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.”

“Why?”

“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.”

“What?”

“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.

Ponni's Beloved on Facebook

Ponni's Beloved on Facebook
Like us on Facebook

Volume 1 - New Flood