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‘Truly spoken, sir Kovalan, but please hear my feeble words,’ said the Greek. ‘These were not rejected because of flaws seen or unseen, but because of their music. Evidently, my friend’s client sees no merit in the music made by rubies. But does that diminish their worth or value? There are some who prefer the song of the malabar, and for others the mockingbird is more divine. These prejudices are as unique as the judgements of one who sees beauty in one maiden but fails to be captivated by another, even when the second is equally if not more pleasing.’

The Greek leaned in and I, catching a whiff of his stale, disagreeable breath, bent back but held his fixed smile. He said,

‘Do one’s prejudices diminish the beauty of a fair maiden or the song of a gifted bird? This pair, sir Kovalan, will never again be found anywhere in the world. I was on my way to the harbour where even now my galley tugs at her moors, ready to catch the wind, but providence intervened and our thoughtful friend, sir Anandan, who loves you as a brother intercepted me. So, here I am at the bidding of friend and fate.’

Ordinarily, such rambling would irritate me. But on this occasion, the man’s verbosity gave me time to think. Taking my smile as an invitation to continue, he said,

‘Your bright new wife-to-be, sir, is the only person worthy to wear these anklets. And favoured fate has chosen you, already promised a blissful communion, to relish the whispered melodies of this divine creation. Take the high ground, sir Kovalan, and recognise the hands of gods at play. They wish to bless your union and had these marvels crafted and, lest these fall into wrong hands, they have charged me as their instrument of deliverance into your possession.

‘Though I have not yet had the pleasure and privilege to set eyes on your dear promised wife, Kannagi, whom I already consider my little sister, I hear said by all who know her, in person and in passing, that she is herself a creation of great purity and the gods broke the mould after breathing life into her. She, and only she, is fit to wear these anklets. Hear the music within, sir Kovalan, sung by the finest of rubies.’

The Greek shook the anklets, and indeed the tones mesmerised with their fine clean tinkling that soughed and sang. The ankle rings spoke to me and I imagined the music accompanying the footsteps of my beloved Kannagi as she moved about our home. And the thought of the mellifluous melody of the many tongued ankle bracelets whispering various enchanting modes filled me with immense joy.

At long last, I had found the important addition to Kannagi’s dowry. A peculiar arraying of birth stars had denied my Kannagi the skills of music, a vital attribute for a high-born woman such as herself. The music from these ankle rings, I supposed, would veil and compensate for her lack of artistic skills, and please my parents and dispel the gossip.

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018

Continued on Friday: A Tenuous Lover forfeits his Humility