Aromal Chekavar – Kadathanadan Kalaripayattu Warrior (Part 2)
Preparation for the fight began immediately. Aromal started training harder than ever. Every evening he was in the Kalari, sharpening his mind and body and every night before bed he would pray to the gods to win their favour. He was in the best shape of his life and he felt confident that he would beat Aringoder.
A few days before the angam was scheduled Aromal’s weapons were sent off to the blacksmith for maintenance by Kannapa. Knowing how important the task was Kannapa chose Aromal’s cousin and dear friend Chandu to carry out the errand.
‘Chandu’, he said, ‘I know that you love Aromal as much as I do and you would do anything for him to help him win this angam. That is why I am trusting you to deliver these weapons to the blacksmith for maintenance. Can you do this for me?’
Chandu looked at him Kannapa lovingly and replied ‘You have been like a father to me since my parents died. I owe you everything. Of course I will deliver these weapons, for you as much as for Aromal.’. With that he picked up the weapons – a sword, a knife and a dagger – and set off towards the blacksmith.
‘Oh, and don’t let Aringoder see you on your journey! He lives close to the blacksmith and, with his reputation, it’s best he doesn’t know where Aromal’s weapons are.’ Kannapa called after him as he rounded the corner.
After a long journey Chandu was just approaching the blacksmith when a shout stopped him in his tracks.
‘Hey! Chandu! What do you have there?’
He turned around. It was Aringoder, sitting on the porch outside of a house next to the road. Chandu realised this must be Aringoder’s house, very near the blacksmith as Kannapa had warned him.
‘Nothing that concerns you, Aringoder.’ he replied sharply.
‘They look a lot like Aromal’s weapons.’ Aringoder persisted, ‘Are you taking them to the blacksmith? You must have come a long way, please come and have some tea in my house before you continue.’
‘No thank you!’ Chandu snapped, although he was very weary and badly wanted a cup of tea. He had turned to go on his journey when Aringoder changed tactics and called after Chandu:
‘You know, I was surprised that you weren’t asked to fight in the angam instead of Aromal. You are, by all accounts the better Kalari warrior in both Tulu Nadu and Kadathanadan styles, yet here you are running errands for Aromal like a lowly servant. What a waste of talent.’
These words hurt Chandu greatly because he had secretly been thinking them himself. His loyalty to Kannapa was strong, however, and these childish tactics would not work on him. Without even dignifying Aringoder’s words of poison he continued marching down the road to the blacksmith.’
Seeing that Chandu’s resolve was stronger than he thought Aringoder called out once more, this time more out of spite than genuine hope that it would stop Chandu.
‘They don’t treat you right, Chandu. If they did then they would have let you marry Unniyarcha, instead of letting her spurn you!’
These words cut Chandu to his very core. He had indeed wanted Unniyarcha to marry him but her parents, seeing her for the free spirit that she was, could not try to coerce her into marrying a man she did not love, and she did not love Chandu. She had broken his heart but still he remained loyal to the family. He trudged on with his head held low, secretly cursing the family he was bound to serve.
Aringoder had one last act of desperation up his sleeve. He ran inside to find his beautiful daughter and even more beautiful niece.
‘Girls, you must help me. My time is up, if I fight Aromal Chekavar in this angam on a level playing field he will kill me. We can’t let it be a fair fight. If you want dear old Aringoder to live then you must make Chandu come in for some tea. Throw him a party if thats what it takes, just get out there and bring him in!’
The panic in Aringoder’s voice pressed the girls into action. They ran outside just as Chandu was about to pass out of sight and called to him:
‘Chandu! Won’t you come inside for a drink? We can’t bear to see you stuck on such a long journey without the prospect of any refreshments.’
Chandu was just about to tell the girls to leave him alone when he turned around and looked at them. His heart leapt. They were gorgeous. His resolve had already been battered by the poisonous words of Aringoder and the sight of these two stunning beauties was enough to tip him over the edge. For a brief moment he forgot about Kannapa and Aromal, he forgot about the angam and he forgot his honour. Without saying a word he let the girls take a hand each and lead him into Aringoder’s house.
The girls threw Chandu a party the likes of which he had never seen, full of food and music and dancing. They flirted mercilessly with him and he fell under their spell in an instant.
Hours later as he was reluctantly getting ready to leave he turned to Aringoder and said ‘That was one hell of a party! I owe you one, thank you.’
‘If you really mean that then there is a small favour you could do for me.’ replied Aringoder with a grin. ‘Take Aromal’s weapons to the blacksmith and have him change all of the iron pins and nails for wooden ones. I will make it worth your while.’
Chandu looked horrified. ‘Nothing in the world could make me betray my dear friend and cousin like that. How dare you even ask?’ he said sternly.
‘I’ll give you half of everything that I own and I will make both my daughter and my niece your brides.’ Aringoder said with a straight face.
Chandu had never imagined in his wildest dreams that he would be offered such a thing. For a price like that he would have probably done a lot more.
‘Deal!’ he said, shaking hands with the gleeful Aringoder, and with that he picked up the weapons, threw his honour to the dusty ground and went on his way to the blacksmith.
To be continued…