Nation Current Affairs 13 Aug 2018 Kalaignar rounds off ...

Kalaignar rounds off astonishing life in aesthetics of silence: T K S Elangovan

Published Aug 13, 2018, 2:50 am IST
Updated Aug 13, 2018, 2:50 am IST
That was some four days before he was admitted again to hospital when his blood pressure went down.
T K S Elangovan.
 T K S Elangovan.

Chennai: A staggeringly long public life, ranging from the world of arts, cinema, Tamil literature, politics to occupying public offices, of the DMK patriarch ‘Kalaignar’ M Karunanidhi, who battled even at 94, finally rounded off in an ‘aesthetics of silence’ .

After all the marathon speeches spanning six decades, what poetically capped Kalaignar’s life, as he was widely known, was an ‘aesthetics of silence’. This was the apt expression from the late great literary critic Susan Sontag that the party’s senior spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP, Mr T K S Elangovan could think of.


“Oh! What shall we say of him! He was legendary,” sighed the genial Elangovan, as a sense of heaviness dragged his words, sharing some of his thoughts and memories of Karunanidhi in a chat with DC here on Sunday.

After Karunanidhi was taken to the Kauvery Hospitals for replacing the tracheotomy tube and came back home in the third week of July, Elangovan recalled that before he left for attending the Monsoon session of Parliament he had called on his leader at his Gopalapuram house. “That was some four days before he was admitted again to hospital when his blood pressure went down.”


“Thalaivar recognised me and even then wanted to say something; there was some fumbling of words but it was not audible,” said Elangovan, showing a picture he had last taken with his leader. For the last nearly two years, after ‘Thaliavar’ fell ill in October 2016, it was more or less like that, recognizing people, awakening to a state of utterance and due to apparent physical discomfort  the tube hurt him if he tried to open his mouth,preferring an ‘aesthetics of silence’.  

T K S Elangovan’s family association with ‘kalaignar’ goes back to his own legendary father and ideologue of the ‘Self-Respect Movement’, late T K Srinivasan, known in DMK circles as ‘Thathuva Medhai’, for his philosophical bent of mind and a popular speaker in the Dravidian pantheon since Periyar's days.


As a lad of 15-or-so, Karunanidhi was a carefree boy in Tiruvarur, collecting a young crowd around him on issues like opposing Hindi imposition, says Elangovan. “He used to invite leaders like Anna and Anbazhagan for meetings at Tiruvarur and as life meandered for this boy unhurriedly, it was the death of Kalaignar's father, Muthuvelar, that was the turning point”, says Elangovan.

T K Srinivasan was already a popular speaker in the public sphere then in erstwhile composite Thanjavur district and often encouraged Karunanidhi to speak at various meetings, recalls Mr. Elangovan. When Karunanidhi had to take care of his two sisters and mother after his father’s demise, it was then “my father advised him (Karunanidhi) - must be in the early 1940s’- to go and work in Periyar's Tamil weekly ‘Kudiyarasu’; Kavignar Karunanandham, himself deeply soaked in Periyar’s ideals, introduced him to Periyar,”  remembers the MP.


The rationalist Periyar, after the Justice Party mantle fell on him, was Karunanidhi’s gadfly. So much so, when Periyar announced the formation of a ‘black shirts brigade’, Karunanidhi was the “first to sign up” for it. Annadurai though, differed on this aspect with Periyar, and preferred the ‘white shirt’ as Anna felt that any social movement for change also had to be ‘people-friendly’ and not totally go against the sentiments or the ethos of the people as such.  

However, Anna respected differences and let a whole lot of talented young people to grow, said Elangovan. “Anna formed a group of basically 20 people who included well qualified men like Perasiriyar Anbazhagan, Naavalar Nedunchezhiyan, and not so formally qualified people like my father ( T K Srinivasan was employed in the Railways then), Karunanidhi, C. P. Chittrarasu and others. They were the bedrock of the Dravidian Movement in a sense for they took the ideological message to the nook and corners of the State,” he said.


Even if not formally qualified, people in the vanguard of the movement read a lot those days. “The incentive was my next public speech should be better than the previous one, and they had to accordingly prepare themselves, read lot more to excel the other. It was in that milieu of competitive public speaking the DK Movement fostered that each one in the core group developed a style and Kalaignar had his own style,” says Elangovan.

And Karunanidhi taking up to wield the pen from a young age, also developed a taste for Tamil literature that was to remain till his end, says Elangovan.  For instance, the great Tamil epic, ‘Silapadhikaram’ was already popular, but the way ‘Kalaignar’ modernised the dialogues for the film ‘Poompuhar’, or the way he wrote the screen-play for ‘Parasakthi’, already a successful play of its times, broke new grounds that ‘Kalaignar’ became a new model in the cinema field,” explained Elangovan. “Also, it was my father who presided over Karunanidhi’s wedding with Dayalu Ammal in 1948 at Tiruvarur.”


With such a long association with the party and the leader, T K S Elangovan says two or three qualities that marked out Karunanidhi’s political journey. “His phenomenal memory and his quiet courage (Mano Dairyam); wherever he went for a meeting or programme, he had an uncanny ability to make friends, at times catch-them-young to Periyar’s way of thinking, and to guide them later on. That was how many DMK district secretaries were so loyal to him later on; whenever anyone from any village meets him, he would recall little anecdotes and remember each cadre by name; that was amazing,” elaborated Elangovan.


Karunanidhi was also a ‘strategist’ for the party, which even Anna acknowledged after DMK won the Madras Corporation elections in 1959, he pointed out. While the more erudite and scholarly functionaries concentrated on “propaganda”, it was ‘Kalaignar’ who focused on ‘structure’, the organizational links from the grassroots level, said Elangovan. It was that approach that helped the “party grow and he used all his literary prowess for the development of the party,” he said.

Further, ‘Kalaignar’ “always wanted to be in the forefront of party agitations and activities,” as was seen during Kallakudi anti-Hindi agitation in 1953, he underscored. When late E V K Sampath, Anna and others got arrested for the same agitation in Chennai then, Karunanidhi changed the dynamics of the name-changing stir of Dalmiyapuram railway station as Kallakudi by offering to lie down on the track, “as he felt he too should be arrested when party seniors were arrested.” That was his way of always being keen to be in the forefront, he said.


Even when his once-good friend MGR laid a series of corruption charges against Karunanidhi and his ministerial colleagues in 1972, Elangovan recalled how as Chief Minister, ‘Kalaignar’ prepared a point-by-point rebuttal, published it as a little book titled, ‘Kuttrachaathugalin Muduku Elumbai Murikkum Padhilgal’ and placed it in the State Assembly as a record. In fact, in 1974, the DMK government under him enacted the “Tamil Nadu Public Men Criminal Misconduct Act”, to usher in a Lok Ayukta way back in 1974 and offered to be probed. Ironically, it was the subsequent MGR regime which repealed the Act in 1977, said Elangovan. 


Karunanidhi's huge personal collection of books is very likely to be gifted to the ‘Perasiriyar Library’ at the party headquarters, ‘Anna Arivalayam’, he added.