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My wedding date loomed, and with dozens of matters requiring attention, the well-ordered household had grown chaotic. Heaps of shimmering fabrics, a jumble of brass and silverware, and piles of perfumed wood and eye-catching oil lamps and figurines assembled for the wedding cluttered the courtyard.

Father attended to the high officials and Mother to the ladies and their whims. It fell on me, despite constant interference from relatives and well-wishers who kept flaunting age and experience to steer things their way, to arrange for the garments, jewellery, and dowry for Kannagi. My bride.

I smiled. Friend, confidante, and even competitor. But bride? Kannagi and Kovalan. Kovalan and Kannagi. Day and night. Sun and moon. Two earrings to complete the whole. Paired all our lives, it was difficult to mention one name without the other rolling off the tongue. Promised at birth, and the day would soon be upon us.

The principal article for Kannagi’s dowry had caused many sleepless nights and several days of counsel as I sifted through a vast selection of treasures fit for my future queen. I exercised great diligence because family, friends, and wider society would be quick to fault any shortcomings, whether real or imagined. As I was my parents’ only son, my future wife, the incoming flame of the family altar, would in time hold the keys to our fortunes—she will wield the keys to the iron safes. A heavy responsibility that my parents would transfer after a suitable passage of time, with the arrival of the first grandchild. Until then, the elders deemed the newlyweds as too inexperienced and too preoccupied with one another, and even too frivolous, to shoulder the burden.

With celebrations stretching for days, Mother had declared that her new daughter-in-law would not wear the same set of clothing and jewellery twice. There were plenty of all nine auspicious stones: brilliant white diamonds; fiery red rubies; flawless green emeralds; perfect milky pearls; flaming orange coral; honey coloured yellow sapphires; multi-hued blue sapphires; lustrous hessonites; and lightning streaked cats eye gemstones. Added to these were the usual gold and silver. I selected the finest silks imported specially from Seenam, the mighty nation of the Middle Kingdom in the Orient. The ship survived the perilous journey, several weeks long, and when the captain finally dropped anchor, Father heaved a sigh of relief. And as the days progressed, the symbols of high wealth scattered throughout the house continued to grow.

The entire city had some part to play in the wedding. And when Anandan, my friend of six lives, appeared, with welcomed relief I embraced him. He was second only to Kannagi in my heart. He would provide a respite from the chores and perhaps even a solution to my problem. Anandan did not fail me on both counts.

He fetched Telamonius the Greek, a man of many years and a merchant of sorts, who had in his possession an intriguing article.

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018

Song of the Ankle Rings, an adaptation of Silappatikaram

Continued on Friday: A Discard for a Wedding Gift