Thunder, lightning, earthquake and fire had wracked the house on the dock for three days.
“I told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, I made a mistake, I’m sorry! Why can’t I be given some peace and live in honour? What’s your problem with a quiet existence!” Ponnan protested hotly.
“What’s the use of saying sorry, sorry, sorry, now? If you don’t have the brains of a goose when you need them, what help is it now?” said Valli, even more hotly.
“So what happened to be killing me by inches? Nothing at all did! Where is that Emperor? Where can he go? My spear will find him!” Ponnan’s face was red.
“A spear? A spear!” Valli looked to the heavens. “You want a spear too, do you? You might stab yourself with it by mistake! Your hands, dear husband, were made to clutch an oar and beg favours from enemies. And you want a spear! How can a hand which lies folded in obeisance hold a spear?”
It had happened something like this:-
Two days ago, on the Kaveri road, the Emperor and his daughter Kuntavi had come to the docks on the way to Uraiyur. The Chakravarti was pointing at the palace’s roof, just visible in the distance, saying something to Kuntavi.
His gaze fell on Ponnan and Valli, who were standing in the door of their cottage. He called Ponnan nearer with a gesture. Ponnan ran to him, prostrated fully, and stood with hands tucked respectfully. He clean forgot that he was supposed to have his vengeance when he saw the Emperor next; he did not remember that his spear was to have a home in his chest. When he saw the Chakravarti, the knowing smile, the aura of power that radiated from him left Ponnan speechless.
“Are you the boatman of this dock?” asked the Chakravarti, and Ponnan lost what wits he had left.
“Yes, my ..Kin…Chakra.. Lord!” he managed to get out.
“Look; later, my child Kuntavi will want to come here to visit Arulmozhi Devi. When she does, you will personally ferry her to the island do you understand?”
“I understand, My Lord!” replied Ponnan.
And then the Chakravarti had gone away towards Uraiyur.
Valli had been listening to the conversation, but not very well. What she had heard was enough, though. When Ponnan came back shamefacedly, she was seething with fury. She asked him for the entire dialogue, and he told her. She began yelling at him. She accused him of being a traitor to his salt. Ponnan was hapless under this whirlwind of allegations, but persisted that he had not meant it. She continued yelling. It was three whole days now, and she was still yelling.
third day, Ponnan couldn’t take any more of her. He retreated to the riverbank
and sat thinking vengeful thoughts. The young monsoon growth and rain-washed
swaying leaves served to heighten his anger. He was thinking that the dock was a
busy place ten years ago. The King and his family had always been coming and
going. Now? Parthiban was dead on a battlefield. Arulmozhi was breaking her
heart in the
None of this would’ve been possible had it not been for that lousy little creep, Marappa Bhupathi. If that traitor hadn’t told Achyuta Varma, Vikraman would have driven out the invader, and by now ascended the throne. The Chakravarti would not have come to Uraiyur. And he would have had some peace of mind instead of having to face a storm every time he stepped over his threshold.
While he was thinking things over and wondering what would happen when he eventually had to go back to Valli, he heard the sound of hooves. He turned around and was right in time to see Marappa Bhupathi descend from his horse and go into the house.