Chapter 38 – Nandini’s Sulks
When the Elder Lord Pazluvoor finally returned to his palace, it was well past midnight. The storm in his heart raised more dust than a swift breeze that blew upon a dusty field swirling the dust again and again. He was slightly sorry for having been so harsh with his dear brother. There was no measure to the affection that his younger brother showered upon him.
He said something because of his affection for me. But still, a suspicious fellow! Why must he unnecessarily find fault with Nandini? It must be human nature. It is natural that one should try to escape the consequences of ones own mistakes by throwing the blame on someone else. But, why does he stoop to that lowly practice? Is it commendable of him and his courage to let go of the culprit in his hands and then blame a woman, that too his own sister-in-law? It’s alright! He did beg forgiveness for his words. Why should I keep thinking of it?
Nevertheless, could there be some atom of truth in his words? Perhaps in my old age I am enslaved by a madness for womankind? For the sake of some female whom I picked up on the wayside, I had to be harsh with my dear brother who stood beside me in several battles; a brother who has guarded me with his very life! Anyway what is so great about her? I have no
have seen such instances. Should I subject myself to such mockery? Even so, I must find out certain truths from her. She often borrows the signet ring. Why? She goes and sits alone in the gazebo, why does she do that? I hear rumors that some sorcerer visits her frequently; in fact she herself agreed to it — but why? What does she have to ask a sorcerer or magician? Who does she have to seduce with sorcery? And apart from all this, what about this fate of mine: how long do I have to remain like this, a celibate bachelor ever after the wedding? She keeps putting me off by talking about some vow or penance — never explaining what the vow is or what the penance is about. Her methods seem like the tricks of some cunning heroine in a fable! I must not let this continue! Tonight I must talk firmly about it and decide once for all.
When Lord Pazluvoor returned to his own mansion, other womenfolk living there, clansmen and servants came to receive him in the outer courtyard. His searching eyes did not find the Young-Queen whom he was eager to see! Upon query, he found that she was still in the garden gazebo. What is she doing out there after midnight? he wondered if she was being indifferent. He walked down to the garden with some rage.
When he neared the covered walk-way he saw Nandini and her maid walking towards him. She stopped upon seeing him. But, instead of looking at him, she turned her face away, peering into the darkness that shrouded the garden. The maid waited a little behind. She did not look up at him, even after Lord Pazluvoor had come very close. Now, he had to forget his intentions of scolding Nandini; instead he had to soothe her anger!
“Nandini! My darling! Why this anger? Why don’t you look at me?” asking this he placed his iron hard palm softly on her silken shoulder.
But Nandini pushed his sturdy, battle hardened hand away with her flower like fingers. Oh! can gentleness and softness have such strength?
“Dearest! You push me away with your silken hands! That itself is my good fortune. You achieved what could not be accomplished by warriors from the Tricone Hill to the Vindhyas! That is my good luck! Still, shouldn’t you tell me the cause for your anger? My ears thirst to hear your nectar sweet voice.” That great warrior of the battlefield begged in front of her.
“How many days is it since you parted from me? Isn’t it four full days?” spoke Nandini with a tiny sob in her voice. That sob melted Lord Pazluvoor’s heart which had withstood the assault of several swords and spears, like wax thrown in flames.
“All this anger for that? Couldn’t you bear to be parted from me for four days? If I have to go on a battle campaign what will you do? We might have to be parted for months together!”
“My Lord! If you have to go to the battlefield do you think I will remain content to be parted from you for months together? Forget the thought! I shall follow you like a shadow and come with you on the campaign.”
“Wonderful! If I take you on the campaign what war can I fight? My darling! My shoulders and chest have borne the piercing sharpness of several swords and lances. The world praises me for having sixty-four scars from such wounds. But if your soft flower like body is pierced by even one thorn, my heart will split open. The tiny thorn which hurts your small foot will achieve that which could not be done in several battles by swords and arrows. How can I take you to the battlefield? Even this — you standing here on this granite walkway — hurts me! Come here, come and sit on you flower laden couch! Let me gaze upon your divine face. You think that this parting of four days was difficult only for you? Every second away from you was like an eon for me! At least now, let me look at your face and satisfy my longing.”
He took hold of Nandini’s hand and led her to her couch. Nandini wiped away her tears and looked up at him. He looked at that pearly smile on her shining face in the golden light. Ah! I can give her all the three worlds for such a smile! I don’t posses all the three worlds, so let me offer my life, my soul all my possessions to her! But she does not ask anything of passage.”
“My Lord I am interested in all your undertakings. I wish success for all your efforts. But, I feel uncomfortable at the thought of you taking a young man in a palanquin meant for me. People think that you are taking me along with you wherever you go. …”
“You think I am happy about this? Never! But our effort is important. I am tolerating the situation for the sake of the important undertaking. Moreover, it was you who gave me that idea! You told me to take Madurandaka in your closed palanquin. Didn’t you give me the idea of conveying him in and out of the fort by way of the secret passage?”
“I merely did my duty. Is not the wife bound to help in the efforts of her husband? Somehow, I merely expressed some idea that occurred to me. Because of that, you …”
“Was that all? Think of this fellow Madurandaka — wearing ashen marks on his forehead, shoulders draped with holy beads, forever immersed in worship and devotion, going form one temple and holy place to another, proving himself to be his mother’s son! We had tried several times, to interest him in affairs of the state, in ruling; but, we could not shake his resolve. But, you met him twice and he changed completely! Now, no one can contain his eagerness to rule. His dreamland now stretches from Lanka to the Himalayas! From the earth to the skies! He is more restless than any of us, waiting to ascend the Chozla throne! Nandini! I don’t know what magic you used on him! But you yourself are such a sorceress, why do you seek the counsel of some other sorcerer? People talk unnecessarily about that …”
“My King! It is your responsibility to cut off their tongues and punish anyone who talks loosely about that! I have told you earlier, about why I consult a sorcerer. Shall I remind you if you have forgotten? It is to milk the poison of that female snake in Pazlayarai. You are all men, you would enter the battlefield and confront other men. You think it disgraceful to fight with women. But one woman can create more havoc than a hundred men. A snake knows its own kind! You know nothing about the cunning of that Kundavai. I know her. You might have forgotten about how she humiliated both you and me. I cannot! She asked me in the midst of a hundred women, `That old fool in his death bed has gone woman-mad and lost his senses, where did your sense go? Why did you go and marry that old man?’– can I forget that? `You look ravishing, shining like a heavenly enchantress! Didn’t any prince garland you and take you as his queen to place you on his throne? After all, did you have to stoop to marry that old buffalo?’ She asked that! How can I forget those words? I can never forget it as long as I live.” Nandini spoke these passionate words and began sobbing. Tears overflowing her eyes cascaded down her cheeks to wet her heaving breasts.