Trivandrum is a little city in the south of India. It faces the sea and, though sweltering during the day, is cooled in the evening by the gentle on-shore breezes that circle the tip of the sub-continent. It was years since I had visited that small city with Pandayji, but I vividly recall the spontaneous, gregarious nature of its population. There were fishermen and farmers, soldiers and sailors; merchants hawking their wares, strangely dressed figures riding horses, shouting at the top of their voices. Yes, Trivandrum was a time warp from another place and time. Effortlessly with adaptability and grace, it spanned the centuries from long before the British Raj to this very day.
Walk down any street in Trivandrum and youll quickly find that youre in a time machine, jockeying among many eons. Lovely little restaurants and shops are haphazardly quilted along narrow alleys. While nearby in a tavern, rowdy rebels direct from the journals of Kipling or Clive sit quaffing the kings grog. Listen carefully and you may hear them whisper the name that strikes fear in the hearts of those who delight in injustice, those who prey on the less fortunate. I remember Pandayji in a hushed voice mentioning the legend of the Terror of Trivandrum.
Centuries ago the story goes, he was born a prince and was raised in the luxury of the ruling classes. A philosopher as well as a warrior, he grew into a wonderful young man who spent much of his time helping the poor people of his land. Then one day, an evil half-brother who coveted the throne assassinated his father. The young prince was captured and held prisoner in the dungeon by the new king. He subsequently escaped with the help of some loyal warriors,crossing the Vindya hills to set up camp in a remote refuge.
As time went by, he began helping others who had been wronged by those wielding power. He took from the rich and gave to the poor. He and his band of rebels championed the cause of the underdog. In many ways, he was the RobinHood of the territory. Many years passed, but he never returned as a prince to the kingdom of his father, preferring to spend the rest of his life fighting evil and injustice. No one seemed to remember his real name and, in time, he came to be known as the Terror of Trivandrum. Some say that he never died and is hundreds of years old. Others say the gods rewarded him with immortality because of his good deeds. Still others claim it is his great grandson who has continued the tradition of a modern day Zorro. Whatever the case may be, the legend of the Terror of Trivandrum continues in that ancient city and has traveled far beyond its borders.
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