Chapter 48 – Swirling Pools And Flashing Eyes
Early Man lived in a valley. The mountain cave protected him from rain and wind. The forest gave him food. Beasts of the wild feared him. He lived freely without care or concern just like the birds in the sky. Yet, in his heart of hearts he had a yearning; an unexplainable longing was his constant companion. Some powerful force seemed to be drawing him. His heart and soul desired some unique entity — some unseen, unexperienced pleasure. He fantasized about it in the day and dreamt of it in the night. “When will I see that unique thing created just for me? Where will I meet the fantastic force that attracts me thus?”
At the same time God created Early Woman. She lived in another valley on the other side of the mountain. She had food to satisfy hunger, spring waters to quench her thirst and mountain caves to protect her. She lacked nothing, but her heart burned with an inner flame of desire. Some powerful force was enticing her. Where was the force that lured her, where was it pulling her — nothing was clear. A huge mountain rose high between Early Man and Early Woman, an obstacle preventing them from meeting each other.
In the hot months, by course of nature there arose a large forest fire that grew rapidly encompassing the forest all around the mountain. Man and Woman realized the danger of going into the blazing forest. They began climbing the steep mountain slopes. At the peak they saw each other. They gazed at each other without blinking an eyelid. The forest fire was forgotten. Hunger and thirst was forgotten. They forgot why they had climbed the mountain. Intuition said that they had lived all their lives only for that meeting. They realized that this was the powerful force that nagged them all their lives. What each lacked could be fulfilled by the other. They were sure that there was no power in creation that could separate them, now that they were together.
God the Creator watched this remarkable meeting and was happy that his task of creation was progressing so well.
At that moment in time, our Vandiya Devan and Kundavai were like this Early Man and Early Woman. Their intuition declared that the very purpose of their birth and life on this earth was for this moment, this meeting! But unlike Early Man and Early Woman they were civilized people living in a civilized world. They could not forget the differences in their station. They did not let their feelings take total control. For one moment they would look at each other gazing into each others eyes, in the next instant they would look away at the flower, the tree, the butterfly or the lake.
Only after Mr. Bhattar cleared his throat did they remember that they were meeting on those steps to talk about some important matters.
“Is it true that you told Mr. Esanya Bhattar that you wished to meet me in privacy?” asked Kundavai in an abrupt
The stern, masterful tone of her voice steadied Vandiya Devan.
“I can answer your question only if I know in whose presence I am in. I suspect that Mr. Bhattar has brought me to the wrong place.”
“I too have such a suspicion. Whom did you wish to meet?”
“The light of the Chozla Dynasty, Emperor Sundara Chozla’s darling daughter, beloved younger sister of Prince Aditya Karikala, the cherished elder sister of Prince Arulmozli, the Princess Kundavai, the Younger Pirati… I wished to meet her… I asked Mr. Bhattar …”
“It is me who bears all those honors and responsibilities,” said Kundavai with a smile.
“Then you cannot be the Lady whom I met at the Astrologer’s house in Kudanthai and on the banks of River Arisil, can it be?” said Vandiya Devan.
“Yes, yes! It is I who behaved in such a discourteous fashion with you in those two places. You would not have expected to meet that uncivilized woman once again so soon.”
“My Lady! It is incorrect to say that we are meeting once again!”
“Only if we had parted can we say that we are meeting again … You have not left my thoughts even for one moment…”
“I did not expect the people of Thondai to be such experts in conversation.”
“Will you reserve all expertise only for Chozla men? Will you not let any other nation claim any greatness?”
“Yes; I have such a fault in me. Why? Do you not like our Chozla lands?”
“Like it? Why, I like it very well. But there are two great dangers in this Chozla land. When I consider them I am filled with fear!”
“Yes the lances and swords of Chozla men are very dangerous weapons. Foreigners should enter our borders with caution. Particularly fellows who come in to spy upon us …”
“Princess! I am not referring to those two dangers. I too have a sword and a spear. I am an expert in their use …”
“Oh yes! I have seen your dexterity with a spear on the banks of the Arisil the other day! How swiftly your spear did pierce a dead crocodile’s back! In one throw it pulled all the stuffing out.”
“My Lady! I did not know that Chozla womenfolk were brave young women who trembled with fear at the sight of a dead crocodile. Neither did I know that Chozla men were fearless warriors who attacked dead reptiles. I thought it was alive and threw my spear. It was not my fault; neither was my spear at fault.”
“It was the fault of that foolish crocodile! It died without waiting for brave Mr. Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan of the noble Vaanar family to arrive with his lance and spear. It deserves that disgrace. What are the two dangers that you fear?”
“The swirling whirlpools in the fresh floods of the Chozla territory are dangerous; one should never trust those waters. They made me strain and struggle.”
“How did you get caught in the whirlpool? You seem to be a brave man who would never step into water!”
“Having caught the vampire how can I refuse to climb a moringa tree? Because I entered these Chozla lands, I had to drown in floods and get caught in whirlpools. It happened because of a foolish youth who came with me as a guide. Listen to this My Lady! That youngster refused to utter one small lie. It was the consequence of his behavior.”
“You are talking riddles. It would be better if you explained clearly.”
“I shall do so. I came as a messenger carrying letters from your dear brother; but, the Commander of Tanjore, the Younger Lord of Pazluvoor accused me of being a spy and sent his men to capture me. I did not like being arrested before my assigned task was completed. Therefore, I requested the youth who was my host in Tanjore to be my guide and left the place.”
“In whose house did you stay in Tanjore?”
“I stayed in the house of a flower seller outside the fort. The woman was a dumb-mute…. “
“Oh! Her name?”
“I do not know her name. But I know her son’s name. He is Sendan Amudan.”
“Yes! What I surmised is correct. Please go on.”
“I placed him also on my horse and rode towards this Pazlayarai. By then some of Lord Pazluvoor’s men were nearing us. I did not want to be caught before I met you. When we reached the banks of the Kudam-urutti, I told the boy `Thambi, I am going to get down here. You stay on the horse. They will think that you are me and follow you. If they catch up with you they will be disappointed. If they question you about me say that I drowned in the river.’ That youngster seems to have descended from King Hari-chandra who never told a lie. `When you did not drown how can I tell a lie?’ he said. Because the youth did not want to tell a lie, I had to jump into the floods and pretend to drown after binding him to my horse. Oh dear God! What swirling whirlpools in the rapids of these Chozla rivers, that too so close to the bank! Caught in those swirls I suffered a lot! Somehow I grabbed a tree root and pulled myself ashore and saved my life. My Lady! Do you know what I recalled when I was being tossed about in those swirling whirlpools and loosing my mind?”
“How will I know? Perhaps you thought of Gajendra’s deliverance (Lord Vishnu saving the Elephant from a Crocodile).”
“No! No! In those swirls of water I saw some beautiful fish caught helplessly, just like me, being tossed here and there. Those darting fish reminded me of the flashing eyes of Chozla women…. A fellow caught in the whirlpool can somehow or other escape; but a fellow enmeshed in the flashing eyes of Chozla women has no escape. That is what I thought.”
“Some men think it is fashionable to find fault with women in this manner… It is common for men to blame everything on women for the mistakes they make ….”
“I too followed that tradition. Is anything wrong?” asked Vandiya Devan.
The melodious notes of a flute floated down from the palace. The tinkle of ankle bells and booming resonance of hand-drums mingled in the air. The soft voices of young maidens floated down to them. They were singing the milkmaid’s song from the romance Silappadikaram.
When that enchanter who gathers fruit to feed his calves comes into town dear friend,
Can we listen to the melody of a reed-flute playing on his rosy lips?
When that cowherd who lived in the gardens as a baby comes home with the cattle dear friend,
Can we hear the ballads on his beguiling flute?
Kundavai and Vandiya Devan were engrossed in the melody as they stood listening till the song was over. Drums
sounded again indicating that the dancing was about to begin.
“Those sounds from the palace … seems to be the gypsy-dance. I saw a kuravai-koothu at Kadamboor; it was quite unusual!” said Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan.
“Yes. My friends are practicing the dance. They will soon come looking for me. What is your business with me?” asked Kundavai.
“This is my business: here is the letter from your brother. I bring it to you after escaping several dangers — overcoming swirling pools and flashing eyes I have brought it to you,” said Vandiya Devan as he gave her the letter.