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Ponniyin Selvan Part I (34 – 37)

December 14, 2014

Ponniyin Selvan was written by the late Kalki Krishnamoorthy. It first appeared serialized in the weekly Kalki. Beginning in 1950 it appeared as weekly installments for three and a half years. It is now again being serialized in Kalki. These are my translations / notes in keeping up with the plot. Translations of this novel are available online.

34. The Gazebo

Inside the dense mango orchard, Vandhiyathevan tried to keep up with the girl’s rapid pace as she hurried along the narrow footpath. It was not easy finding one’s way in the dark. As he fumbled along, the girl paused saying, “Why are you waiting? Have you forgotten the way? Aren’t you the man who can see in the dark?” Vandhiyathevan replied, “Shh!” as she had done before. Outside they heard some footsteps. Once they faded, Vandhiyathevan laughed softly. “What are you laughing at?” The girl turned and questioned him. “Didn’t you hear the footsteps of those fellows looking for me. I am laughing at them,” he said.

“Someone is looking for you? Why? What for?” She sounded worried.

“Why else would I be sitting in the dark here?” The branches overhead parted letting a ray of moonlight fall on Vandhiyathevan’s face. The girl stared at him in surprise and despair.

“What are you looking at?”

“If you are really you!”

“If I am not me, who would I be?”

“Last time you had a mustache”

“Good question! For a person who has to scramble over palace walls is it a wonder that I change my disguise every now and then?”

“You look younger than last time.”

“Naturally I feel young when I am excited.”

“What are you excited about?”

“When I have your queen’s attention, there is no shortage of excitement.”

“Don’t make fun! She may not be queen today. But one day she will be!”

“That’s what I am saying.”

“Is that all you will say? You might one day say that she became queen because of your magic! You will even demand half of the kingdom!”

Vandhiyathevan now had more than enough information. He became quiet. His mind was busy figuring. Who am I going to meet? It can be Pazhuvur Illayarani. Or it can be the younger brother Pazhuvertaraiyar’s daughter who married Mathuranthakathevar. This girl thinks I am the magician. What will happen when I meet whichever Illaiyarani? Be courageous. Success comes with courage. So far I have not lost. How can I now lose to a woman?

They were now walking towards a big palace. They did not go to the front or the rear entrance. Instead they walked toward the gazebo in the long garden by the side of the palace. As he got closer he saw that the gazebo connected two big palaces. The palace on the right was lit. There was music and laughter coming from there. The palace on the left had no lights. It was completely dark. Its walls rose high and menacingly in the light of the moon. Outside the gazebo the girl signaled him to wait. He could smell the fragrant night blooms in the garden. It made him giddy. From inside a sweet voice said, “Tell him to come in. What’s there to ask? You know I have been waiting!” No doubt, it was Pazhuvur Illayarani. In a minute he would be in her presence. He could not imagine what sort of reception awaited him, when Nandhini realized that this was not the magician but the young man who had collided with the carriage she was traveling in the day before. Would she be surprised? Would she be angry? Or … would she be delighted? Or would she hide her feelings? The girl stood at the entrance signalling him to come in. Vandhiyathevan walked in. His eyes took in the scene inside. The flame from the gold torch spread a golden hue around. More fragrant smell drifted up his nostrils from the oil lamp. Nandhini was luxuriously lounging on a sofa strewn with flower petals. She had been beautiful in the carriage. In the light of the lamp she appeared to be the reincarnation of a heavenly goddess. Vandhiyathevan’s giddiness escalated. Be careful now! You know what it is to lose your sense to liquor. This is a far more difficult challenge! Don’t lose your mind!

Her lips parted. With her pearl white teeth showing, Pazhuvur Illayarani stared at Vandhiyathevan. The fact that she was dumbstruck worked in Vandhiyathevan’s favor. With a hint of laughter he said,”Madam! Your maid was having doubts if I was a magician or not. What do you think she said? She asked ‘are you you?'”

Nandhini smiled. As lightening struck it was raining honey in Vandhiyathevan’s world. “The girl comes up with these questions out of the blue. Vasuki! Why are you standing there like a tree? Go to your place! If you hear anyone coming slam the door!” said Nandhini.

“Right away, Madam!” Vasuki went outside. She sat down by the front steps of the palace that was lit. Nandhini lowered her voice and said, “The girl has doubts about you! Foolish girl! Three fourths of those who turn up here claiming to be magicians are fakes. You are the real magician! What magic did you perform to get here?”

“Madam! No magic! I just climbed over the ladder by the wall.”

“That is obvious. What magic did you perform to deceive her?”

“I smiled at her in the moonlight. That is all! If it didn’t work I was going to show her your ring.”

“Don’t you have it safely? With that you can come here in daylight. Why do you have to sneak in like this?”

“Madam! Your brother-in-law. His people are real thieves. First, they tried to steal my clothes and belongings. Then they kept following me around. It was so difficult to get away from them. I have been walking in the dark going round and round outside of your palace. When I saw the ladder I thought that you had arranged it for me. That was a mistake, I realize. Please pardon me.”

“There is no need to apologize.”

“How so, Madam?”

“You were not far off in your thinking. Why do you think I summoned the magician?”

“Don’t know Madam! I am neither a magician nor an astrologer.”

“Ever since I saw you yesterday, I had been thinking about you. I wanted to know why you hadn’t come to see me. That is why I sent for the magician.”

“I am so surprised.”


“What you just told me. I have also been thinking of you since yesterday.”

“Do you belief in a previous birth?”


“If two people were bound by friendship or blood in a previous birth they say that they will inevitably meet again.”

“Until yesterday, I won’t have believed it. Now my mind has changed.” When Vandhiyathevan said this he wasn’t exactly lying. He was thinking of the woman he had seen at Kudanthai astrologer’s house. But Nandhini had no way of knowing that. She assumed that it meant her.

“But you didn’t come to see me because of that. You said that Azhvarkadiyan sent you with a message.”

“Yes, Madam. I wanted to see you to deliver his message. Once I saw you I completely forgot about it.”

“Where did you see Azhvarkadiyan? What was his message?”

“I met Azhvarkadiyan near Veeranarayanapuram. He was trying to demonstrate with his staff that he was the great Vishnu. At that time Pazhuvertaraiyar’s entourage arrived. When you drew the curtain aside he saw you. He knew that I was going to Kadampoor palace. So he asked me to give you his message. I could not deliver it at Kadampoor. Finally we met outside the Thanjavur fortress when the queen’s carriage collided with my horse.” Nandhini was looking up while he was talking. Therefore, Vandhiyathevan could not tell what she was thinking. Now she faced him with a beautiful smile. She said, “Yes! Indeed! The carriages I step into turn out to be dangerous!”

35. The Magician

From far away came the sound of music. People were cheering. As palace doors opened and closed there was the sound of hoofs and elephants. Vandhiyathevan saw that Nandhini was distracted by the noise. Vasuki came in whispering, “Madam! It looks as if the boss is here.” “I know; you go to your place,” Nandhini replied. To Vandhiyathevan she said, “The treasurer is here. He will go to see the emperor. Then the general. After that he will be here. What was Azhvarkadiyan’s message?”

“Madam! The brave Vaishnava devotee said that you are his sister. Is that true?”

“Why do you doubt that?”

“It is not easy to believe that the emerald parrot and the treacherous monkey were born to the same mother.”

Laughing Nandhini said, “In a way what he said is true. We did grow up in the same house, in the same family. He has treated me like his own sister. In vain! I turned out to be a disappointment!”

“In that case, alright! Azhvarkadiyan’s message was that Lord Krishna is waiting for you. All of Vaishnava world is waiting for the day to see your marriage to Kannan.”

Nandhini sighed. She said, “Ah! He is still not over his fantasy. Give him this message for me. Please tell him to forget me. Tell him that I don’t deserve to be treated like the goddess Aandahl.”

“I disagree, Madam!”

“What do you disagree to?”

“That you cannot become Aandahl. The real Aandahl had to dance, sing, cry and worship with garlands to entice Kannan into marrying her. You don’t have to do any of that. Krishnan only has to see you. He will leave Rukmini, Sathiabama, Radhai and all of the Gopi maidens to place you on the throne.”

“Sir! You are very good at flattery. I don’t really care for that.”

“Madam! What is flattery?”

“Praising someone to their face.”

“In that case please turn so I won’t be looking at your face …”


“I can then praise you to your back. There is nothing wrong with that?”

“You are good with words!”

“Now aren’t you the one praising?”

“You can also turn and show your back …”

“My Lady! I will not turn my back on a woman, or in the battlefield. You can flatter me any amount to my face!”

Nandhini laughed hearing this. “You are a magician. It’s been a long time since I laughed like this,” she said.

“But, Madam! It’s dangerous to make you laugh. As they say, lotus bloomed in the lake; honeybee swooned!”

“You are not only a magician; seems as if you are a poet also!”

“I am neither afraid of praise nor curse.”

“Who cursed you?”

“Didn’t you call me a poet just now?”


“When I was little sometimes people would call me monkey-face. After a long time I heard it today again from the luscious lips of this goddess.”

“They called you monkey-face? Who was the genius?”

“None of them are alive today.”

“I didn’t mean it that way. I said you looked like you could be a poet.”

“I can sing only in front of my enemies. Those who won’t die by an arrow ought to be dealt with sharp words, sharp enough to pierce!”

“Sir! Poetic king of the lions! You have not still told me your name.”

“My personal name is Vandhiyathevan; family name is Vallavaraiyan.”

“Ruling class?”

“I come from the famous old Vahnahthi dynasty.”

“Your kingdom now?”

“The ground beneath and the sky above.I am the sole emperor of the universe.”

Nandhini looked him up and down for a while. “There is nothing that is impossible. You can get your ancestral kingdom back.”

“How is it possible? Can it be redeemed from the tiger’s stomach? Is it possible to redeem something that is now part of the Chola empire?”

“I can get it back.”

“Madam! No! I have no desire to rule. Whatever desire I may have had disappeared when I saw Sundara Chola emperor today. It’s better to be a free man not knowing where the next meal is going to come from than being an emperor forever dependent on the generosity of others.

“Exactly my sentiment,” said Nandhini.

As if recalling something suddenly she asked, “Why are the general’s men looking for you?”

“Just like your maid, he too began to be suspicious about me.”


“How did I get the palmyrah signature ring?”

Nandhini was alarmed. “Where is the ring now?” she asked nervously.

“Here it is, Madam! I won’t loose it so easily,” he took the ring out and showed her.

“How does he know that you have this ring?”

“I have wanted always to see Sundara Chola emperor. I made use of the ring for that. Afterwards, the general asked me how I got the ring.”

“What did you tell him?” Nandhini was choking.

“I didn’t give your name, Madam! Pazhuvertaraiyar gave it to me, I said … at Kadampoor palace …”

Nandhini sighed with relief. She asked, “Did he believe you?”

“He didn’t trust me entirely. That’s why he had me followed. He was probably counting on finding out the truth with me there, when his brother returned.”

With a smile Nandhini said, “Don’t worry about the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar. I will make sure that he doesn’t bite your head off.”

“Madam! It is known all over the world how influential you are with the treasurer. But I have an urgent matter to attend to. That is why I need your help to get out of here.”

“What is so urgent?’

“Many things. For example, I have to give your answer to Azhvarkadiyan. What shall I tell him?”

“Tell him to forget that he ever had a sister called Nandhini.”

“I can tell. But it’s not going to happen.”


“Forgetting you. Me, after my two accidental meetings I am having a difficult time forgetting. Think about someone who grew up with you.”

Nandhini’s face blossomed with pride. Her eyes were piercing Vandhiyathevan’s heart. She asked, “Why were you so eager to see the emperor?”

“What is there to be surprised in my wanting to see the world famous emperor? Emperors will usually want to be known for their chivalry and popularity among citizens. They will ask people to pray for these. But what are the Buddhist monks praying for when it comes to our emperor: May the beauty and bravery of Sundara Cholar be the best in this world! I have been wanting to see this erotic god from the dark ages for a long time now.”

“Yes! The emperor is very proud of his looks. His daughter is even more proud …”

“Daughter? Who is that?”

“That proud woman in Pazhaiaru, Princess Kundavai Devi.”

Vandhiyathevan! You are a lucky guy. The opportunity you were looking for is right in front of you! Make good use of it!

Nandhini, who was relaxing on the sofa all this while suddenly sat up. “Sir! I have one thing to say. Will you agree?”

“Tell me, Madam!”

“You and I ought to make a pact. I will help you and you will help me. What do you say?”

“Madam! You are married to the most powerful treasurer of Chola Nadu. He is capable of achieving anything he set his mind to. I have no such influence. In what way can I be of use?’

Nandhini looked at him sharply trying to determine if he was merely paying lip service or if he was speaking from the heart. Vandhiyathevan stood there unperturbed. “I need someone whom I can trust. If I find you employment here in this palace would you take it?” she asked.

“I have already offered my services to another lady. If I get rejected there, I can certainly be here.”

“Who is that competing with me?”

“You just spoke very affectionately of her, Princess Kundavai Devi.”

“No! No! It cannot be! You are teasing me!”

“My Lady! This letter has been read by many already. Therefore, it’s no harm if you also had a look!” Vandhiyathevan gave her the letter that Athitha Karikalar had sent to Kundavai Devi. Nandhini held the letter up to the lamp and read it. When she finished reading the sparks flying from her eyes reminded him of the split tongue that darts out of a cobra’s mouth. She demanded of Vandhiyathevan: “Sir! Do you want to leave this fortress alive?”

“Yes, madam! That’s why I came to you for help.”

“I will help you under one condition.”

“Tell me!”

“You must show me Kundavai’s response to this letter. Agreed?”

“That is a dangerous demand.”

“Didn’t you just a while ago brag that you were fearless?”

“If I am putting myself in danger, shouldn’t I be rewarded accordingly?”

“Reward? You want reward? You will have the reward that you never even dreamed of. The reward that the all powerful Pazhuvertaraiyar had been waiting for years now,” Nandhini tempted.

Vallavaraiyan’s head was spinning. Dear heart! Hold tight! Don’t lose your mind! At that time as if to help him an owl sounded rather loudly once, twice, thrice from the garden. It gave Vandhiyathevan goose bumps. Nandhini looked in the direction of the garden and said, “The real magician is here!”

She then turned to Vandhiyathevan: “I don’t need him any more. In any case I will say a few words to him. May be, he can help you to escape. Just for a while wait in the dark over there,” she pointed in the direction opposite to where the maid was sitting.

36. Remember?

Nandhini came out of the gazebo’s garden entrance. She clapped her hands three times. It was impossible to know if the dark cloud over her face was fear or merely the shadows cast by the surrounding trees. In the garden it was possible for one to make out the large trees and the entwining vines up to a point. Beyond that it was covered in darkness. Out of the darkness from behind a tree pushing away the vines the magician emerged. Nandhini returned to her place on the flower strewn sofa in the gazebo. Her beautiful face was now serene. As the magician walked in, the light fell on his face. His face looks familiar. Who is he? Yes! He was among the men present that night at Thirupurampiyam Pallipadai. He was the one who poured out the gold coins from the bag; the one who issued the order to kill Azhvarkadiyan whenever, wherever; he is Ravithasan. His face showed anger. When he took in Nandhini’s calm demeanor his eyes fumed like a cat’s. He sat on the bench in front of the sofa. Staring at Nandhini he started chanting vehemently, “Hm! Harim! Haram! Pakavathi! Sakthi, Sandikesuvari! …”

“Enough now! Looks as if the maid went to sleep sitting in front! Say what you have to say! He is in the fortress,” said Nandhini, refering to Pazhuvertaraiyar.

“You cutthroat!” Ravithasan hissed like a serpent.

“Who are you calling names?” Nandhini asked calmly.

“That ungrateful Nandhini! That Pazhuvur Illaiyarani! You!” Ravithasan pointed a finger at her.

Nandhini was quiet.

“Woman! You have forgotten some things that you need to keep in mind. Let me remind you,” said Ravithasan.

“What’s the use of old tales now?” asked Nandhini.

“Why now? Is that what you want to know? Let me remind you first. Then I will talk.”

Nandhini sighed and turned her face away as if it was no use trying to stop him.

“Rani! Listen! Three years ago one day at midnight there was a corpse burning at the graveyard on the shore of Vaikai river. There was no final rites performed according to religion. They built a fire using wood, twigs and leaves from the forest. They brought the body that was hidden behind a tree and laid it on the makeshift funeral pyre. They lit the fire. As the flames caught on and the fire started blazing around the dry wood they dragged you out from the forest. Your hands and feet were tied. Your mouth was stuffed with cloth. Today your hair is elegantly coiffed. That day your hair was uncombed, dragging on the floor. Those men were planning to throw you on the funeral pyre and burn you alive. One of them said, “Let the flames catch on a bit more.” With you there those men started avowing their revenge. You were listening. Your mouth was gagged. But your eyes and ears were open. After all of them had taken their vows they approached you. You who was quiet until then started gesturing with your hands. You were rolling your eyes; arching your eyebrows. One of them said, “She wants to say something!” “Old story. Throw her into the fire,” said another one. “No. Before we throw her let’s listen to her. Remove the cloth from her mouth,” another one chipped in. Because he was their leader they removed the cloth from your mouth. Do you remember what you said then?” Ravithasan asked. Nandhini did not reply. She did not even turn. Despite her disgust and fear her face also showed a firm resolve. Two drops of tear formed around the edges of her dark eyes.

“Woman! You don’t want to talk! Don’t! I will speak. You said that just like those men you will also take a vow of revenge. You swore that you were more vengeful than them. You said that you will use your beauty and intelligence just for that purpose. You said that you would help them as much as you could. Once we accomplish our goal you said you would kill yourself. The others did not believe you. But I did. I prevented them from throwing you in the fire. I saved your life. Do you remember all of this?”

Nandhini turned slightly and faced him: “You want to know if I remember? I remember it as if it had been written with fire over my heart!”

“Later we were one day walking by the river Kaveri. All of a sudden behind us there was the sound of soldiers on horses. We decided to hide in the woods until they passed. But you decided to stand out there. The soldiers took you away. Their leader Pazhuvertaraiyar fell for you. You married him. The others told me that I got fooled. I did not give up on you. One day I cornered you alone. When I was about to kill you with my knife again you pleaded for your life. You said that your marriage was part of the revenge. That you could help us from inside the palace. Isn’t all this the truth?”

“All that is true. Who is denying it? Why do you keep repeating this? Now why are you here?”

“No, woman! You don’t rememeber. You have forgotten everything! You have forgotten about revenge in the luxury of the palace. You are a queen getting used to gourmet meals, gold ornaments to adorn you, silk cushions and sofas to lounge on, not leaving out the ivory carriage you travel in. With all of this how will you remember the past?”

“Chee! Chee! Who wants the gold and silk? Is my life really about these material comforts? Not at all!”

“Or else, you are smitten by the handsome guy you met on the road! Did the old vows get erased by the new love?”

Nandhini was flustered by the insinuation. She managed to say, “No, not at all true!”

“If it’s not true why didn’t you send your maid to the usual place even though I sent word that I would be here today?

“I sent her. Someone else came up the ladder that was left for you. The foolish girl thought that it was you and brought him here. Is it my fault?”

“Does it matter whose fault? The soldiers who were looking for the guy were about to snatch me. I waited in the well by the palace holding my breath under water until they left. I was completely soaked …”

“You deserved it. That way you cleansed yourself of the sin of doubting me.”

“Girl! Swear now! Didn’t you fall for that guy’s looks?”

“Chee! Chee! What kind of talk is this? Does anyone talk about a man’s looks? Only this shameless Chola Nadu will celebrate a ‘handsome king’. Aren’t the battle scars that make a man beautiful?”

“You said it well. If that is true then what was that vagabond doing here?”

“Didn’t I just say? Vasuki thought it was you and brought him here.”

“Why did you give him the ring that you had never even given me?”

“To get him down here and have a talk. Now I am going to take the ring back …”

“Why did you bring him here? What were you chatting to him about all this while?”

“I have some important work for him. He can be useful to us.”

“You cutthroat! In the end you have shown that a woman’s wit is second rate. You have divulged our secrets to an unknown man …”

“Why do you get disturbed over nothing? I haven’t told him anything. I have only found out his secrets.”

“What did you find out?”

“He is taking a letter from Kanji to Pallaiaru, to the female tiger in Pallaiaru. He showed me the letter. I was telling him to come back here and show me her reply. Before I could finish you came …”

“Enough with the papyrus, enough with the quill. What is the use for us?”

“So much for your intelligence! We have sworn to wipe out the tiger tribe. But you think only about the tiger men. You have forgotten that female tigers are also part of the problem. Not only that. Who do you think is running the place now? The old man who has neither strength nor wits? The two princes in Kanji and Lanka?”

“No! Pazhuvertaraiyar who is fortunate to have you for a queen. The whole world knows this!”

“That is also a misconception. The world thinks that. This old man is also fooled by that notion. Even you have been fooled. In truth it is the female tiger from Pallaiaru who is running the show. From inside the palace it is that hateful woman who pulls all the strings! I will bring her down. I will use this young man to achieve that goal …”

There was now respect mixed with astonishment on Ravithasan’s face. “You are a smart cookie; no doubt; but how certain are you that all of this is true? How can I trust you?”

“I am giving that young man to you. Get him out of the fortress through the underground path! Blindfold him and take him. Get near Pallaiaru. Wait for him and bring him back here with Kundavai’s letter. If he tries to escape or tries anything funny kill him at once.”

“No way! You and he can go to hell! The younger Pazhuvertaraiyar’s men are already looking for him inside the fortress. They’ll soon be looking for him outside also. Joining him will only get me in danger. Let’s talk about the reason for my visit today.”

“You haven’t told me why you are here …”

“We have people ready to go to Kanji and Lanka. It’s going to be very difficult for those going to Lanka. They have to act really smart there …”

“What do you want me to do about it? Do you want more gold? Is there no end to your people’s lust for gold?”

‘Gold is really not for our personal use. Only to accomplish what we started. Why have we then kept you here? In Lanka there is no use for Chola gold currency. If we have Lanka gold it will be useful …”

“Why have you taken so long to say this? I have it ready even without you asking,” said Nandhini bending to pull a bag from under the sofa. She placed the bag in Ravithasan’s hands. “This is full of Lanka gold coins. Take it and leave. It’s time for him to be here,” Nandhini said referring again to Pazhuvertaraiyar. As Ravithasan was leaving with the bag she called behind him, “Wait a while! Help that young man to at least get out of the fortress. After that he is on his own. I don’t want to show him the underground passage.” She walked out of the gazebo with Ravithasan and looked in the direction of the palace that was not lit. There was nothing there. She clapped her hands lightly. No use. Both of them walked toward the entrance to the enormous dark palace. Vandhiyathevan was nowhere to be found.

37. Roaring Lions

The inhabitants of Thanjavur had enormous affection towards the Pazhuvertaraiyar brothers. Didn’t they restore the pride and glory of the old city? They thoroughly enjoyed their comings and goings with their entourage of infantrymen, horses, elephants and camels by lining the streets on both sides to cheer and shower blessings, flowers and fried rice. When Pazhuvertaraiyar, the treasurer, returned from one of his trips his younger brother, the general, would wait at the entrance of the fortress to welcome him. Their embrace was like Neelakiri and Pothikai, two mountains embracing. When both of them rode together on elephants or horses it was a scene too filling for one pair of eyes. Some compared them to Iraniyan and and Iraniyatchan; some others to Sunthopa Sunthars. Then there were those who recalled the siblings Ramar and Parathar or the brave Veeman and Arjunan.

But today when Pazhuvertaraiyar returned with his men, there weren’t many people lining the streets. The younger brother was not waiting at the entrance. Once inside, Pazhuvertaraiyar and his entourage without lingering headed straight to the general’s residence. He knew that there was something more important that was keeping his brother busy. “Is it the emperor’s health or … or is it ‘bigger’ than that …,” these doubts preoccupied his mind. The general appeared worried when he came out to greet his brother. After embracing the brothers went straight to their private conference hall. Once alone Pazhuvertaraiyar said, “Brother! Kalanthaka! You look worried. What is the matter? Is the emperor …,”

“The emperor is as usual, there has been no change for better or for worse,” the general replied.

“Why are you down then? You weren’t at the gate. The city is also quiet.”

“Brother! Something happened. Nothing big. I’ll tell you later. First, tell me about your trip,” Kalanthakakandar asked.

“My mission was a complete success. All those who were invited were present at Kadampoor. It was unanimously agreed that your son-in-law Mathuranthakan is the one entitled to the throne. If necessary they are willing to take up arms to make the claim. If even Kolli Malavan and Vanangamudi have agreed what is to stop us now? Sambuvaraiyar is prepared to put his palace, troops and wealth at our service. His son Kanthanmaran is actively involved. With Nadunadu and Thirumunaipadi Nadu we have Chola Nadu in our hands. What more to think about? Thirukovaloor Malaiamman, Pallavan Parthipenthiran, Kodumbaloor Velahn – these are the only people who might protest. Among them Kodumbalooran is not here. He is in Lanka. What can the other two do? Soon we will have a talk with the emperor and make a decision.”

“You are right about the leaders. What about the people? What if they object?”

“Aha! Who’s going to ask them? Are the people consulted in the affairs of the state? If they get the nerve to protest, we must make sure that it never happens again. I doubt that something like that is likely to happen. If it is the emperor’s wish the people won’t say a word against it. In addition, it is fortunate that Arulmozhi Varman is in Lanka. If he was here the people might want to demonstrate their blind infatuation. They are not as crazy over Athitha Karikalar. It would be easy to turn them toward Mathuranthakar. He already has established his reputation as ‘Shaiva devotee’ and ‘a man of good character’. There is a certain splendor of countenance. More so than the Sundara Chola boys. They say ‘what’s in one’s heart shows on one’s face’. I would be surprised if the people don’t start cheering “Long live emperor Mathuranthakar.” In any case when I am here you have nothing to worry.”

“But there is the secret service. What would we do about them?”

“Secret service soldiers have taken a vow on behalf of Sundara Cholar. Not on behalf of his sons. Even if they interfere where is your palace army? In a minute we will have them arrested and in prison.”

‘Brother! The strongest protest will come from Pallaiyarai. That old woman and the princess. I don’t know what schemes they will come up with. It is important that we talk about them.”

“Brother! Kalanthaka! After all you want me to be afraid of two women? I have an answer for all their witchery. Don’t worry!”

“The emperor has ordered both the sons to come to Thanjavur …”

“Athitha Karikalar will not come. May be Arulmozhi will listen to his father. If he does, he must be stopped! They can both come only after we have crowned Mathuranthakan as the next crown prince. Not before that. You leave this to me! You were talking about something that happened here. What is that?”

“A young man was here from Kanji. He brought a letter to the emperor, and one to Kundavai …”

“What did you do with him? Did you put him in prison after confiscating the letters?”

No, brother! He said that when you met him at Kadampoor, you ordered him to hand the letter directly to the king. Is that true?”

“Aha! Absolute lie! There was a young man at Kadampoor, uninvited, claiming to be Kanthanmaran’s friend. But he never told me about letters! I had a suspicion when I saw his face. Did you get fooled by him?”

Yes, brother! I was deceived. Because he brought up your name I fell for it!”

“You fool! What did you do? Did you give the letter to the king? Did you read the letter?”

“I read the letter. There was nothing. It was an invitation to come to the gold palace at Kanji. After giving the letter the young man was heard warning the king about ‘danger’ …”

“At least then, did you suspect anything? Put him in prison?”

“I did suspect. But I could not imprison him.”

“So, what did you do?”

“He said he wanted to do some sightseeing. I sent him with two of my men. He got away from them. I was just making arrangements to look for him. That is why I could not come out to meet you. I had also warned the people.”

“Oh, brother! Are you a man? You got deceived by a child who does not even have a mustache. I have to kick myself for my stupidity for naming you Kalanthakakandakan. I made you general? I deserve this! Aren’t you embarrassed to say that a wayward scoundrel fooled you with my name?”

“He didn’t just mention your name. He showed your signature ring. Did you give him that?”

“Never! Am I a fool like you to do something like that?”

“He did have the ring. He showed it to me. He entered the fortress by showing the ring at the gates. If you did not give, then there is only one place from where he could have got it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Can’t you guess? I mean Illaiyarani …”

“Chee! Chee! Careful! I will rip your tongue off!”

“Rip my tongue; chop my head off. I will say what I have wanted to say for a long time. You have brought under the roof a poisonous snake. One day it is going to bite. It is going to destroy all of us! Don’t! Get rid of her before anything else!”

“Kalanthakakandaha! I will also tell you something that I had wanted to tell you for a long time. You can give me your opinion freely on any other matter. You are welcome to criticize me at any time! But if you speak badly of the one I married one more time I will kill you with these two same hands that brought you up. I taught you how to wield a sword. But with that same sword I will kill you! Careful!”

The angry exchange between the two brothers was like two lions going head to head at each other. Their voices reverberated like two roaring lions. To those outside of the private conference room it sounded like thunder. They began to shake with fear as to what it entailed.


From → Notes

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