Today, September 15, 2009 marks the birth centenary of one of the greatest sons of Tamil Nadu, Conjeevaram Natarajan Annadurai or Anna as he is affectionately known. He was a statesman, a scholar, a litterateur, a social reformer, a mass leader, a friend of the poor, a writer, an actor, a playwright, a poet, a satirist, a politician and above all a good human being. Attired in simple South Indian Veshti and a shirt, he was austere, mostly silent and quiet; but strong and dynamic as and when the occasion demanded. This writer had the good fortune of interacting with him on a couple of occasions. He never cared for his look or appearance. Often, he will come out in the open with an unshaven face, carrying a broad innocent smile.
He had contempt for ceremonials, rituals and superstitions but was more than tolerant to the other men’s views. He not only made history. Truly, Anna’s life is the very history of Tamil Nadu. What was his special quality? As Kannadasan said,” Just as a peacock would never dance for its own pleasure, Anna never spent even a moment of his life for himself.”
As Karunanidhi says, “Annadurai had his roots deep in the land of his birth and its culture. He was always dressed in simple South Indian style and presented a picture of tenderness. He was austere and quiet, but strong and dynamic when occasion needed. He had contempt for ceremonials and superstitions but was tolerant to other men’s views. He was a statesman and a scholar, a litterateur and a social reformer, a mass leader and a friend of the poor. Anna will be ever remembered specially as the maker of the new Tamilnadu.
Rajaji, who succeeded in ‘beating the congress with the DMK shoe,’ had praised the DMK regime led by Anna as a fine example of people’s rule.
Anna said: Onre Kulam;Oruvane Devan – One humainity One God. Kaththiyaith theettaathae; budhhiyaith theettu – sharpen not the knife; sharpen thy brains. Thaevai: Kadamai, Kanniyam, Kattuppadu – Thelivu, Thunivu, Kanivu – What we need are: Duty, Dignity, Discipline – Clarity, Courage, Compassion.
How did he deal with Indian government’s arguments for making Hindi the official or link language of India?
Let me quote: “A man had two dogs – a big one and a small one. He wanted his dogs to go in and out of the house freely without him having to keep the house door open all the time. So he built two “trap doors” – one big trap door for the big dog and one small for the small dog. Neighbours who saw these two doors laughed at him and called him an idiot. Why put a big door and a small door? All that was needed was the big door. Both the big and the small dog could use it!
Indian government’s arguments for making Hindi the official or link language of India are as ridiculous as the need for a big door and a small door for the big dog and the small dog. Indian government agrees that English is needed for communication with the world, and every school in India teaches English after the fifth grade. Then the Indian government says that all of us should know Hindi also in order to communicate amongst ourselves within India. I ask, “Since every school in India teaches English, why can’t it be our link language? Why do Tamils have to study English for communication with the world and Hindi for communications within India? Do we need a big door for the big dog and a small door for the small dog? I say, let the small dog use the big door too!”
Sometime back, poet Vali narrated a personal incident. Anna had given him his maiden assignment as a lyricist in a movie. Vali went on a pilgrimage to Tirupathi to pay obeisance to Lord Venkatachalapathi. Vali returned with a tonsured head. Anna, when told of his Tirupathi trip told Vali, ‘You are from Srirangam. Since you went to Tirupathi, your pilgrimage will be complete only if you perform Samaradhana (mass feeding).’ Vali told him that he was staying single in a room and he couldn’t perform Samaradhana. Anna told him to take seven persons for Lunch to the same Hotel in Pondy Bazar where Vali used to have his daily meals.
S Balachander, the great Veena artist (as also the movie personality) celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his Veena performance in 1968. The venue was Hemamalini Kalyana Mantapam in Chennai. The then Chief Minister Annadurai was the Chief Guest. Though known for late arrivals, The C M was on the dot for the function. The writer was among the audience.
As soon as the Chief Minister stepped on to the dais, Balachander tied his Angavastram onto his waist as a mark of respect and prostrated before Anna. The audience was nonplussed especially because Balachander was known for his self-esteem! (‘Ego” would be too harsh a word.) When Balachander took the microphone, he said, ‘you may all be wondering why I prostrated before the Chief Minister. It is not because I have some axe to grind. When I went to invite him to this function in his chamber in the Secretariat, he instantly agreed to be the Chief Guest even without referring to his engagement diary. We, musicians will make the Sabha Secretary walk to our place at least thrice before we give him a date. That is why I thought I owe this to him!’
Anna was a people’s leader.
Salutations to you, dear Anna.