Book 3 | Chapter 46 | Vanathi Laughed
While Prince Arulmozhi was talking with his sister on the steps of the Nandi Mandapam, Poonkuzhali and Sendhan Amudhan were in deep conversation.
“Amudha, I am going to ask you an important question. I need you to reply honestly.”
“I will never lie to anyone. That is why I have not met or spoken to anyone for the last four days.”
“There are some people who can never speak any truth. One such man is Vandhiyathevan.”
“He is a good man, Poonkuzhali. He does not lie for hurting anyone.”
“He said some things about you, which I want to confirm. He said that you spoke highly about me. And that you loved me, and would marry me, if possible. Did you really say that?”
“Aha. I am thankful to him for saying it to you. I would have never mustered courage to say this to you. Yes, what he says is true.”
“What made you fall in love with me?”
“I have no idea. People like others due to many reasons.”
“People like others due to their good looks,” quipped Poonkuzhali.
“Not all the time. And that love rarely lasts. Take for example, Vandhiyathevan. One first look, I became very good friends with him. Definitely not based on looks.”
“Did he describe me, very highly, when he spoke to you about me?”
“Yes, he did. But not in the manner of love. He described the Pazhuvoor Queen Nandini a hundred times more, but he did not fall in love with her, either.”
“I know the reason for that. Vandhiyathevan has fallen in love with the Ilayapirati, the Princess.”
“I should say that you are far more beautiful than the Princess on the steps there, or the Kodumbalur Princess hiding behind that pillar, or even the Pazhuvoor Queen that everyone refers to as Mohini’s avataram on earth.”
“Amudha, what would you do, if I told you that I do not like you?”
“I will be patient for some more time, and see if you might change your mind. People do change their minds over time.”
“What if I do not change my mind even after that time?”
“I will have to try and pacify my mind.”
“Would you be able to do that?”
“I do not know. I will have to try. I might just decide to dedicate my life to God. That is what our forefathers did, to control their minds.”
“I do not think your love for me is deep enough.”
“Why do you think so? Tell me what deep love is, according to you.”
“If you had deep love for me, when I said that I do not love you, you would have thought of killing me. If you get to know that I might be loving someone else, you would try and kill that person too.”
“Poonkuzhali, what I have for you, is sattva-guna love. What you are saying is asura-guna lust.”
“I do not agree. If we love someone, and the other person does not reciprocate, we should seek revenge. That is what human behaviour is.”
“Definitely not. Seeking revenge is not human. That is the rakshasa way of doing things. Even if someone means you harm, you should be patient. You should continue helping that person. This will ensure that you will get ten times the reward.”
“Take for example, the son of the Vaidhyar, who came with Vandhiyathevan. He saw me, liked me, and proposed to me. I rejected him. He thought Vandhiyathevan was the reason, and turned against him. He even tried to kill me.”
“He is asura-kulam then.”
“Ok. Look at the Kodumbalur Princess there. She has given away her heart to Prince Arulmozhi. What will she do if the Prince does not reciprocate? I am sure she will feed him poison and kill him. If she gets to know of anyone else loving him, she will attempt to kill her as well.”
“I do not think she will do that, Poonkuzhali.”
“Oh well. If I were her, that is what I would do.”
“And I will have to pray to God to forgive you.”
“You are a good man, Amudha. I think you take after our elder-aunt.”
“Uh. Who are you talking about? This is new. Are you talking about the elder sister of my mother and your father?”
“Hmm. Yes. She is not dead, as we all think. She is roaming around Lanka, like a mad woman. And the reason why she is in that state is because of the Chozha dynasty.”
“Yes. My aunt used to live on a small island off the coast of Lanka. A Chozha prince who washed up on the shore of the island pretended to be in love with her, and she believed it too. Once he was crowned Prince, he forgot all about her.”
“How do you know about all this, Poonkuzhali?”
“Our mute aunt told me all this using sign language.”
“I will tell you one more thing. Some years back, some people from Pandiya Nadu came here. They wanted my help to kill the Chozha Kings who had brought our aunt to such a state. My blood boiled and I almost made up my mind to join them. It was then that I spoke to our aunt. She has such a large heart. She has not only forgiven the man who cheated her, she has even saved the life of that man’s son, born of a different wife.”
“I then gave up the idea of joining the Pandiya people. Our athai has indeed the kind of sathveega love that you talk about. I am not that kind of a person though. If a Prince cheats me like that, I will kill him, and the woman who steals him from me, and finally kill myself too.”
“Oh God! Why are you talking like this, Poonkuzhali?”
“You do not understand the turmoil within me, for the last two years, Amudha. That is why you are giving me all this nice advice. Tell me, Amudha – if you take some blood from me, and from that girl, Vanathi – would it be any different? Is she better than me in anything – beauty, bravery, compassion?”
“None, Poonkuzhali. She is not better than you, in any way. You grew up amidst the ocean waves. She grew up in the palace comforts. You can kill animals with your bare hands. You can ride on these rough waves. You have strength to save people from the ocean. Vanathi, on the other hand, fears the ocean, or for that matter, even the squeal of a cat in the palace.”
“Why is it that Princess Kundavai values her so much, and treats her so differently than me?”
“Poonkuzhali, Ilayapirati has known Vanathi for a much longer time. She has met you just recently. Didn’t she thank you profusely the other day for saving the Prince?”
“She can keep her gratitude to herself. I do not need it. Amudha, if we are to take the Prince back to the Buddha Viharam, you please ride the boat. I might just topple the boat wantedly, in my anger.”
“I am sure you will not do that any day.”
“I do not know what I will do. I am not in my senses, Amudha. My blood boils when I think about what the Prince’s father did to our aunt. You take the Prince to the Viharam.”
“Ok. I will take the Prince. What are you going to do?”
“I will follow Vanathi and find a large boulder to throw on her head.”
Saying so, Poonkuzhali picked up a small pebble from the river bank and flung it at a large bull that was lazily grazing on the bank. The bull shook its body once and looked in the direction of the boat.
“Poonkuzhali, why did you do that? What did the poor bull do to you? The poor dumb creature cannot even voice its protest, let alone protect itself.”
“There is a dumb person in our family too, who could not voice her protest. What did we do for her? She did know to protect herself either.”
“For the fault of someone who hurt our aunt, why did you have to hurt the bull?”
“The bull is not as helpless as you describe. It has its horns to protect itself. Our aunt did not even have that.”
“You are sitting in a boat on the canal. The bull will know that it cannot attack you. It will go and attack someone else.”
“Let it go and attack someone else. I do not care.”
As predicted, the bull realised that there was no point in attacking the person who threw the pebble. It snorted and ran the other way towards the coconut grove.
At exactly the same time, Vanathi was walking merrily along the coconut grove towards their palanquin. She heard the snort and turned around. There was this bull, charging at her! She ran towards the canal. She thought of heading to the canal and running along the bank to the Nandi Mandapam, where there was help. When she reached the canal bank, she realised that the path to the Nandi Mandapam was jagged and slippery. There was only one way, and that was the canal. The bull had reached very close to her.
She screamed – “Ayyo. Akka. Please help.”
The Prince and Ilayapirati looked in her direction. They saw her facing the bull, her back to the canal. The Prince bolted towards her, and caught her just in time, as she almost fell into the water. He brought Vanathi back to shore and said, “Akka, please take this girl. I do not know how she was even born in the brave Kodumbalur clan.”
“Thambi. How could you touch this girl, who is not yet married?”
“Oh God. I should not do that? I should have just let her fall into the water, and let her die, then. I am thankful that she became unconscious and did not realise that I caught her.”
Vanathi laughed out loud and slid out of his hands.
“Ey. You did not faint. Why were you pretending to be unconscious?”
“Akka, I neither fainted nor pretended to. I felt very shy when he caught me, and I just closed my eyes.”
“How would I know? Fainting is a quaint habit of yours.”
“Akka, I will not faint again. And definitely not when he is around. Also, I have done something for the Prince, that he needs to be thankful to me for, his entire life.”
“Wait. What? You mean, the help I did to you, to save your life?” said the Prince.
“Or, do you mean the help that I did for the Prince?” asked Ilayapirati.
“Neither. I have done something for the Prince. Let me explain. When the Prince was young, he fell into the River Cauvery and a lady saved his life. Some time back, he fell into the ocean, and a boat girl saved his life. Throughout his life, he has been saved only by women. To improve his reputation, today, he has finally saved a lady from falling into the water. Should he not be thankful to me?”
Vanathi laughed out loudly. The Ilayapirati laughed as well. The Prince tried to suppress his laughter, but could not. He joined in the laughter as well.
The loud laughter could be heard all around.
“Do you hear those three mad people laugh?” said Poonkuzhali, and laughed.
The puzzled bull let out a sigh, and ambled back into the foliage.