(Image is of Sivaganga Tank)
His smile grew much more terrifying. It was the smile of a madman, wide-eyed and bloodthirsty, and this made everyone, even his own comrades, uneasy.
Anuruddha was sweating, trying to prevent himself from shivering in fear of Narasimha’s predatory glance.
“You don’t know anything about me, Tamil! I could kill you with my bare hands if I was out there! I’d…I’d let you suffer in Hell for this, you bastard!” he roared. “I…I will have my vengeance. My sons are probably out there right now, and they’re somewhere, planning your demise. Yours and that of every other Tamil pollutant in this nation. All your deaths shall be sealed. The Buddharaja clan will not be dead until all of us are buried. We have been in the service of our kings for centuries, and will do so till until this world is consumed by flame and flood!”
“The army doesn’t suit you, Anuruddha Buddharaja. Go on, be a poet. I’ll let you out in that”-
Balaram cut in.
“This is inhuman! Narasimha, this is torture! I”-the army commander looked bitterly at him-“it’s not caning or whipping, alright, but this is still torture! You’re pushing this prisoner too much. In the end you’re the one who’ll regret your actions.”
Lakshman, the harbormaster, and Harihar stood grimly, nodding their heads in silence. The jailer appeared as well, and saluted the four officers in the traditional way. Anuruddha lay down on his straw mattress, and looked hard at the sacred, dirty-white thread around his wrist.
He heard the buzz of whispers, still thanking himself that his Tamil was perfect; he understood every word they said, but something in his made him wish that he did not.
Once the four officers had left, all he did through the day was weep.
The night had so far been moonless, but for a few minutes, when it did show itself from its cloudy hideout, Harihar’s blood grew cold. He was still watching his little longboat, which stood against the rocks, bobbing gently in the waves. As he paced nervously, he kept his sword sheathed. However, the lack of a breastplate made him feel exposed and fearful. Every sound caused him to look around wildly. Yet all he saw in the distance was the harbor, the masts of the ships looking like dark, ripe stalks in a tossing field of deep blackish-blue. His ears strained, in the manner of an owl alert for prey.
The chorus of the waves grew louder, and he feared that poor young Yasa would be dashed on the rocks near the shore. Yet he heard nothing from the boy, and saw not a trace of him either. His pace quickened as he looked out at the islands from whence he’d come. The mainland offered some security, so he hoped, but he still felt empty and helpless within.
Harihar’s eyes rested on the coarse cloak he’d given Yasa ten days ago when the lieutenant freed him from the dungeon. The boy had worn it every time he went around the fort with the other menservants, cooking and cleaning like the other males of his kind.
He also spotted the dirty torn sarong there as well, lying in the same heap as the black cloak…
Angrily, he shook his head, squeezing out tears as he tried to dispel the image of the Rodi boy when he and the jailer freed him. Harihar’s heart had pounded in fear when he glanced at Yasa waking up, and stepping out of the cell. Yasa was like a creature from a purer, cleaner world than any made by the great Lord Brahma.
He was too young to be here, to rot away for the rest of his life in some damned prison. But what next? Where would Yasa go? Did he know the way to his family? Did he even have a family at all? Harihar had seen many people, and had seen their eyes. There was still a flame in some of them, even those living in the most wretched conditions, he knew. He looked at the sarong and cloak and thought of the boy, naked and free, flashing through the sea like a happy fish. Was bringing him to the Lankan mainland even the best course of action?
Harihar gritted his teeth angrily.
Why had that soft young devil been haunting his mind, even now, when they were about to separate?
The children of Ratnavalli were the most beautiful people in the known world, and he was now in the iron clutches of this casteless wretch.
He tried to imagine the boy appearing from the sea, glowing with water as he tied on his sarong and draped his cloak across his slender shoulders. Dreams of sharing his home with the young man, watching him bask in riches, feel sensations he had never felt before. To be able to guide an innocent young boy into manhood, and the strength and confidence that came with it. To call him ‘brother’ and stand at his side through thick and thin…
The jeering neighbors telling him that he was a polluter…
That he could not marry his beautiful Brahman lover now…his lovely young Rukmini’s shape was drifting further away as the people of Urayur spat on Yasa. A fat man with a big beard, his priestly profession evidenced by the long cord across his shoulder, shielded his weeping daughter from the foolish man who had called a casteless little rat his brother.
He would no longer be the handsome Brahman boy who went to war and returned after a great conquest…no longer the warrior who would marry the beautiful girl of his dreams. Thoughts of her oval face, her long hair and petite figure danced through his mind, just as lightly and quickly as she had when she showed off her skills to him.
He smelled steaming plates of rice and curries being laid out on a table before him, smiling as he grew fat and happy on them.
Visions of her slender body, nude and perfect before him as the two young people enveloped together on her velvet-soft bed, grew more vivid…but Yasa was screaming out, his voice cutting harshly through the night…calling his brother, the only other person he could trust in the whole world…
“Stay…out…of my nightmares! Accursed little bastard, get away!” Harihar screamed, unsheathing his sword in a trice, thereby spooking a pair of seagulls roosting on the rocks. He stormed back to his boat, pushing it away with all his strength. His strong back and stomach helped his arms as he rowed out of the shallow water between the small archipelago and the mainland as he gasped and cursed. The rain suddenly increased, but thankfully it stayed pretty much a drizzle.
There would be no bringing him back.
Harihar wept as he saw the fortress of Manthotam grow closer. He flung himself on his horse’s rain-soaked back, mounting the animal after removing it from its tether. The patient animal neighed softly as it felt its master’s strong legs straddle its middle. Harihar quickly spurred it on.
“The last week proved to me that you’re an accursed outcaste,” he snarled. “I don’t know what I saw in your eyes…you’re an outcaste for a reason, Yasa…I’m sorry.” He wiped a tear away from his eye as he thought about the boy’s solemn stare, the dark eyes boring into the warrior’s hardened soul. “I might ruin my life if I take you in. I have someone who understands me and loves me for what I truly am…but her family isn’t so understanding, it never was. Neither is mine. My dear Rukmini promised me that she would wait until I got back. Your father will be pleased with me now my dear. We will have a perfect life together when I come back next month.” His tears were wiped away by the passing wind, but he was suddenly startled by another dark shape which cut out into his path from the line of screwpine and coconut trees.