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Ponniyin Selvan Part II (41 – 42)

August 2, 2015

From Part II of the novel Ponniyin Selvan written by Kalki Krishnamoorthi.

41. “LOOK!”

When the prince heard the news from Colonel Poothi Vikramakesari a smile appeared on his face.

“At last it seems as if there will be an end to the turmoil in my heart,” he said in a soft voice as if speaking to himself.

Parthipenthiran rose furiously. “Colonel! What did you say? Is this true? Why have you kept me in the dark until now? I see now why you dragged this crazy girl with us! I am asking once more; is it true that the Pazhuvertaraiyars have dared to send ships for the capture and imprisonment of the prince,” he asked.

“Yes, Sir! If we are to believe what this girl describes as what she saw with her eyes and heard with her ears, then it is true!”

“Aha! What that old man Thirukovalur Miladudaiyar said is true. He is the one who really understands the Pazhuvertaraiyars! Colonel! Why are you just waiting even after hearing such news? Has it come this far as the worthless Pazhuvertaraiyars sending men to capture the descendant of emperor Paranthakar, the beloved son of Sundara Cholar, the prince who is lauded by the entire country, the favorite son whom the Tamil Nadu citizens consider the apple of their eyes, Athitha Karikalar’s own brother Arulmozhivarmar? Need we think anymore? Let us leave now with our troops, destroy the men who have come to imprison the prince and bury them in their graves here in Ilankai island! Afterwards we will proceed just as we have planned! Why hesitate any longer?” Parthipenthiran exploded like kernels of corn on fire.

Colonel Poothi Vikramakesari looked at him. “Parthipenthira! I didn’t give you the girl’s news before because I knew that you will get excited in this manner. We must think carefully about this situation. There is no use acting in haste,” he said.

“We have to think? What is there to think? Why do we need to think? Prince! Please speak! What is there to think anymore? Even if you have hesitated before, now there is no room for hesitation, is there? Shouldn’t we destroy the Pazhuvertaraiyars without a trace?”

“Shouldn’t we also find out what is on the colonel’s mind? Sir! What is that is requiring of careful consideration?” The prince asked calmly without any signs of agitation.

“To imprison you… my mouth shies away from even saying these words… yet I must speak. If those who have arrived to imprison you are here following the emperor’s orders – what are we supposed to do? Do we then fight against them?”

Parthipenthiran burst out laughing. “Excellent observation! Is the emperor in any condition to issue orders? Aren’t the Pazhuvertaraiyars holding him hostage!”

Vandhiyathevan interrupted by saying, “What the Pallava colonel says is completely true. I saw it with my own eyes. Pazhuvertaraiyars are keeping the emperor like a hostage. No one can see the emperor against their wish; no one can speak to him. If I think of what they put me through just because I dared to utter one word… Appa! It hurts even now where the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar’s iron fist gripped me…” He rubbed his wrist as he spoke.

“Tell them, Vallavaraiya! I had misjudged you. Explain this well to the prince and the colonel one more time,” said Parthipenthiran.

“No; he has said all that needs to be said!” The prince responded looking at Vandhiyathevan. “Sir! You said that you will go and bring that girl! Why are you still here? Let’s hear in detail from her mouth the news that she brought! The girl appears somewhat self-conceited. Speak to her nicely and somehow bring her here,” the prince added.

“I am going, Prince! I will bring her. But I cannot tolerate the Pazhuvertaraiyars taking you. It will not happen as long as there is life in this body!” Vandhiyathevan said as he left.

“Colonel! You have not expressed your opinion!” Arulmozhivarmar asked.

“This is my opinion. You should not meet the people the Pazhuvertaraiyars have sent. Board the ship at once and leave for Kanji. I will go to Thanjavur. There, I will see the emperor in person and find out the true circumstances…”

“Going to Thanjavur is akin to placing your head in the lion’s mouth. If you go, you will not return. You will end up in the dungeon there. You also cannot see the emperor…”

“What are you saying? Who is the fellow powerful enough in Chola Nadu who can lock me up in prison? Who is the fellow who is manly enough to stop me from seeing the emperor? Moreover, there is also chief minister Anirutha Brahmarayar …”

“Brahmarayar is there. What is the use? Even he cannot see the emperor. Here, his disciple is standing here, why don’t we ask him for his opinion?”

The colonel turned to Azhvarkadiyan. “Yes; I forgot the presence of this brave Vaishnava. Thirumalai! Why are you silent? As the prince stated a while ago, have you also turned dumb?”

“Colonel! God has given us two ears; and only one mouth. Therefore, ‘Put your ears to good use; but limit your speech,’ my lord-guru has said. Especially in places where political matters are discussed, strictly adhere to this rule – he has said.”

“You are practicing your guru’s advice rather admirably. We are asking you now; so, speak. What is your opinion?”

“What is it that you are asking my opinion about, Colonel?”

“About what we have been so far discussing. What is the best course of action for the prince now? Can he remain in Ilankai? Or can he go to Kanji?”

“Shall I state my honest opinion? If the prince permits, I will.”

“Speak, Thirumalai, feel free to speak from your heart!” The prince who had been submerged in his own counsel looked up at Azhvarkadiyan and encouraged him to speak.

“We must find the prison with the highest security in this Ilankai island, and lock the prince inside there! We must also heavily guard the place from outside!”

“What nonsense is this,” said the colonel.

“Is this a time for pranks,” asked Parthipenthiran.

“I am not blabbering or playing pranks. I said what was in my heart. Yesterday night the prince was coming down the streets of Anuradhapura. The front tower of a house collapsed and fell over his head. Later, we were sleeping in a house. Fortunately we had to leave the place and go somewhere. Within a short while that house was on fire. Ask the prince himself if these are not true or not!”

Both men looked at the prince. His face confirmed Azhvarkadiyan’s words.

“Ask him on whose account these dangers arose. Will anyone burn down a house to kill either myself or Vandhiyathevan?”

Parthipenthiran jumped up. He said, “It is the prince someone is trying to kill. This proves that the prince ought to come with me to Kanji!”

“Not at all! Rather than sending the prince with you, we may as well hand him over to the Pazhuvertaraiyars,” said Azhvarkadiyan.

“Vaishnava! What did you say?” Parthipenthiran drew his sword out.

The colonel raised his hand to calm him. He asked, “Thirumalai! Why do you say that? Don’t you know that Parthipenthira Pallava is a dear friend of the Chola tribe?”

“I know, Colonel, I know! Is friendship alone adequate?”

“I know that Parthipenthiran would even sacrifice his life for the sake of friendship, Thirumalai!”

“That may be. But I shall ask one question. Ask him to answer that. The day before yesterday when we were nearing Dambulla in the evening we met him in the company of two men. Ask him who they were and where they are now.”

Parthipenthira Pallavan was a little taken aback. Reluctantly, he answered: “I met them at Trincomalee. They brought me saying that they will show me where the prince was. They suddenly disappeared in Anuradhapura. Why do you ask Vaishnava? Do you know anything about them?”

“Yes! I know that the two belong to the group that has sworn to destroy the Chola tribe without a trace. I am guessing that they are the ones who tried to kill the prince yesterday at Anuradhapura… Aha! Look!”

Azhvarkadiyan was pointing to a place a little away from the building. Amid the dense thicket of vegetation a beautiful woman and a young man stood speaking to each other. They could guess that they were Poongkuzhali and Vandhiyathevan. While talking, Vandhiyathevan suddenly swung a knife and dispatched it. The knife landed in the bush. ‘Veel’ – a sharp cry was heard.


After proceeding from the old building in search of Poongkuzhali, Vandhiyathevan found her standing, leaning against a tree. A faint sob escaped from her. In a placating voice he said, “Poongkuzhali!”

Startled, Poongkuzhali turned.

“You?” She turned back again.

“Indeed, it’s me! Why do you have to be angry at me?”

“I have no anger whatsoever at you.”

“Then why are you so acrimonious?”

“I loathe the sight of men.”

“Even the prince?”

Poongkuzhali turned and looked at Vandhiyathevan with eyes burning like coals on fire. She said, “Yes; especially him!”

“What crime has he committed?”

“He cannot remember me. He didn’t even look at me.”

“He remembers you very well. When I mentioned you, he said, ‘Oh! I know the Ocean Princess!”

“You are lying.”

“Come and ask him yourself.”

“If he remembers me why didn’t he say even one word to me?”

“He did; you are the one who ran away without answering.”

“I didn’t mean that kind of talk. Doesn’t one say, ‘Hi? How are you?’ – when one sees people one knows? You are lying! He didn’t even look at me.”

“Poongkuzhali! There is a reason for that.”

“What is the reason?”

“This is a difficult time for the prince.”

“Says who?”

“All the astrologers have said. Kudanthai astrologer said it even to me.”

“What did he say to you?”

“He said that the prince will for a short time face trouble after trouble. He said that all those associated with him will also face difficulties. The prince is aware of this. Therefore he does not want anyone to be his friend. Whatever trouble that arises he wants it to stop with him.”

“In that case why are you friendly with him?”

“Didn’t you see a while ago? By fighting with me he is trying to drive me away also. He got into a sword fight with me in the middle of the road for no reason at all. The fight stopped because of all of you coming.”

“You won’t leave even if he drives you away?”

“I will never. I will share all his troubles with him.”

“Do you like him so much?”

“Yes; I like him a lot.”

“Why do you like him?”

“I cannot explain. Just looking at him, I developed a liking.”

“Same with me!” Poongkuzhali said. Immediately she bit her lips, regretting for being so open.

“I knew that you liked the prince. That is why I came to take you back. Come with me!”

“I won’t!” Poongkuzhali said emphatically.

“If you won’t, I will drag you by force.”

“If you come near me, I have a knife here, be careful!” Poongkuzhali took the knife from her waist and showed him.

“Wretched woman! Why are you trying to stab me? Because I reminded the prince about you?”

“You are lying; you didn’t say anything about me to him!”

“Never mind; didn’t you say that two ships have arrived to capture him, come and tell that to him and then get lost!”

“I have given all the details to the colonel.”

“The prince wants to hear from you directly.”

“I will become speechless in front of him.”

“The prince loves dumb women!”

“Cheechee! You are making fun of me!” Poongkuzhali raised her knife.

“In that case, you won’t come with me?”


“Alright; I am leaving!” Vandhiyathevan took a couple of steps. Then he abruptly swung around, grabbed the knife from Poongkuzhali’s hand and threw it with force.

Spinning, the knife traveled a long way and fell amid the dense bushes. ‘Veel’ – a sound was heard from where the knife had landed.

It was impossible to know if it was the voice of a human, animal or bird.

Poongkuzhali who glared angrily at Vandhiyathevan when the knife was snatched from her hand, looked with curiosity in the direction of the sound. Then the two of them looked at each other in astonishment.

Stepping slowly, they made their way to the place where the knife had fallen and looked in the bushes. There was fresh blood spilled on the shrubs and the ground. Otherwise, there was no person; or animal. Poongkuzhali’s knife was also absent.

“You see, Poongkuzhali! Do you see the truth in what I said? The prince is surrounded by danger from all directions. It is impossible to know at what time, from where, what sort of threat will arise. I simply grabbed your knife and threw it. Because of that we know now that someone was hiding here. You figure out why someone would be hiding here! Only to find the right moment to finish the prince off! Didn’t you say that on the day prior to my arrival, your brother had taken two people by boat and that you were suspicious of them? Remind yourself of that! At a time like this, should those who are fond of the prince desert him?” Vandhiyathevan spoke without pausing to breathe.

“If he tells me to leave, what should I do?” Poonkuzhali asked.

“Even if he wants us to leave, we must not!”

Poongkuzhali thought for a while and said, “Shouldn’t we find out who it was who was hiding here?”

“That is impossible for us to do. Where in this thick forest can we search? If we delay for too long the prince will really become angry. Everyone would leave without us! Come with me without saying anything!”

“Alright, I am coming!” Poongkuzhali said.

Both of them walked towards the building.

As soon as Vandhiyathevan and Poongkuzhali joined the others, they wanted to know about what happened.

They questioned, “Why did you throw the knife? ‘Veel’ – it sounded, what was that sound?”

“It looked as if there was some animal, tiger or fox, hiding there in the bush. So I grabbed her knife and threw it. We went there and looked. There was nothing,” said Vandhiyathevan.

“Never mind about that; ask the girl what she has to say,” said the colonel.

From the time she got there Poongkuzhali had been looking only at the prince. The prince now turned and looked at her.

Cheechee! Why does this heart beat so? There is something stuck in my throat, what is that? Why are tears welling in my eyes? Stupid woman! Where is your courage? Why is your heart that can withstand a big storm and the turbulent sea now in jitters? Why are your eyes that can boldly look into the fiery eyes of the ruthless vengai tiger now losing their light? Girl! Don’t let them label you mad-woman again! Look at the prince! Answer him, resoundingly, to all his questions! What can he do to you? The entire world calls him merciful and kind! Foolish woman like you, what will the prince do to you?

“Ocean Princess! Do you remember me?” His query sounded in her ears like a voice coming from the bottom of the deep ocean.


From → Notes

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