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The Greek misinterpreted my reticence as reluctance to proceed with the purchase. To bolster his case, he said,

‘I am told, sir Kovalan, in Tamil norms no blame attaches to one who speaks a thousand lies to facilitate a welcomed marriage. There is no lie required or attached to this gift of love, sir. Simply, do not reveal its pedigree. When a man adorns his lover’s neck with a sparkling diamond, does he also regale her with tales of the slaves who work the dark mines? Some things are best left unsaid and when you don’t speak, sir Kovalan, you don’t lie.

‘Watch your relatives and friends behold these delicate beauties with awe. Let them envy your resourcefulness in locating such rarities. There is no story here, sir, only a clean palm leaf. Write your own epic, sir Kovalan, as you lovingly slip these over your wife’s slender ankles. If these ankle bracelets are beautiful now, imagine them when worn by your peerless queen.’

‘And what of the price, my dear Greek?’ said Anandan. ‘I remain wary for my friend, Kovalan, for I know well your reputation for hard bargains.’

Insulted by Anandan’s sudden talk of money, my cheeks flushed red. Though a dear friend, he had spoken as a new rich which was thanks to his father. He is yet to learn that real wealth does not speak of money.

‘You must excuse our dear friend, Anandan,’ I said. ‘He exhibits a direct streak which is refreshing, but also promises an occasional shock.’

‘His intentions are laudable, sir Kovalan, to keep you as sharp as a sword and to keep me as honest as daylight.’ Telamonius tapped Anandan on the shoulder and said, ‘But as you can see, sir Anandan, your friend and mine, sir Kovalan, is a cultured man, and his regal bearing and words are in concord. It is not the ways of the learned to let coin come between them, for she owes no man her loyalty.’

‘Wisely spoken, sir Telamonius,’ I said, ‘for panam, gold coin, indeed lacks loyalty and she is a tenuous lover.’

Nevertheless, with the subject of money now in play, I felt compelled to commit.

‘Hear me, sir Telamonius,’ I said, ‘and let us not dwell on this base topic of money. Whatever your planned profit, I shall double it, for my delicate love, my wife-to-be, deserves a gift that remains in the dreams of all others.’

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018

Song of the Ankle Rings, an adaptation of Silappatikaram

Continued on Monday: Chained and Unchained