Articles About ANNA

V.N.Swami                                                                      Back to Article Titles

CONJEEVARAM Natarajan Annadurai was a lovable personality so full of gentleness and kindliness that his DMK party men took great pride and pleasure in calling him the South Indian Gandhi.

There was indeed very much in common between the Mahatma and Anna, who both championed the cause of the poor and the downtrodden. But there was one great difference between the two: Gandhiji defined public service through his actions; Anna did so through the power of the spoken word.

Anna once said that public service is not “eating jack-fruit dipped in honey”. When he became Chief Minister, he was faced with the responsibility of translating his words into action. It was only when he attempted this that Anna realized the wide gulf which existed between speech and action. He was amazed to discover the many hurdles in the way of transforming his ideals into administrative reality. Yet he strove to implement whatever he considered good for the people.

In Periyar’s Dravida Kazhagam, Anna was known as Dalapathy (Commander). Young men flocked to hear him. Eloquent, earnest and convincing, he was a master in the use of innuendo, alliteration and topical allusion. Invariably, he spiced his speeches with a couple of love stories to make them more appealing to his youthful audience, who derived as much pleasure from listening to him as from seeing a movie or a drama.

Anna was supremely confident of his own capacity to overcome any situation. His appearance and his actions often misled his opponents. When he broke away from the DK and started the DMK, he appeared to be diffident and wanting in ideas to strengthen misled into dismissing the DMK as a party of no consequence – with unhappy consequences to themselves. Anna had this inborn talent to put his opponents off the track.

When the DMK gave up its secessionist demand – which formed the corner – stone of its ideology – Anna declared that, though the party’s foundation had been shaken, its superstructure, instead of crumbling, had actually gained in strength. “I have nothing but pity for those who do not understand me or my leadership,” he said.

Anna was not a mere leader. He was a real elder brother to everyone in the party, whether a leader or a humble worker. He believed in carrying his critics with him. If he did not express a decisive opinion on any issue, it was because he felt it wise to leave some room for flexibility and maneuverability. To the end of his life, this was Anna’s approach to any problem.

Soft – hearted as he was, both in his public and private life, Anna’s heart bled for the victims of police firing, especially during his Chief Ministership. He was seriously ill with a recurrence of cancer when the report of the Kilvenmani tragedy, in which more that forty persons were burnt alive, reached him. But against medical advice, he sat up for days and nights, giving his officers on-the-spot instructions on organization relief to the bereaved families and on bringing the culprits to book.

His kindliness and simplicity, two of his greatest characteristics, sprang from the training and attention he received from his devoted aunt, Thotha, who brought him up from infancy, and to whom he was greatly attached all his life. He would discuss even politics with her and never went against her wishes. She insisted that he stayed at home on Pongal Day – the one day in the year Anna kept away from public engagements.

His simplicity was reflected even in his sartorial tastes. During the days of his association with the Justice party, he appeared in spotless natty suits. When eventually he discarded the western garb – much to the chagrin of the snobs in the Justice Party – he took to the simple kurta and dhoti, with cement gray and pink as his favourite colours.

Liberal to a fault, Anna presented gold rings to many of his party colleagues in recognition of their meritorious service, though he never wore one himself. When he traveled for party work, he handed over his purse to the person accompanying him; and, when it was returned to him on the conclusion of the journey, he never bothered to find out how much was left in it.

Anna was keenly interested in the welfare of his colleagues’ families, and never concealed his contempt for those who worked for the party at the const of their family obligations. He punished such an, erring colleague by refusing to talk to him. So devoted to him were his colleagues that a few days’ silence on the part of Anna was enough to make them see the light of reason.

Whenever he wanted to forget the cares of politics, Anna would take a day or two off and go to his home town of Kanchipuram with a select few of his close friends. They would assemble on the banks of the Kanchipuram lake, and would either have a game of cards (never for stakes) or engage themselves in a discussion of every subject under the sun except politics.

If a trip to Kanchipuram was not possible, Anna spent his off-days reading or writing. Like all great writers, he was a night-bird. He would work late into the night and sleep during the day. Whether writing an, article for his paper, or a play or poem, or discussing Government business, the dark house of the night were for him the working hours.

Sweet-tempered Anna never liked sweets! He preferred spiced dishes like lime rice and mango pickle. Although a non vegetarian, he did not care so much for the meat as the masala part of the dish. Tea was his favourite drink. He linked nothing better than tea, pan and a pinch of snuff.

On all his travels, he was to it that his baggage contained a good stock of peanuts and puffed rice (Kurmura), which he kept munching on the way. A packet of pakoda was always welcome. Not a man for apples or oranges, Anna always took great delight in going through a big bunch of Anab-e-Shahi grapes. He could go without his tea and pan, but not without his box of snuff

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