heard this and she asked, “Ayya! Tell me more. How does she look?”

“Devi! Her appearance was a big shock to me and I don’t know how to tell you about it.”

“Please do not hesitate. Tell me. How did she look?”

“She resembled a woman that I had seen in Chola Kingdom. I found no other difference between them except for the fact that she was older than the other. Her attire was simple devoid of any ornaments and her hair was free. Apart from these differences, their faces resemble each other greatly.”

“Who resembles this deaf and mute woman?”

“Devi! Can’t you guess?”

“Is it me or this girl Vanathi or could it perhaps be my mother in Thanjavur?”

“No.”

“Is it Pazhuvur Ellaya Rani Nandini Devi?”

“Yes. It’s Nandini.”

“My God! My suspicions have come true.”

“What did you suspect?”

“The woman who I had often hated as a vile cobra might just turn out to be my own sister. Your news about the deaf and mute woman just confirmed my suspicions. If what I think is true then fate has dealt us a very cruel hand indeed. This proves my point - a royal prince should not marry someone whose birth is inferior to theirs…”

“Devi! I am not so inferior in birth as you seem to think. My forefathers ruled over this land for more than 300 years. They won over Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas and had brought their lands under one rule. Today, I may not have a Kingdom of my own but I do have a sword in my hand, strength in my arms and courage in my heart…”

“Ayya! I will listen to stories of your valour at a later time. There are a few things that I need your help with. I hope you would help me.”

“I would give my life thousand times over for you…”

“Are you perchance this boat girl’s brother to offer thousand lives to me? But let’s not talk about that girl now that Vanathis is waking up.”

Yes. By then Vanathi was fully awake and her body had regained its strength. Many thoughts flew through her mind. She wanted to show the Prince that her love for him was more pure and unsullied with any unwanted desires. She resolved to end her life after proving the same to her Prince. Along with this, she also remembered the scene that had taken place in Thanjavur palace in the King’s bed chamber. After hearing what Vandiya Devan had told about the deaf and mute woman, the king’s words on that occasion started making sense to her.

When she opened her eyes, Kundavai affectionately spoke to her, “My sweet! How are you feeling now?”

“I am fine now Akka. I beg your forgiveness for giving you so much trouble.”

At that time, Azhawarkadiyan Nambi made an entrance suddenly and said, “Devi! I too would like to beg your forgiveness for the trouble but a large crowd has gathered at the gates of the palace. They are distressed over the news that the Prince has disappeared in the sea. If you do not pacify them now they might just destroy this city in anger.”

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Volume 1 - New Flood