Book Excerpt: ‘Theivanai: Murugan Trilogy – Part 2’ by Kala Krishnan

Book Title: Theivanai: Murugan Trilogy – Part 2
Author: Kala Krishnan
Publisher: Westland
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-9360458966
Date Published: Mar. 4, 2024
Price: INR 349

Theivanai Murugan Trilogy - Part 2 by Kala Krishnan

Book Excerpt

Chapter 3

PAZHANI AGAIN

Thennan had thought of Aambal often in his home far away from Chendur and Pazhani. He remembered the terror surging in her voice before it shrunk and stilled and she collapsed. How her body had convulsed violently in his arms such that his own frame had shuddered, until her body went stiff, as if dead. He also remembered screaming her name aloud, repeatedly, till Matri Dhumi reached them. He couldn’t recall if he actually had screamed ‘Aambal, Aambal, don’t die’, but he remembered the panic, as if one of the giants from the battlefield had held him till his body stilled.

He was impatient to see Aambal again. Had she recovered? Did she have her mind back? He also thought about what would change if Aambal did not recover: Murugan would not need him in Pazhani, for he had wanted them to work together, with Aambal writing poems that he would tune and put to song. A messenger brought word from Murugan for him to set out for Pazhani, and Thennan began his journey.

As he traveled, Thennan’s fears about Aambal began to dissipate. He remembered her as a child, her sturdy body and how her unbending will had made her fearless and stubborn. Suddenly, he was filled with a longing to be with his two best friends once more, and to once more adventure with them, this time in language and music. He was eager to get to the verses that Aambal would write, and to search for tunes for them and sing them to the best ears in all the universes—Murugan, the God of Sound and Song. Then, for a moment, his heart wrenched and he wished that the great Asura, his patron King Surapadman, was still alive. He would have delighted in this venture, and it would have been two sets of the keenest ears listening to him sing.

Thennan began his journey at midnight. He stood at the crossroads, waiting to get a ride on one of the grain-laden bullock carts or the carts of performers, healers, hunters and gypsies, heading towards the towns and temple festivals. The hunters and gypsies were favorite performers at these festivals, especially in the temples of the Lord Who Drank Fresh Toddy and of his son, the God Who Was the Mud of the Kurinji. Scholars and commentators came in from the study centers to listen to them and to talk with them. They saw that the roots of the language were in the songs and stories of these performers. It was as if the God of Tamizh had given them the first mouthful of that inebriating honey, for what came out of their mouths was as perfect as what the poets and scholars labored over.

Such pleasant company met, Thennan felt as if buds were springing open and honey-drunk bees were surging against his insides. Song lines and verses burst from him, and his companions happily took up a refrain or a chorus, and sometimes accompanied him with sharp beats on a parai or tudi or by shaking bands into which salangai beads were stitched. Sometimes, someone jumped off the bullock cart and danced in tune. Thennan’s excitement grew as they moved along, and his head filled with other images of Aambal from Chendur: her eyes widening when she first saw him on the battlefield, her ease with bardic duties, of how when they sang together, her smile swelled the refrains.

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But then Thennan quietened down. The early morning sun, darting through the tree branches, leaping on the waves of the streams and playing hide-and-seek on the ground had made him light-headed. As it got hotter, the moisture in his belly, on his lips and in his eyes dried up, as did the eager stream of words that had danced out of his mouth. And he asked himself what he was doing. Why was his mind filled with Aambal’s face? Was this possible? What about—he shook his head vigorously, shaking off that thought. Not now. There would be time for all that. Right now, he just wanted … what did he want? The face of a little girl came into his head: a girl he had once called ‘bossy’ and tried to run away from, a girl who had pushed his head under water to rid him of his fear of swimming. It made him smile. But almost immediately another face pushed Aambal’s aside and stood there glowering at him: a little boy with a head of curls, whose hand held a dandam, poised to strike, and that was enough to jolt Thennan out of his reverie.

Excerpted with permission from Theivanai: Part Two of the Murugan Trilogy, written by Kala Krishnan, Westland.

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