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When Mother could not conceive again, she grew worried, and sought to assure my father. She said,

‘I remain of child-bearing age and the gods might yet bless us with a son.’

‘You dream, woman, of an age long gone.’

A male child was important to conduct the final rites for the father and carry the family line. A wife who did not produce a son risked having to share her husband with a second wife.

Father was a wealthy man, and he had a ready excuse acceptable to society. Mother grew distraught. But my dear father was an honourable man. There was no second wife to dethrone Mother, or step-mother to ill-treat me. Then, on another day, when discussing my future, he said,

‘My daughter will not master the veena, she will not learn to sing, and she will not dance.’ Not receiving a response, he turned harsh. ‘Do you hear me, woman?’

‘Why do you treat your swaddling daughter so? She needs talents in music and dance to complete her maturity, to keep her future husband entertained, and to gain approval from those whose home she enters as their family light.’

‘My mind is set, woman, and I will not be moved.’

More silence followed, for Father always went quiet when deep in thought. After a long hush, he said,

‘I will betroth her to my friend Masattuvan’s son, the boy Kovalan. We will seal the union in the prescribed manner before esteemed witnesses, with the exchange of promissory trays laden with gold, precious stones, flowers, and auspicious things.’

‘Kovalan is a fine boy,’ said Mother, ‘and at two years the elder, a good match for our Kannagi.’

And so it was, as a wet nurse suckled me, my parents decided my future and fate.

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018

Song of the Ankle Rings, an adaptation of Silappatikaram

Continued on Friday: Poom-Puhar