Pari Yerum Perumal & others

The hype around the Tamil movie ‘Pari Yerum Perumal’,prompted me to watch this poignant story of discrimination based on caste.

 The story is based in Tirunelveli, in Southern Tamil Nadu, known for its caste based classifications and violence. People got killed for marrying out of caste, though such instances are declining, thankfully.

This film talks about the heinous treatment met to the lowest strata of the caste hierarchy – the dalits – in a government law college. The story is poignant, direction excels, metaphors glitter and the movie leaves one with a deep sense of exasperation and helplessness.

Let me get this straight. This is one hell of a film that hits one on the face, with a sledge hammer soaked in the reality called caste discrimination.

But, why should this situation prevail after 70 years of national independence and a 40 year state rule by the so-called backward communities? Did not the ‘Dravidian Rule’ result in overcoming the past structures?  This model of questioning would open up the simmering wounds that refuse to heal though artificially stitched for the last 40 years and made to appear as though all was well in the subaltern.

Were not Annadurai and Periyar Ramasamy Naicker, the much deified leaders in TN, supposed to have demolished the caste hierarchies in the state and made Tamil Nadu a ‘model’ , ‘rationalist’ and  an ‘egalitarian’ state for other ‘backward’ northern Indian states to follow? What happened to the long handed out history that has been proclaiming from the rooftops of the dawn of such an elite state in India?

If the scenarios depicted in the film are true -yes, they are true as most of the incidents are from real life acts in the state- then should we rewrite the history books in Tamil Nadu and throw the names, Annadurai and Ramasamy Naicker, to the dustbins of history?

The ending scene where two glasses, one with left over tea+milk and the other with just tea, depicts the reality in the state – that caste differences exist. The subtle message couldn’t have been conveyed with any other metaphor, for the prevailing ‘Two-Tumbler’ system in Southern Tamil Nadu cannot be hid under the carpet to paint a rosy picture in the state. 

Then there is the usual spineless caricature of the brahmins – the scene in TASMAC, the state run liquor shop, where a fellow drinker is shown as one wearing three strokes of the sacred ash and sporting a half open shirt that exposes a wrongly worn sacred thread while mouthing the peculiar lingo of the brahmins (‘mama jammnunu irukken paaru’). The liquor consuming brahmin had no role to play in the film. He appeared just for that scene. Then why should he sport the sacred ash, wear the sacred thread in a publicly visible fashion and mouth brahmin oriented lingo? Could that character not have been anybody else without any caste indicators? 

No Tamil film worth its salt is complete without such a down right racist and wanton degrading depiction of the brahmin community. Unless rabid hatred is infused into the genes, such a depiction is not possible.

Let us look at some Tamil films that have such rabid anti-brahmin sentiments.

The case about Kalam Hasan’s film ‘Virumandi’ is worth a look here. Leaving along the conflict regarding the title ( Sandiyar Vs Virumandi), the movie depicted a conflict between the militant Thevar community and a numerically minuscule Telugu speaking Naickers in southern districts of Tamil Nadu. The irony is that there is no conflict between Naickers and Thevars, both being wealthy land owning classes from the feudal setup. The real conflict in the southern states was between Thevars, the feudal landlords and Dalits, the landless exploited group. But portraying reality could have cost the film its very right to be screened. Could any movie maker worth his name make a movie on the annual ceremony to the legendary freedom fighter ( and a representative of the Thevar community) Muthuramalinga Thevar and the rise in tension in the region due to Dalit resentment opposing the ceremony?

The recent Tamil blockbuster ‘Kolamavu Kokila’ had a Brahmin character, with a ‘Sri Churnam’ – the traditional red mark that the Iyengar brahmins wear on their forehead – playing the role of a pimp. What is the obsession with ‘Sri Churnam’ is a question for sociologists to answer.

Kamal Haasan’s super hit movie ‘Viswaroopam’ had him play the role of a spy in the guise of a Brahmin that cooked chicken for his Brahmin wife that loved chicken. The wife works in the USA as an oncologist and Kamal Haasan is a live at home husband that tutors girls in Bharatnatyam. The role of a docile Brahmin is in direct contrast to a jihadi hunting spy is an excellent contrast, no doubt, and brought the extreme traits meet at a common point. But why should Kamal Haasan be shown as cooking chicken which he admits not to consume it in the film? And why should the wife be depicted as consuming the same? What kind of a retarded depiction is this?

Yet another Tamil film by name ‘Joker’ had another ‘Sri Churnam’ sporting assistant to a minister. Nothing wrong except that the assistant utters holy hymns of the saintly Azhwars ( 8th Century Vaishnavite saints) at the most inappropriate of places and occasions, one being near a toilet. There was no connection what so ever. Any comical relief that was sought to be brought never happened.

Let us come back to Pari Yerum Perumal.

Take the case of the English professor who punishes the protagonist and his friend for being grossly ill-equipped in English. In the scene where he chastises the duo, he is shown with a clean forehead. In the scene where he recommends suspension of the protagonist for entering into the ladies’s room, the Professor is shown as wearing the ‘Sri Churnam’. Note the connection – Sri Churnam –> Iyengar –> English –> Punishment for not being proficient enough in English and therefore anti-dalit. 

Would the film have depicted a devout muslim, wearing a skull-cap, consuming liquor or a christian, wearing the holy cross, chastising the Dalit protagonist? The film didn’t even provide a hint of the caste of the oppressors in the film. And that is ‘Social Justice’ for the uninitiated.

In spite of these traditional lacunae, the film ‘Pari Yerum Perumal’ is a tight slap on the collective conscience of the dravidian strain of politics in the “Rational Republic of Tamil Nadu’. 

The vicious brahmin-hatred ingested into Tamil cinema’s blood stream in the last 50 years rears its ugly head in incremental fashion, from time to time, and makes its presence felt. Now the venom has permeated into the genes, thereby successive directors have inherited the trait and are depicting the same in some form and measure, without fail.  

Compare these films with gems such as ‘Asthu’, a Marathi film, on the Alzheimer afflicted Sanskrit Professor. Though I would want to ask ‘When would Tamil movie industry produce such films?’, I don’t expect any introspection and correction in the Tamil cinema community, for the pedigree speaks for itself through the films it produces.

      

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Hurray, suspended from Facebook

I had scheduled the below post six months ago when I had taken a hiatus from Facebook, but never published it as I had resumed my daily book reviews on the platform. But, yesterday, the platform decided to suspend my account, for a group of aroused activists had apparently ‘mass-reported’ a series of posts I had written to promote the holy practice of ‘Sandhya Vandhanam’.

I had published some old records of discourses on Sandhya Vandhanam by the legendary Sengalipuram Anantharama Dikshitar, Krishna Premi Swamigal and had urged those, who had the ordainment to do the ritual, to do so with the sincerity and devotion that was needed. As a practitioner, I stand testimony to the benefits.

Later, I had followed up with daily posts on the legendary Tamil savant ‘U.Ve.Saminatha Aiyer”s book ‘En Charitram’. I was so enamoured by the book that for the past one month I was continuously writing about the book as I progressed in an incremental basis.

Some groups had apparently thought that the above two amounted to ‘Ethnic Superiority’, ‘Racial Bias’ or some other stupid classification based on which posts and accounts could be suspended.

Facebook wants me to ‘contest’ the claim and reclaim my account. I have decided that there is no need to ‘pluck the nail’, as the Tamil saying goes, and have chosen not to plead for restoration of my suspended account. So much for freedom of speech.

Friends and well wishers have asked me to contest and reclaim the account. I could give in at a later time, but not now, for sure, even though I understand the immense broadcast capabilities of Facebook.

Here is the post that I had wanted to publish earlier.

I have been away from Facebook for a month now. I continue to link my blog posts to FB though I haven’t spent more than a minute in my Timeline. Once I post my blog link, I exit FB. ( now this will not happen, though)

How I feel now:

  • No more ‘Always On’
  • No more irritations in the morning
  • No more anxiety disorders
  • No more wasted / stressed days
  • Mind is free to discuss real matter rather than politically correct / perceived issues
  • No need to feign anger on issues that don’t have to be feigned on
  • No need to be politically correct while being rationally stupid.
  • No need to worry too much on a post that could be perceived as being sensitive
  • No need to be ready to consume abuse from unknown trolls
  • No need to be continuously bombarded with apocalypse and armageddon
  • No need to ‘feel’ for Syria, ‘stand’ for Cuba, ‘pray’ for Palestine and ‘save’ dog/cat/bull/whale with hashtags
  • No need to counter fundamentalist preachings of any kind

Benefits :

  1. Come out of the state of mind that any name that has a Christian or a Muslim connotation would naturally be anti-national and a social evil
  2. Peace, bliss, mental stability
  3. More time to read and write
  4. Mind is calmer, all neurons are well rested and ready to perform any analysis without any burnout due to social media induced stress
  5. The benefits list continues to grow.

BTW, the world hasn’t ended, yet. Facebook fights should be continuing and people would be abusing complete strangers and thus spreading the venom of irritation. Only that I am not partaking of the ‘feast’.

  • … and I will continue to be away from #Facebook.

Tamil Nadu’s Education Scene

I had earlier written a piece asking for more CBSE schools in Tamil Nadu and drew flak from many from the Tamil Nadu State Board Schools. Well, I don’t mean to beat around the bush and say ‘politically correct’ but ‘practically insignificant’ things. I write for progress and change. Here is how the state board education system sucks in Tamil Nadu.

Let us look at the number of children entering the IITs from the TN State Board. Here are some infographic reports that tell what we already know yet don’t want to acknowledge. This is for the year 2017. 

 

Why such an abysmal statistic when the TN state board’s education system is supposed to be ‘top class’? What ails the education system?

Even within IIT-Madras, the admission statistic paints a gloomy picture. Here what it says:

Out of these state board students who have joined the IITs, it would be a no-brainer to say that most of the students would have been from private schools affiliated to the state board and not the government schools. ( I don’t have data to substantiate this, but that could well be the case). And students would have attended expensive coaching classes for clearing the JEE.

For a moment, let us consider that the IIT-JEE entrance exam isn’t the barometer of excellence. Then the following data paints an even abysmal picture. TN’s mean score in English and Mathematics is way below the national average and abysmally below the mean scores from CBSE and ICSE boards. 

There is nothing wrong with the students. It is the state board, its curriculum and the woefully under-motivated teachers who are responsible for letting down the students who, for no fault of theirs, had chosen to study in Tamil Nadu’s State Board schools. 

Well, we can choose to recognise the lacuna and correct it or bury our heads in the sands of past glory and pretend as though all is well. 

Would the state government wake up?

FIITJEE Fables

Never in my blogs have I named a private business establishment. I have maintained that stand till date. Now I break my rule to name a company by name #FIITJEE, for the gullible don’t get conned.

FIITJEE is a coaching institute that began its operations in 1992. It was started by an IITian to provide training for the considerably difficult entrance exam for the Indian Institutes of Technology. The exam is JEE- Joint Entrance Exam and is one of the most difficult eligibility tests in the world to enter into the prestigious IITs.

FIITJEE’s courses have been popular and thousands take it year over year. With popularity, the cost of the courses also rose. The company came up with class room courses, and long distance courses and of late, has had tie-ups with mainstream CBSE schools and conducts its courses during school hours.

As the courses became popular and expensive, the company began conducting nation wide exams to select students for its preparatory courses. The carrot was ‘performance based scholarship’. People have been falling for it and the company was making good money. Nothing wrong so far, as the company was doing a good job of making students get through the entrance exams.

In August they announced a national test by name ‘Big-Bang’ to choose students. I had opted to  enroll my son, an VIII grader, so that he would become eligible to undergo a four year integrated course in a school in Chennai. As I am from Singapore, I had to fly down to Chennai for a day, make my son sit for the day long exam and return  home.

In the exam hall, FIITJEE conducted an interactive session to parents of prospective students. I came to know that the fees for 4 year preparatory course ( Class IX – XII ) would be Rs 8,00,000 (without scholarship) plus the fees charged by the school in which the course was run. In case the child got a scholarship, the fee would get reduced accordingly.

My son got 50% scholarship. I was expecting to pay Rs 4,00,000 and secure the Integrated School training. The company was gracious enough to offer me three packages with differing installments and the package ranged from Rs 6,67,035 to Rs 7,04,835 to 747,286 for the four years. This is in addition to a ‘Caution Deposit’ of Rs 2,00,000. And the school would charge additional fees as per its norms.

When I flaunted the 50% scholarship score, I got the shock of my life – the offer was after applying the scholarship. What that would mean is this: If my son would have not got any scholarship, I would have to pay close to Rs 12,00,000 plus a additional Rs 2,00,000 for ‘Caution Deposit’. FIITJEE was ‘kind enough’ to offer me a reduced fee, it seemed. And apparently the ‘50% scholarship’ was applicable only for the ‘tuition fees’.

I have not mentioned the software installation charges of Rs 3,500 and a mobile device maintenance fee of Rs 950 per year. One would have to buy an android tablet or choose to buy from their vendor of choice.

The above are for the 50% scheme.

I can afford the fees. But I still chose not to pay up, as I couldn’t come to terms with the monstrosity of the whole ponzi scheme.

I don’t intend to pass judgement on the business ethics or comment on the pricing. I have just one question: Why deceive children in the name of ‘scholarship’ ?

P.S.: I have gone through their past course materials. They are good. What troubles me is the attempt to loot.

How to make Macaulay turn in his grave?

History (or is it divinity?) has presented the Modi government with an opportunity of a millennium to set right the historical wrong that began in 1835.

Lord Babington Macaulay wrote the now infamous minute in that year to ‘ create a class of people who are Indians in colour but British in blood and tastes’. This he sought to achieve by introducing the English education to the masses thereby helping them overcome the ‘superstition ridden Sanskrit and Urdu based oriental education’.

Even Swami Vivekananda had this to say about the English education in India:

A negative education or any training that is based on negation, is worse than death. The child is taken to school, and the first thing he learns is that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing that all his teachers are hypocrites, the fourth that all the sacred books are lies! By the time he is sixteen he is a mass of negation, lifeless and boneless. And the result is that fifty years of such education has not produced one original man in the three Presidencies

Macaulay was quite successful in his efforts and the ‘class’ of Indians created by him, a representative being Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, ensured that the same education system was followed even after the British rule ended in 1947.

The universities and higher education sites created were far removed from the Indic thought base and were taking pride in continuing to deride the Indic value system.

Academics and media personnel who graduated from these ‘centres of excellences’ continued to propagate the hundred year old colonial value system proposed by Macaulay, with the result that all pillars of the country, from academia, to media, to judiciary were inundated with Nehruvian secularism trained aka brainwashed souls that continued to deride the Indic cultural values of the civilisation that was Bharat.

Now, the judiciary, with its totally uncalled for judgment in the Sabarimala case, has cut open the civilizational wound of a billion people.

With Kerala up against the regional and last communist government in the country, Prime Minister Modi has a golden opportunity to set right the historical wrong done by Lord Macaulay.

By bringing in an amendment to the constitution that the Judiciary can not interfere in the tantric rituals of temples, PM Modi would be able to set in motion a series of follow up measures by the other regional governments in India. And that would result in de-macaulaizing India, thus cleansing the nation of the macaulaian virus.

I feel that the centre is waiting for the state government to fail completely before acting decisively. Until then they would appear to keep mum under the oft repeated maxim ‘law and order is a state subject’. Pinnarai Vijayan, Kerala’s Chief Minister and his communist government are doomed, in any case. If they act against the verdict, it would amount to contempt of court; if they don’t act, then it would become a law and order problem coupled with loss of faith from the majority community in the state.

So, what Mr.Modi needs to do is: Wait now but act afterwards, decisively, with an amendment to the constitution and an ordinance. While an amendment would help keep the judges at bay, an ordinance would send a powerful message to the people at large that the government would not sacrifice its Indic support base just to score some brownie points from the ‘sick-ul-ar’ media ( that has not been forthcoming, anyway).

I expect Congress and is allies to oppose the ordinance and amendments  in the winter session of the parliament. But I also expect the Congress MPs from Kerala to oppose the party’s stand, if it chooses to oppose the ordinance. I also expect the ‘allies’ or what ever is left of them not to join ranks with Congress to oppose the ordinance as that act would further alienate them from the already aggrieved masses of the majority community.

What if the Modi government has been keeping silent in the Sabarimala case as the case might not have as much national repercussion as a favourable verdict in the soon to be announced Ram Jenma Bhoomi case? In such a scenario too, I would welcome the central government’s silence now, for if they oppose the Sabarimala verdict now and bring in an ordinance, they would be compelled to bring in another ordinance to overturn a possible ‘favourable’ judgment in the Ram Jenma Bhoomi case.

Having said this, I don’t expect the communist government of Kerala to bring in an ordinance to pre-empt the center into endorsing the same. Just in case better sense prevails and the state government brings in the ordinance, I would still welcome it, for that would ensure a surefire funeral to the already dead philosophy of communism in India.

In any case, it is time for a grand funeral for the minute of 1835 and make Lord Macaulay turn in his grave.

History doesn’t give a second chance.

True Communist Manifesto = Manava Sewa

A friend’s highly educated parents were former communists from the Naxalbari movement, communists in the real sense of the word, ones that can talk on Marxism for hours.

His father died in jail when Ray was the CM of Bengal and the mother, in her eighties now, lives alone in the hills of bengal to serve the poor people there – arranging medical camps, sourcing un-sold medicines from chemists to distribute to poor plantation / estate workers, arranging science classes for hill children etc.

An idealist that the mother was, she never forced her ideas on her children and let them do what they wanted. She had struggled hard, worked as a teacher all her life, to bring her children up.

All her children are well settled, one is an engineer in India, another, a banker in Singapore, and a daughter is a doctor in Punjab. The banker son has never been with his father.

Despite pressure from children, the mother has refused to move out of her ancestral home in the hills. She says ‘I am here to serve. I can’t while away my time baby sitting for you in foreign countries.’ She has been serving the hill children for the last two decades. Idealism personified.

This is the communist whose feet I would fall at. In these times of #urbannaxals, we better remember what a true communist would be like.

Stuttering as a birthright

When Tilak proclaimed  ‘Swarajya is my birthright,’ from my school history book , I proclaimed in my mind, ‘Stutter is my birthwrong’.

I realized I had a stutter when people mocked me. ‘Stutter is in my blood,’ I thought then. It used to be a painful experience to keep shut in class when I knew an answer but couldn’t dare to venture. Naturally I became self conscious, kept mum and became an ‘average’ child.

Being introverted became a virtue. Elders cited my calm demeanor as proof of obedience. This reinforced my resolve to keep mum and remain average, for I could avoid limelight and embarrassment if asked to speak on something.

My first official tryst with the truth came in Class 3 when I was chosen for a Tamil oratorical competition. When I had qualified in a semi-final round, the teacher in charge remarked ‘Why this boy? He can’t even talk properly, leave alone give a speech.’ I began to notice sheepish grins among friends, whenever I spoke and stuttered.

I continued in my journey of being an ‘average’ boy and lived in my cocoon.

Only my language teachers found value in my writings.

All of a sudden CBSE found out that I wasn’t fit to be an average boy and declared that I had topped the nation in English in the Class-X Central Board exams. With The Hindu, Indian Express and Doordarshan coming to my door for interview, I had to open my mouth, and, declare my impediment for all the world to see.

The Hindu and Indian Express gave me scholarships. NCERT followed suit. I began to wonder, ‘Do I qualify for all these, for I have always been an ‘average’ student at school?’, the feeling of being an average performer having been instilled in my psyche.

I researched in the Neyveli Library for cure. From pebble-mouthing to deep-breathing, I tried every means known. There was even a minor tongue surgery. Nothing changed. I, a natural introvert, took to reading and writing a lot. When I had to meet Rajiv Gandhi to receive a prize, I dared not, and requested my dad to go to Delhi. He got it from Dinesh Singh, the then Union Minister.

When the 44th Jeer of Ahobila Mutt visited Neyveli, I was tasked to write a welcome address in English. I wrote but gave it to my uncle to read. The then Chairman of NLC was happy with the content and when he came to know that a Class XI student had written it, called me to congratulate. I made sure I didn’t open my mouth. I realized that my potential was not in speaking but in writing.

Things didn’t get better when I was ragged in college. But later began to change for the better. I became the leader for the least desired ‘English Literary Association’ and took to stage at every given opportunity. While the audience suffered, I gained. I took part in Tamil debating competitions as well. Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to win friends and influence people’ gave me lots of tips at that age.

Then it dawned on me – Stutter had nothing to do with genes. It was a function of the mind. When the brain rushed information to the vocal chords and tongue to deliver, and there was a traffic jam, the tongue struggled. So there I was, with an in-born speed-breaker in the road from brain to tongue, but with an above average mental faculty.

Here is the trick I used to overcome the impediment. Improve vocabulary. Having been addicted to The Hindu early in life, and having been a great fan of its ‘Know Your English’ section, my word quotient was above average. So, I trained myself to perform quick mental look-ups for any word that I knew to make me flounder. Thanks to Neyveli Library,I read more books than any other in class. My competitor was my legendary English teacher, the late T.K.Ramanujam ( better known as Bahu). But I never beat him in the number of books read per week.

Today, I am an author, banker and speaker. Yes, I speak on every given occasion. I still stutter, at times, when stressed or when angry.

Having realized that stuttering is a function of an over-active mind that gushes with more data than the traffic channels can handle, I give a damn about it. It is an occupational hazard due to deep reading since school days, I reassure myself, for some of the master orators of all times, Churchill and Demosthanes, stuttered.

Anyway, stuttering is not my problem. It is the audience’s.

Recently I saw an interview of E.M.S.Namboodiripad, the legendary leader and stutterrer.
Inteviewer: ‘ EMS, Do you always stutter?’.
EMS: ‘No, I stutter only when I speak’.

So, stutterers of the world, forget it. For, you don’t gain anything by remembering you are one. Any impediment, be it physical or mental, is compensated by an additional dose of some other faculty. That is how God ensures equilibrium.

Σx  is always a constant. Deficiency is compensated, somehow. That is the design of nature.

P.S.: Pass this on to students who might need it. Ask them to call if they need help.
This post is a result reading Prof. Uthra Durairajan’s fantastic Tamil poem on https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Futhra.dorairajan%2Fposts%2F2392290920798013&width=500“>’average’ children.

Follow me on Facebook: https://facebook.com/aapages

Atalji – a family member who never came home

Our family was going through a particularly difficult phase in 1997. My father was about to retire in 1999. We would have wanted all the help in the world at that time. That was when Atalji extended the retirement age of govt employees to 60. That not only saved the family, but also helped tide over some crises.
My brother’s civil engineering degree saw its full use when he got extensive experience in road works, thermal station expansion works, atomic power plant works, bridges and metro rail works. All due to Atalji’s un-dilutedly patriotic national development works. Golden Quadrilateral is one such.
Atal Behari VajpayeeThe world gave up on India when Atalji, ably aided by Kalam and George Fernandes, conducted the Pokhran-II nuclear explosion. All the opposition parties ganged up and attacked the government. Developed countries wrote India’s obituary as the US, Japan, Australia, France and Britain imposed economic sanctions. Atalji pooh-poohed the nay-sayers and made Bill Clinton relax the sanctions.
Atalji gave Pakistan the bus to Lahore, while the latter responded with Kargil. Atalji gave Jayalalithaa a ray of decorum after her humiliating defeat in the 1995 elections. She retaliated with the no-confidence vote. Later he came back to power with a decent majority. 
Atal Behari Vajpayee showed the world that India had spine. His follower Narendra Modi takes India further by showing the world that India will use its spine to stand up and be counted.
Atalji – You will be long remembered as one of modern India’s greatest statesmen who had a long and admirable career starting with questioning Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in Parliament to ensuring India’s rightful place in the international comity of nations.
India has lost a statesman and a parliamentarian par excellence. I have lost a family member, a patriarch. I hope many would feel so too.

Kalaignar Karunanidhi (1924-2018)

An era has ended. May Kalaignar’s soul reach the abode of the Lord that he publicly announced to have despised.

Kalaignar will be remembered for all that he had said, stood for, and done. So, what did he stand for and what does his era signify?

Kalaignar’s era was characterised by nepotism, hatred towards Hinduism in general and the Brahmins in particular,  funded by missionaries who never stopped short of calling him their saviour and benefactor, and any thing even remotely anti-India. 

A quick thinker and a fast learner, he switched sides, without compunction, to stay in power at any cost. Having worked for and against the Congress party on three different occasions, he chose to ride with the right wing BJP to enjoy the fruits of power at the center and without any second thought, quit the right wing alliance towards the end of the term and switched back to supporting the Congress. He was called a ‘Chanakya’ but was actually a rank opportunist and a clinger to power.

He roused the emotions of the people on every issue and then reaped rewards from those. The anti-hindi agitation was one such.

Kalaignar did not have a single stand on any issue. He always had a minimum of two stands and was adept in reasoning out both ways. Sri Lankan Tamil cause is a case in point. He supported the Tamil rebel groups that opposed LTTE, for the latter was patronised by MGR. Later, when the LTTE eliminated all other Tamil groups, he didn’t feel shy to support the Tigers. From supporting India’s intervention in Sri Lanka to calling for IPKF’s withdrawal, to passing on classified secrets to the Tigers, to denying their existence in Tamil Nadu, in supporting secessionism, to occasionally standing for India’s unity when he found berths in the central cabinet, from ridiculing hindu rituals and symbols and castigating his party men from following hindu rituals, to turning a blind eye to his family members’ association with temples and rituals, from casting aspersions on hindu saints to welcoming Sai Baba home, he had a dualist approach in all that he touched. 

His often touted contributions to Tamil are mostly over-hyped emotion tinged statements meant for public consumption. His reign saw the mushrooming of low quality English medium matriculation schools ( MGR and Jayalalithaa are no exceptions here), degradation of the state’s primary education infrastructure, and general apathy towards corruption among public servants. When the state’s educational infrastructure is often connected with K.Kamaraj, the state’s decline due to corruption and malfeasance is linked with Kalaignar. MGR and Jayalalithaa helped carry forward this legacy with the result that dravidian rule has come to be known as the reign of corrupt politicians.

It started with Kalaignar’s  Veeraanam Scam in the late 60s. Justice Sarkaria’s report on the then government’s corrupt practices termed Kalaignar’s reign thus: ‘Scientific Corruption’. Tamil Nadu’s march towards decadence and rust was initiated by Kalaignar and carried forward by MGR and Jayalalithaa. Being corrupt is now not a cause for remorse or regret. That is the victory for the dravidian reign.

A defining aspect of Kalaignar’s rule has been a gradual lowering of standards in public discourse. Indecent words, swear words and double entendres, that ridiculed women in public, became the norm. Especially with Jayalalithaa as the arch-enemy, the volume and intensity of the talks increased. And the pity was, Kalaignar rewarded such talks with plum positions in government and in the party. 

World Tamil Conference, espoused by his mentor Anna Durai, later carried forward by his arch rival MGR, became a pricking point for Kalaignar. He was not able to conduct a World Tamil Conference during his last term in office as that was not approved by the world organization that had to give a go-ahead. He brought about another festival – the Semmozhi Festival- at great expense to the public exchequer to ostensibly promote Tamil, but ended up promoting family ‘talent’. During his reign, academic research in Tamil became a thing of ridicule (he awarded a Ph.D to a ‘scholar’ who produced a thesis that said Thiruvalluvar was a disciple of St.Thomas). 

Whenever Kalaignar assumed power ( five time Chief Minister), anti-national rhetoric gained traction  and the government turned a blind eye to such nefarious activities. Debates in the legislative assembly were either verbal assaults on the opposition or singing competitions eulogising Kalaignar (Jayalalithaa wasn’t far behind in this). Rivalry between MGR and Kalaignar became so virulent that mere exchange of pleasantries between the ruling and opposition members were scoffed at. The trend continues to this day, to the merriment of the politicians from other states.

Kalaignar’s last term was characterised mostly by corruption, nepotism, and bland display of sycophancy at every level. Governance became a casualty, with his own children and extended family members fighting for the spoils of the administration, both at the state level and at the central level where the DMK had a say.

Kalaignar would be remembered for two schemes –  Uzhavar Sandhai ( farmer’s market)  and Valluvar Reading Rooms, both of which are now defunct. He would also be remembered for his attempt to sell arrack in polythene sachets and converting the state to a place of ugly statues. Another star scheme that helped attract many followers was the ‘First Graduate Scheme’ that has indeed helped many from the poorer sections to become graduates with a little push from the government.

Kalaignar Karunanidhi – A man who had very humble beginnings, yet raised his family’s wealth to stratospheric levels at the cost of the state’s administration and the country’s standing in the international comity of nations. That the party which suffered several splits during his term did not disintegrate into un-noticeable subgroups is a testimony to the organisational skills of Kalaignar. He kept his party together and the DMK stands tall as a cadre based party that has some potential left.

Kalaignar, who is called the ‘Last Dravidian Stalwart’, was a man who had all the chances to become a Lee Kuan Yew but gave up all those in pursuit of personal glory and family wealth to the detriment of the state and nation.

Kalaignar Karunanidhi

An astute politician, a life-long fighter, the epicenter for his party, a pragmatic leader who somehow had the aura of an able administrator, and an almost statesman, Kalaignar would be long remembered for all he had said and done. As the unifying force for the millions of party cadre, he leaves behind a dilapidated party often fraught with internecine rivalries. Truly, a fighter who has called it a day after 94 years of continuous combat. The party leadership should unite in this time of transition to ensure cadre don’t vaporize into the myriad fissiparous pull factors visible in the state.