5. The magnet and the delicate flower

It was love at first sight for Kaarvannan. From the moment he saw Panmozhi, Kaarvannan’s mind became turbulent as the sea during a storm. His youthful dreams were kindled. His heart started to whisper constantly, that this queen of beauty and grace is his true love. Her dance performance, though long done, was going on non-stop in the stage of his mind. As Koothanaar’s matthalam (drum) energised her feet, his heart vibrated at the rhythm of her feet.

After a grand, elaborate lunch and some rest, Kaarvannan could not confine himself within the four walls of the mansion. He set out to see the wonderful sceneries of the hills. He was wandering at leisure in the forest area where jack fruit trees and plantains were in plenty. He heard the sound of a small waterfall and went towards it. It took shape as a small stream, divided into two channels of rapids and flowed down. There was an elephant shaped rock in between the two channels and Kaarvannan leapt nimbly onto it and sat there. The water fell into a deep pool below where he sat. Honey dripped from a nearby jack fruit tree, on which there were big jack fruits hanging from the lower trunk. Monkeys eating the sticky honey with their greedy little paws, jumped around the trees nearby as though intoxicated. Kadhamba trees flowered profusely all along the sides of the stream, spreading fragrance in the air. The fragrance of kaandal flowers also sailed along on the breeze. It was peaceful in the mid-afternoon under the shade of the forest, with the soothing forest sounds: rushing, falling water, insects buzzing drowsily, monkeys chattering, and birds calling occasionally. The poet within Kaarvannan awoke, recollecting verses from here and there… it seemed to him that all romantic words of all the poets of the world were written about Panmozhi.

“She smiles with her slightly parted coral red lips,

her teeth set evenly like a row of korai (tender grass) shoots.

Her breasts round and full, her shoulders ivory smooth,

her beautiful dreamy eyes, like two half-opened lilies …”

Kaarvannan’s day dream was interrupted by the giggly laughter of girls, and the sweet music of a flute over-powering the sound of the waterfall. By and by, Cheyyon and his sisters appeared. Cheyyon played the melodious mullai pann on the flute made from the Konrai fruit. Kaarvannan’s heart leaped as if the goddess he had come here in search of had appeared before him. Cheyyon jumped down from a rock he was standing on into the stream, splashing noisily in the water. Suddenly seeing Kaarvannan sitting on the rock, he raised his voice “Akka!”. Yaazhini who was following him raised her eyebrows in question. Cheyyon pointed out at the man sitting on the elephant rock and muttered some words in her ear. Yaazhini stopped Panmozhi who was coming behind and signalled towards Kaarvannan.

Kaarvannan started the conversation breaking that silence “O! Girls of the Kurinji! Why have you become silent portraits? Did I intrude on your privacy?”

Yaazhini giggled and said, “O! Messenger of the great Chozha King! It seems you are delivering a secret message to this Brahmagiri mountain apart from the one you have brought to King Paali! Did we perhaps intrude upon you? Please pardon us!” again she giggled as the tinkly waterfall, joined by Panmozhi.

“Aha, what can I say, you found me out! My message is not only for this mountain, but also for the kurinji kumaris!” Kaarvannan said playfully.

The girls looked at each other puzzled. Kaarvannan continued:

“This morning I had the good fortune of witnessing your highly artistic koothu. That has set an appropriate stage for my diplomatic work.”

“Is that your message to the girls of kurinji? You seem to be an expert in the art of flattery!”, replied Panmozhi.

“No, not flattery, it is absolutely true! As the poet Kapilar has said, King Paali, the unbeatable leader of this stupendous Brahmagiri, cannot be conquered by the spears of kings, but can be won over with music and dance. After your koothu yesterday, the King was in a receptive and mellow mood, setting a favourable atmosphere for my mission!”, explained Kaarvannan.

“Ah well. What do we know about the nuances of important diplomatic missions? Leave that aside! Don’t you come from the famous Kaveri Poompattinam? My sister has a great desire to see that magnificent city and its glories,” said Yaazhini with a mischievous smile.

“Oh, that’s easy to do! For your skilful dance, there would be tremendous appreciation and you would get valuable gifts in the Chozha court. On behalf of the Chozha country I invite you to our land of Kaveri.”

“That is very nice, thank you! We are already enthusiastic; however, the invitation needs to be to our father …” said Panmozhi.

“Certainly! I presume the person who played the thannumai is your father?”

“Yes! The other one who played the lyre is Yaazhini’s father. The singer is her mother, my aunt.”, said Panmozhi.

“Akka! you have not introduced me!”, reminded the boy Cheyyon.

“Ah yes. Young Cheyyon here is my brother. He is the guide on our journeys, and for performances, he is the one who starts all our items leading with his flute.”, said Yaazhini.

“I have heard that your father is an expert in ‘Paandaranga koothu’. I would love to meet and talk with him”, said Kaarvannan.

Ayya! Didn’t you bring your horse here?”, the boy asked.

“Our Cheyyon is mad about horses. His long-standing ambition is to travel on horseback”, laughed Panmozhi.

“Sure! Why just a horse? You can even get an elephant when you come to Kaveri Poompattinam!”, said Kaarvannan.

“Alright, there will be rehearsals tonight for tomorrow’s programme. We’ll be glad to see you at the rehearsals”, said Yaazhini, then to Panmozhi she added, “Akka! It’s getting late, let’s return.”

“Thank you. I will certainly be there tonight, please let your father know”, promised Kaarvannan.

Cheyyon descended first. Yaazhini took leave of him and followed the boy. Panmozhi hesitantly followed Yaazhini. His heart longed for a chance to talk alone with Panmozhi. Did she feel the same strange fluttering as he did? Will she turn back to look at him? She’s walking away… will she…? Yes! She turned to look back at him! Their eyes met, seeking and finding assurance of how each felt towards the other. In that moment, without words, a silent understanding passed between them, and they become closer to each other.

Akka! Why you have stopped?”, Yaazhini called out, breaking the moment. Panmozhi hurried after her sister.

The sun was setting behind the western hills, the low slanting rays making the edges of the floating black clouds shine in golden hue. Kaarvannan’s heart was wrapped in a golden hue, as though touched by the rays of the sun.

Panmozhi, delicate as the kaandal flower, was like a magnet that attracted him. He was drowned in thoughts of her without paying heed to time. The sun had long gone, and now in the zenith of the sky the constellation Mriga Seersha (the hunter) twinkled brightly. Over the western hill the crescent moon was smiling beautifully. It was the fifth night of the waxing moon. Suddenly realising how late it was, Kaarvannan hastened to the guest house.

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