The smell of fresh hay and hushed whispers of men resounded through the Royal Stable. Kuyili was breathless as she sprinted towards Chinna Marudhu who was petting his black stallion. " I need to talk to you", she sounded so desperate and Chinna Marudhu viewed the stable. The men had stopped their whispers. All eyes focused on her. He hated it when she came like this, spoiling his work. He knew how Periya Marudhu's eyes lighted up on seeing her, how he threw furtive glances at her and how he sought flimsy excuses to enter the maids' quarters to look at her. Kuyili's unwarranted attention on him was unnerving. He despised her. Hated her. Loved her!
He nodded his head and taking his cue, she rushed to the Royal orchard nearby. He followed suit and hissed, " Don't you ever dare disturb me when at work. Why don't you seek Periya Marudhu if the issue is so important?" Kuyili looked visibly offended, she cringed. " I looked for him in the stables. He is away on some errand. Listen, we shall fight later. Something important has come up", she said. " Rumors are doing the rounds in maids' quarters. King Muthu had invited Poonguzhali to his Harem and she is on her way, dolled up as a bride!" Chinna Marudhu felt his head reeling and the world spinning. How could he? He loved Velu Nachi so much. That wretched Royal blood! He thinks he could just walk away? How could he take on a mistress when the Queen herself was nursing a new- born?
" Does the Queen know?", he asked, his voice pained. " No, i intend to inform her now", she replied. He stood rooted, contemplating what to do next. Sending a message to Ramnad Palace would be of no use, the messenger would reach there in two days time. Something had to be done, fast. " Come, let us meet the Queen", he clipped. Both of them were just in time to see the King entering Velu Nachi's chamber. Puzzled, they decided to wait for the Queen. Periya Marudhu had whiff of the rumor and he too raced to Velu Nachi's chamber only to stare silently at the other two friends waiting outside. A few moments of tense silence gripped them and they saw King Muthuvaduganathan leaving the chamber.
|"There comes father"- oil painting Raja Ravi varma- courtesy cyberkerala.net
All the three pounced inside the room to find the Queen seated by the window, her face devoid of any expression, totally masked. " Don't you worry, Queen. I shall behead that vile serpent of a woman", Chinna Marudhu thundered, his face red with fury. " Don't you dare!", yelled Periya Marudhu. " Let us see what plan the Queen has devised." Silence. She stood up slowly, her eyes never wavering from the horizon extended far. " If the King prefers a maid over me, so be it. I wish this matter is left as such. If i need any help, i would definitely call my trusted friends". With these words, she nodded her head towards the door. Unable to discuss anymore, the trio marched out. Velu Nachi remained shut indoors for many more weeks. The King of Ramnad visited the Sivagangai Queen, but was helpless to do anything, against his daughter's wishes.
Poongodi continued to receive the unwavering attention of the King, yet he forbade her from attending the Royal Court. It was here did Velu Nachi find her solace. She was an ardent orator, an able administrator and a versatile woman. Muthu liked her long debates with courtiers, her vision for development, her affinity to the French travelers and Portuguese traders. It gave him immense pleasure to watch her at Court, as she had totally shut him out from her private chamber. His 'romance' with Poongodi did wear off soon, as she gave birth to a girl child.
|"Looking into the mirror"- Raja Ravivarma- courtesy cyberkerala.net
News of the French interests in Sivagangai went to the notice of one man who vowed to fight the French till his last breath- Nawab of Arcot, Muhammad Ali Khan. He had planned revenge on the French who killed his grandfather Anwaruddin Muhammad Khan in a fierce battle. His father Chanda Sahib ruled for a very short span under the French, losing crores in taxes to them. Hyder Ali of Mysore was too big a threat to ignore and Muhammad Ali sought the help of the British, who in turn helped him regain the Throne from the French.
|Death of Nawab of Arcot- Anwaruddin Muhammed Khan in battle against French
Painting by Paul Philipoteaux
To be continued...