Book 3 | Chapter 41 | Madhuranthakan thanks the Chief Minister
When the Chief Minister tried to help Madhuranthakan, he screamed out in pain.
“Aaaaah. I cannot move my legs. I think they are either broken or sprained.”
“What caused this accident, Sire? How come you are here alone in this rain? Why are none of your escorts here? They ought to be punished for this”
“No one needs to be punished, Minister. Earlier this evening, I wanted to ride, and I started off alone. I was riding near this river. There was a sudden flash of lightning and then a crack of thunder. The horse ran amok. I hit this tree branch and fell down. The horse bolted and never came back. I think the fall has injured me badly.”
“Oh, ok. It is your father Kandarityar’s blessing that I happened to come this way. I am glad. Please grit your teeth and bear the pain for a little longer. We will take you somewhere where we can take care of your wounds.”
The Minister hailed the palanquin bearers, who came nearby and lowered it. He slowly helped Madhuranthakan into the palanquin, instructed the palanquin bearers to go very slowly; and he walked beside it.
Very soon they reached Nathan Koil. This town was also called Sundara Chozha Vinnagaram. The Minister had a house near the Perumal temple in this town. The procession reached his house. They helped Madhuranthakan to a bed, and in the light of lamps, ascertained that there was no damage to the bones, and it was just a sprain. Madhuranthakan’s fears seemed to have mellowed down a bit. They ate the prasadam that was brought from the Perumal temple.
“Ayya, you may please sleep well tonight and rest. Once dawn breaks, you can do as you please. I am traveling to Thanjavur tomorrow. If you wish, you can come with me.”
“Minister, you have wronged me so many times in the past, but this help of yours has compensated for everything. I have to reward you somehow. If and when I do become the Emperor of this Chozha empire, I will nominate you as my Chief Minister.”
Anirrudhar acted as though he was pleasantly surprised. “Prince, I am indebted to be of service to the Chozha Royalty. There is no need to reward me in any personal capacity. I am always at your service. However, you mentioned that I have wronged you. I would like to please know how. If I had unknowingly wronged you in any way, I would like to somehow make up for it.”
“Ayya, Anirrudhare! You are a very wise man. Your competency in statecraft and politics is unmatched. Please do not use all that on me. I cannot believe that you do not know how you have wronged me. Anyway, given the way you have helped me tonight, I am willing to forget all of that. Tell me if I can thank you in any way.”
“Yes, my dear Prince. There is one thing. Please do not go riding alone like this again. It would be better if you go with your retinue. The situation is bad. People are angry. In fact, I would not even suggest you go in an open chariot. You should go in a covered palanquin.”
The minister paused briefly.
“In fact, if you travel in the Pazhuvoor Rani’s covered palanquin, that would be best. No one would ever suspect.”
Madhuranthakan was shocked. Fear returned to his eyes.
“Minister, what are you saying? How can you ask me to go in a closed palanquin? And what is the reason you are bringing the Pazhuvoor Rani’s palanquin into this conversation?”
“Oh. I did not know that you considered traveling in a closed palanquin as a bad thing. Earlier on, you used to do that quite often. Or perhaps, you have come to this decision, after you came back from your trip to Kadambur.”
Madhuranthakan stammered in fear, “Kadambur Maligai, me, no, I…”
“Yes. I know you went there on the day of the Aadi Pathinettam Perukku festival along with the Periya Pazhuvettarayar. I know you had gone in the Pazhuvoor Rani’s palanquin. I did not like that. Palanquin travels are for old people like me. Young folks like you should travel on horseback or elephants. Once your leg gets cured, I will arrange for an expert to train you in horseback riding.”
“Minister Anirrudhare, stop. You are going too far. Just because this minor accident happened and just because I went out on a couple of trips in the palanquin, you are insulting me by saying that I do not know horseback riding. I am being patient and not reacting, because of your age and the help you rendered me today.”
“I am glad that you are exercising patience, Sire. Poruthaar Bhoomi Aalvaar. The patient one will rule this earth. So say the poets of yore. They also talk about how gracious Mother Earth is. She is the patient one, who is bearing all of our weight. Even if you dig into her surface, she gives water. So, to give back to her, one must be patient.”
The Prince blabbered, “What are you saying? Are you accusing me of wanting to rule this kingdom?”
His lips quivered. His eyebrows narrowed. He seethed in anger.
The minister calmly continued, “Prince, how can you call it an accusation? As the son of the great Kandaradithar, you are fully eligible to rule this kingdom. It is not a crime to want something that you are rightfully entitled to. However, if there is someone, who is advising you that, to get what you are eligible for, you need to indulge in secret conspiracy coups, I would say you should not believe them.”
“Please hear this old man out. At some time in the past, your parents did not want you to rule this kingdom, and raised you in a very pious manner. Now is a different time. People’s opinions change over time. If your opinion has changed, there is nothing wrong. If you want to rule this kingdom, you should let the Emperor know about your wish.”
“Instead, riding alone in the middle of the night to the Kalamugar meeting to gather support; or secretly attending a midnight coup planning meeting at the Sambuvarayar Palace in Kadambur, like a bunch of thieves – these are the wrong things to be doing. Whoever is advising you on all of these, should be treated as your enemies.”
Madhuranthakan was seething with anger; yet, he could not control his curiosity about how this man knew so much.
“Sir, how do you know so much? Who is the traitor in my ranks?”
“Prince, there is no point trying to find that out. I have eyes and ears in every corner of this kingdom. There is nothing that can happen in this kingdom, without my knowledge.”
“Does the Emperor know all these things?”
“Oh no. All these secrets are buried within me. Only if the situation is dire, and the need is urgent, I would mention it to anyone.”
Madhuranthakan added with a sly laugh laced with vengeance, “Ah, if only these secrets tumbled out of you, the entire kingdom would shatter.”
The minister added, “The Emperor is a very close friend. There are several things that I know, which I have not told him. He is already in pain and is afflicted with disease. At this time, I would not like to add to his mental stress by telling him about the coup by these vassal kings. You can rest assured that I will not tell the Emperor of these activities of yours.”
Madhuranthakan laughed a sinister laugh, “And why this sudden love towards me?”
“There is no suddenness, Prince. I have always expressed the same love that I show to the Emperor’s sons towards you as well. I have not really had the opportunity to express that to you, until today.”
“Oho, so, me falling off the horse and breaking my legs seemed like a good opportunity. I guess, if this had happened some time back, you would have just strangled me to death under the same tree.”
“Narayana, Narayana, what are you saying, oh Prince?”
“Don’t think I do not know anything, Minister. I know everything. I even know that you were planning against me, when I was in my mother’s womb. You had even planned to kill me when I was born.”
“Prince, please stop.”
“I see the feigned surprise on your face, Minister. But I know everything.”
Emotions flashed through Aniruddhar’s mind, but he quickly recovered.
“Prince, yes. There were arrangements made to kill you when you were born. But do you know how you escaped?”
“Are you trying to gauge how much I know, sir? Let me tell you. Everything for the killing of the child was readied. My mother however gave birth to a girl. All of you decided to spare her, and gave her off to a priest. And then I was born. Thankfully, somehow, my horoscopes seemed strong, and I got spared. You all decided to raise me as a Shiva Bhakthan, as a fool. But no, sir, I am no fool. Minister, sir, Aniruddhare, why are you staring at me in shock like this? Are you not going to refute all this as false?”
The Chief Minister was indeed shocked. He slowly regained his composure. “Since you know so much, there is no point refuting anything.”
“Yes. There is no point. Now, let me tell you why you are suddenly showing me so much love. You do not like Aditya Karikalan. His brother Arulmozhi Varman has drowned in the sea. There is no one else other than me that you can turn to.”
“Like I said, I am willing to forget all the wrongs that you have done to me before, and forgive you. For the help you have rendered to me today, I will reciprocate by making you my Chief Minister once I ascend the throne.”