Saturday, July 8, 2017

Hands That Stir the Pot - Part V

For Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV

When she came to, she was lying on her mother's lap. Revathi was fanning her with the pallu of her sari, while Gautama sprinkled water on her face. Seeing her revive, he helped her up and gave her some water to drink. She saw the anxious look on his face and felt her eyes welling up in relief.

"How are you feeling?" Gautama asked Shravanti solicitously.

She nodded in reply.

There was a pause and Shravanti anticipated the worst. She was not wrong. Gautama kept his voice low but did not hide his displeasure. "That was the most foolish thing you did, jumping in with a sword to fight a bandit! What if you had been killed...harmed?"

"Would I have been safer had I not fought?" she asked without raising her eyes.

Gautama's face turned red. He sat by her and took her hands in his. "These delicate hands are not meant for fighting. They are for care and nurturing."

"Doesn't caring also require fighting sometimes, father? Haven't you seen a mother elephant? She can be gentle with her calf, but can trample any threat... A tigress..."

"You have no need to fight! Are we not there to protect you?" Gautama flared. "Have you no faith in me?" he demanded angrily.

"What when there is no one to protect me?" Shravanti asked, her voice laced with urgency. Seeing his startled expression, she added more quietly, "Should I just succumb or die of shame?"

"No warrior swoons!" He pointed to the gashes in her body.

"Teach me to be a warrior, father!" she pleaded.

"You will be scarred..."

"They will speak of my courage," she replied promptly.

"You don't worry, sir," Vikrama piped in. "She will not need to face any such dangers in the city. I am doing so well in my trade that I can hire bodyguards to protect her," he added with pride.

Revathi quipped scathingly, "Yes, you will need bodyguards because you cannot protect her yourself."

"I can take care of myself," Shravanti replied through gritted teeth.

Gautama asked gruffly, "Where did you learn to fight like that?" Pointing at Ajaya, who was loitering nearby, he asked,  "Is this young man responsible for it?"

Ajaya, who could hear the conversation in snatches, protested, "I only polished a few moves! She already knew how to kill!"

Gautama turned to her askance. "I learnt it from you, father," she said in a clear voice. "I also learnt from you that we have but one life, and that we must live that well. That we must face challenges boldly rather than lead a life of shame. Did I do anything wrong, father?"

Her father started in surprise. "When? When did you learn all this?"

"All the time she stood staring at the boys!" Revathi whispered in shock. "And I thought all you were interested in was the boys!"

"What! She would stare at the boys!" Vikrama looked at her doubtfully. "Is she a desirable wife?" he asked, almost to himself.

Revathi, who heard him, addressed Gautama thoughtfully, "You know, dear, I have been thinking... We were leading a happy life till Shravanti and Vikrama's engagement happened. We lost all happiness after that. In the last few years, though we have had to struggle in the jungle, we rebuilt our life and managed to find contentment. But the moment we thought of getting Shravanti married to Vikrama - as his third wife - we nearly lost our lives... Not to mention the two poor girls whom Vikrama married and died!"

"What are you trying to say?" asked an incensed Vikrama.

"That you bring us bad luck, Vikrama... I do not want to lose Shravanti like this!"

"Then you will be saddled with her all your life! You think anybody will want to marry Shravanti after this? A woman who wields a sword?"

Revathi looked at him steadily. "We had resigned ourselves to that fate already. But now, I am less anxious precisely because of that...." She turned to Shravanti, "You can train with father in the mornings, till the sun rides up the eastern sky. But don't think all this sword play is going to exempt you from household chores. You can return for practice with father when the sun is in the western sky, till dusk. After that, light the lamp, clean the house and make dinner... Understood?"

Shravanti hugged her mother with a smile.

"Since when did you start deciding whom I will train?" Gautama asked peevishly.

"Who else will?" Revathi retorted, running a loving hand on her daughter's head. "I may also join to learn how to use the stick..."

"But what about her marriage?" Vikrama asked desperately.

"If she finds someone worthy of her, someone who appreciates her and matches her, she can marry him," Revathi said imperially and guided her family towards the cart.

Ajaya slid up to her and whispered. "I truly appreciate your daughter, madam..."

She sized him up and said, "We'll see if you are worthy of her, son. When she develops better fighting skills you can duel with her and we can decide..." Then she added, "But I need to know if you bring us good luck or bad luck. So you can visit us often till then. Mind you, no disturbing her during her training sessions..."

"No madam, never," Ajaya replied with  his hands to his ears. "But can I also train under sir?"

"If he will accept you..." Revathi said and got into the cart with Shravanti. Gautama started the cart. Seeing Ajaya walking behind them, Shravanti glanced at her mother, and receiving an imperceptible nod - or was it a wink - got down the cart to walk with him.

Vikrama rode away fast, raising much dust in the background. But the wind blew all the dust away, caressing them with gentle lullaby.

Concluded




7 comments:

  1. Excellent story... Each episode had a climax. The need to recognize women their talents and skills is well brought out.... A positive feminine Eklavya story.... Keep writing

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  2. It occurred to me, how character names are ironical to their actions. Not sure if that was intentional,but added a nice twist.

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  3. Gautama ( Buddha) fights, Vikrama ( brave) hesitates, Ajaya ( undefeated) is defeated alone by bandits. Revathi( evening guiding star) doubts and Shravanti (hard working woman) battles

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  4. I didn't but I am amazed at this significance. Thank you for pointing it out!

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  5. Inspired tale of a truly liberated woman who deals with life on her iwn termsπŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

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