Volume 3 Chapter 53: Suspicion

 

That no moon night, Sivakami was sitting all by herself in her palace. As her lady-in-waiting had mentioned that her mother was unwell, Sivakami used it as a pretext to send her away. A lantern was Sivakami’s sole companion. Several thoughts rose in her mind. Every time she thought of Mamallar’s impending visit, her heart rose to her mouth. On one hand, she felt anger and pride. On the other hand, sorrow and eagerness overcame her.

She often felt that her love for Mamallar was the root cause for all her sorrow. Had she fallen in love with a sculptor’s son and had married him as was appropriate for her social stature, would she have faced this ignominy? Why did Mamallar have to captivate her, who was residing in a secluded house in the midst of a forest? Having acted in this manner, why did he have to leave her behind at Mandapapattu and go away? It was her love for Mamallar that impelled her to visit Kanchi! Again it was her love that instigated her to leave the fort through the secret tunnel! Ah! He was the reason behind all her sorrow! Though her anger towards Mamallar was fuelled by such thoughts, her anticipation of his arrival intensified as time passed.

That night, when Sivakami was immersed in deep thought, she was stunned by the sudden appearance of two bearded men and she sat up. However, the faces of the two men did not instill fear. They appeared familiar. She asked them confidently, “Who are you? Why have you come here in the middle of the night?” As soon as Mamallar asked, “Sivakami! Don’t you recognize me?” a surprised smile broke out on her face.

The smile that appeared on Sivakami’s face after a long time enhanced her beauty. But the smile on Sivakami’s face did not make Mamallar happy. The thought that Sivakami was happy at Vatapi caused Mamallar to frown. Sivakami stood up asking in an emotion-choked voice, “Prabhu! Is that you?” “When you’re leading a luxurious life at the Vatapi Emperor’s palace, how is it possible to remember old friends?” asked Mamallar in a harsh tone. Hearing those cruel words, Sivakami stood immobilized out of shock. She wondered if the person standing in her presence was truly Mamallar or a masquerader.

When both of them stood staring at each other, Commander Paranjyothi realized that it was inappropriate for him to be there. Immediately, he whispered into Mamallar’s ear, “Prabhu! Please do not delay! We do not have much time” and walked to the entrance of the palace. After Paranjyothi had disappeared out of sight, Mamallar asked, “Oh! It seems that you’re unable to recollect who we are. That’s alright. Do you at least remember your father Aayanar, Sivakami?”

Sivakami’s eyebrows knotted, anger caused her eyes to redden and widen; her lips twitched. She suppressed her anger with great effort and asked, “Illavarasey[i]! How is my father? Where is he?” “Yes; Aayanar is fine. He is as well as a man who has fractured his foot and has lost is only daughter can be. He keeps asking, ‘Where is Sivakami? Where is my dear daughter?’ Sivakami, come. Let’s leave!”

Tears filled Sivakami’s eyes; yet she made no effort to leave with Mamallar. “Sivakami! Why are you standing still? If you wish to see your father alive, leave immediately!” said Mamallar. Sivakami continued to stand motionless. “What is this, Sivakami? Don’t you wish to return to Kanchi? Ah! What I had suspected is true!” said Mamallar accusingly.

Sivakami broke her silence and asked, “Prabhu! What did you suspect?” “Why talk about it now? I will tell you later.” “What was your suspicion, Prabhu!” “Do I have to tell you now?” “You certainly have to tell me.” “I suspected that after having lived lavishly at the Vatapi Emperor’s palace, you will be reluctant to return with me.” Hearing this, Sivakami laughed! Sivakami’s laughter in the middle of the night sounded unpleasant to Mamallar’s ears. When Sivakami ceased laughing, she said in a firm tone, “Yes, Pallava Kumara! What you suspected is true. I am unwilling to leave this opulent palace. I am also unwilling to leave Vatapi; you may leave!”

Hearing this, sparks of anger darted from Mamallar’s eyes. He exclaimed, “What the elders had said is true!” “What did the elders say?” “They said that women are fickle!” “Haven’t you now realized the truth in that statement? You may leave, Prabhu!” Mamallar muttered to himself, “Ah! I traveled a hundred kadu in search of you. Who can be smarter than me?” He then said, “Sivakami; you don’t have to come for my sake. Come for your father’s sake! Come for your friend, Kamali’s sake! I promised them that I will bring you back!”

“I too have undertaken an oath, Prabhu!” “What oath have you undertaken?” “Why should I tell you?” “Tell me, Sivakami! Tell me quickly!” “You will not believe me even if I were to tell you. After all it’s a helpless maiden’s oath?” “That’s alright, tell me. We’re getting delayed!” “I have undertaken to leave Vatapi only when the city is set on fire, the houses are reduced to ashes, rivers of blood flow down the streets and the street junctions are transformed into graveyards!” “This is a monstrous oath! Why did you undertake such an oath, Sivakami?”

“Prabhu! Had you seen the horrific sights I saw en route to Vatapi, you will not ask this question. Had you witnessed the imprisoned men and women of Tamil Nadu being whipped at the street junctions and the Kalarani[ii] of Pallava Nadu dancing in their presence, you would not have asked why I took this oath.” “Sivakami, though I did not witness these sights, I’m aware of all what transpired. Notwithstanding this, why did you undertake such a ghastly oath?”

“Prabhu! Several years and eons ago, a prince claimed to be in love with me. He promised to make me his consort when he ascended the throne. He swore by the spear and told me that he would never ever forget me. At the banks of the lotus pond drenched in the full-moon light, he promised me that I would be his wife in this birth and in all subsequent births. I believed that he was a true warrior and that he would uphold his word. It was this belief that drove me to make this oath!” said Sivakami majestically and looked up to Mamallar. That sharp glance pierced Mamallar’s heart like a spear and disturbed him.

 


[i] Illavarsey – Prince in Tamil

[ii] Kalarani – Queen (rani) of arts (kalai) in Tamil

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