– A KANSAS MEMORY -
Albert B. FRANKLIN
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Spring last came to the Flint Hills of Kansas, it brought amid
its garish tumbling of flowers and its impudent quarrelling of
birds, the visit of a human being who was both a song and a flower.
Springtime here does not forget Annadurai. There will be some
in Manhattan in the Flint Hills whom every Spring will remind
of the sparkling eyed, erect figure, minute but commanding in
the majesty of an inner warmth of understanding. Though I know
him little more than a year, Anna was one of my teachers/ Courage,
joy in humanity, the strength of integrity, the warmth of compassion,
these sovereign qualities were joined in a unique amalgam that
we called “Anna”. They communicated to everyone who
came in contact with him a pride in the humanity we all share
As a student of India, more particularly of South India, I found
it exciting that these qualities of soul, the selflessness, the
non-attachment, the one-ness with all humanity that are the keystones
of the Vedanta should be so forcefully embodied in this brave
political campaigner who specifically and outspokenly spurned
the forms and rituals of organized religion. Born in the humblest
of homes in the city where once Sankaracharya lived and spoke,
in the shadow of hundreds of temples. Anna shared with that greatest
of world philosophers the ability to separate the teaching from
the non essential formula.
Anna returned in triumph from that American tour, only to turn
back to the United States for further treatment of a lingering
ailment. before the took his final departure in November, 1968,
I made a pilgrimage to New York to say goodbye once more. I treasure
the memory of those last moments with Anna’s last Fall.
Never had I seen him so brimming with life. So full of ideas for
Tamilnad, so interested in the life going on around him. For some
days he had had strength to visit New York’s parks, to feast
his eyes and heart on all the treasures of the world’s great
civilizations that New York has stored in her museums. He was
returning to his beloved Tamilnad with great new perspectives
and hopes for his people.
But before another spring could come, he had gone. He is more
than a memory. Furthermore, with later modification of the theory
of charisma as embodying inspirational elements, the assessment
of its bureaucratic impact requires even further re-examination,
we know for example that for many people John Kennedy was a charismatic
leader. Yet his charisma served to strengthen formal organizational
attachments rather than weaken them. Annadurai also could be cited
as as charismatic leader whose charisma facilitated the process
of organizational routinization. In this sense charisma was a
stabilizing element in Party bureaucratization.
In its overall impact we must say that charisma is a fundamentally
revolutionizing force and the lasting impact of charismatic leaders
stems from their propagation of new ideas and the challenge they
represent to traditional organization and institutions. Because
charisma has a compelling effect on men it is capable of detaching
them from traditional modes of thought, imbuing them with new
ideas and inspiring them to radically alter their environment.
It is this fundamentally revolutionary or destabilizing element
in charismatic attachments which makes the charismatic leader
controversial during his lifetime.
Through their followers, their organizations and the principles
which they have espoused, charismatic leaders trend to have a
continuing influence on society and its institutions even after
their demise. It is this continuing effect which cannot be predicted
or foreseen with absolute certainty and which makes authoritative
assessment of charismatic leaders a difficult task; a task which
must finally rest with the future.