Friday, August 22, 2014

Ponnar and Shankar Part X: The Wily Artisan

  • One day the elder twin, Ponnar, left the palace on his own to visit the Ganesh temple nearby. We don’t know where his brother was, but perhaps he is a lone in the gaming room enjoying playing dice in solitaire fashion, against himself. As Ponnar reaches the small shrine an artisan appears walking towards him. He is carrying something golden under one arm.

  • The artisan greets Ponnar and they begin to talk. Ponnar asks where he is going and the artisan names a place that is some distance away. Dusk is beginning to fall.

  • Ponnar comments that such a long journey is too much to complete before dark. So he invites the stranger to spend the night in the Ponnivala palace and to continue on his journey the next day.

  • The artisan accepts his hospitality. It is getting quite dark. The two men start back towards Ponnar’s fine home.

  • When they arrive the artisan shows Ponnar the lovely measuring vessel he is carrying. He asks Ponnar where he can keep it so that it will be safe for the night. Ponnar suggests he place it in the palace storeroom along with his own family’s large collection of similar vessels. He gestures towards the table where these containers sit.

  • The artisan notices a small oil lamp that lights the storeroom. He asks if he may place his vessel near this light and away from the other vessels so that it will be clearly identifiable in the morning.

  • Ponnar agrees and wishes the artisan a good night’s sleep. He has the maid bring a mat and a coverlet and shows his guest where to lie down. Then he leaves the room.

  • The artisan lies down and pretends to sleep. But he is actually keeping himself awake.

  • When it is truly the dead of night the artisan decides to get up and creep back to the storeroom. He spotted two swords there and he is hoping to steal one. Maybe he will even attack Ponnar with it! Ponnar doesn’t know that this man is an old family rival from his mother and father’s time in the palace. Being a kind and gentle soul, Ponnar has not asked too many questions. He doesn’t know that the artisan is taking advantage of the fact that his brother Shankar and his sister Tangal are nowhere to be seen.

  • Once in the storeroom the artisan lifts one of the swords off its place on the wall. It is heavy, indeed much heavier than he had imagined. He is not a warrior and he is not used to using this kind of weapon!

  • As fast as you can sneeze the sword slips from the artisan’s hand. As it falls it cuts him on one shoulder. The artisan cries out in pain.

  • Ponnar hears the sobbing and jumps up from his bed. “What is that?” he thinks to himself. “It sounds like someone is crying.” Ponnar makes his way to the storeroom.

  • Once he enters the secret room he discovers his guest there, now with a wound on his shoulder. Ever polite and trusting Ponnar asks how this happened. The artisan simply says he came to the storeroom to check on his vessel and happened to touch the sword… which then fell on him because it was so heavy!

  • Ponnar believes his guest. He calls a maid and has her give him some ointment for the wound. Then he simply asks the visitor to go back to bed and wait until morning.  

  • When morning does come the artisan finds Ponnar and asks him to come to the storeroom with him. Ponnar says he can go by himself to collect his vessel but the artisan insists. When the two arrive it is Ponnar who has a shock.  

  • Now where the golden vessel that belonged to his visitor once stood there is only a plain wooden vessel. The artisan knew his think gold coating would melt but Ponnar does not notice the small pool of gold now sitting at the base of the vessel.

  • The artisan quickly seizes the opportunity and accuses Ponnar of having stolen his golden vessel and having replaced it with a wooden one. Ponnar denies this, of course. Indeed, he becomes quite annoyed at the behaviour of his guest. He keeps on stating his innocence, over and over again.

  • The artisan pursues what he sees as an opportunity. He tells Ponnar that he will have to prove his innocence by taking a truth “test.” The test will be to swim through the irrigation sluice tunnel that is located at the mouth of Ponnvala’s very large irrigation tank.

  • Ponnar tries to picture this in his mind. He feels a little scared but he wants to prove his innocence. He is gullible and again he does not ask questions or really resist. After a few more attempts to placate his angry guest Ponnar agrees to take the test.

  • As they walk to the irrigation sluice the artisan notices a small stone shrine dedicated to Ganesh by the side of the channel that exits the sluice.

  • Now Ponnar begins his swim through the dark tunnel. Fortunately Lord Vishnu, always loyal to the twin heroes, arrives quickly. He swims ahead of Ponnar, guiding him through the tunnel. It is a difficult swim!

  • Meanwhile Tangal is sitting in her favorite swing and again she has a horrifying dream. She sees that Ponnar is trying to swim through the irrigation tunnel. She is afraid for his life. She also knows that last night’s visitor, a deceitful artisan, is behind this odd adventure. She begs Shankar to go to the sluice right away and try to help his brother.

  • Shankar mounts his horse Nila as fast as he possibly can. He starts to race towards the sluice.

  • Just as he draws near he sees the artisan on top of the sluice. He is holding that statue of Lord Ganesh above his head, as if to try to drown poor Ponnar as he exits the sluice tunnel.

  • Shankar drives his horse even faster. Shambuga, the loyal assistant, is not far behind.

  • Now Shankar throws his favorite sword. It flies true and straight. This magical sword has great accuracy.

  • This action by Shankar is just in time. He manages to knock the artisan into the water while the stone statue stays on top of the sluice’s cover. Ponnar is saved and the artisan has lost his head!

  • But there is more to come. A group of Vettuvas had made a pact with the artisan and promised to meet him at the sluice gate at this very time. They also have no love for the Ponnivala heroes who have been steeling iron from them and have just kidnapped their lovely female parrot as well.

  • The Vettuvas begin to attack. Shankar has retrieved his sword and has started to fight back.

  • Ponnar takes on another Vettuva who tries to attack him with his fighting stick.

  • Shambuga helps with this first Vettuva hunter -versus- Ponnivala farmer battle as well. After some time the Ponnivala heroes are victorious. Shankar has saved his brother from a wayward artisan, and now he and his brother together have saved them both from the forest dwellers’ aggression.

  • The two brothers return home where their loyal sister greets them with great relief. The two men smile but they never tell her about all the dangers they have just fought their way through. The two men simply reassure their sister that all is now well!

[<==Back to Part 9]

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