ANNA Back to Article Titles
- M.S.Venkatachalam, M.A.,B.L., - Translator
Mr.C.N.Annadurai, who is popularly known and affectionately called, “Anna” is a towering personality of our times. Hailing from a humble family – a family of weavers – he rose to dizzy heights to fame and popularity. Short in structure, he was very tall in stature!
An Era of Eloquence
Anna’s eloquence in well-known and highly acclaimed. His miraculous use of alliterations, splendid similes and metaphors, subtle sarcasms – all earned him a secure nishe in this arena. His speeches were like rippling brookes, soothing waterfalls and some times roaring tides! That depends upon the circumstances in which those speeches were delivered and upon the subject matter chosen! During 1938, when Thalamuthu and Natarajan and became the martyrs of the anti-Hindi agitation, Anna’s funeral orations were electrifying! They were surcharged with emotion and are comparable with the famous speech of Gettysburg and the speeches of Demosthenes. If one reads these speeches of Anna, he is reminded of the oration of Antony which begins with the words “I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him!” Such subtle words, seethig attacks and satire – all were in abundance in those speeches. Nna could keep his millions of audience, spell bound for hours together. Such orators are rare in the history of the entire world. His speeches in Assemble and Rajya Sabha made all of us recall the historic speeches of Edmund Burke in the British Parliament.
Two unique features of Anna’s eloquence are worth mentioning. None of these eminent orators of the world could infuse the spirit and talent of oratory in others – Anna can be accredited with this rare kind of achievement. – since he produced a number of speakers and writers. Just as the famous painter Raphael could influence all the painters of his days, Anna was able to influence all the orators and writers of his time. As such he was an era by himself – a Era of Eloquence.
The second unique aspect of his oratorical skill is that during the two decades of 20 th century Tamil nadu – 50s and 60s – a fascination was created for the speeches of Anna and his followers. Hence countless hall meetings would be organized wherein the audience paid generously for hearing the speeches of the stalwarts of the DMK for raising fund for the party.
The Drividian Movement was mainly a Tamil Resurgence Movement, ably led by magnetic personalities like Anna. But he was not carried away by petty parochialism. The heroic deeds of the Maharastrian warrior Shivaji fascinated him very much. Anna’s drama, “Shivaji Kanda Indu Rajyam”(Hindu Raj established by Shivaji) was very popular and in that drama he has given a vivid portrayal of Shivaji’s valiant deeds and also the internal squabbles which caused him much mental agony. Road to power was not strewn with soft flowers, but with pricking thorns and piercing stones. This was a stunning example to extablish that Anna was a broad-minded politician. Wherever there was fragrance, he was ready to accommodate. “Flowers in the gardens of even our foes are bound to emit fragrance” – that was his oft-repeated assertion, which establishes his broadmindedness beyond doubt.
He was basically humane in approaching the problems that confronted him in his political career. Not only that. A spirit of fraternity was infused into the minds of all his followers. He often used to say, “Since one mother cannot bear all of us, we are born of different mothers – but we are brothers”! He called his followers by simply using the term “Thambi”, which is Tamil, means “Younger brother”. By way of reciprocity, he was affectionately called “Anna” by one and all – a shorter form of his unique name “Annadurai”. As such he was able to infuse a spirit of brotherhoods – fraternity – in the minds of his colleagues and fellowmen. He wrote, “I do not consider the DMK as a mere political party; whether others do accept my contention or not, I have got an unshakable faith that the entire DMK is one family!”
Apart from those who wee closely associated with him, Anna bestowed his love and affection towards all, without exception. As soon as he assumed office as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, a tragic incident took place in Venmani, tanjore District, in which the houses of 40 harijans were ruthlessly set on fire and a number of persons were charred to death. Anna was rudely shocked at this incident and abstained taking food the whole day. By nature soft-gearted, it was his spontaneous reaction. Again during the summer of 1967, a number of fire accidents took place in the slums of Madras City and in those accidents, numerous huts were burnt and property worth about some millions was lost and some invaluable lives also. There was even a rumour that those mishaps were not accidental – but caused by some vested interests. Anna immediately convened a meeting of the top-level officials at Madras and asked them to chalk out a programme to build fire-proof dwellings for the slum dwellers. Accordingly Slum Clearance Board was formed and an earnest effort was made to wipe out the tears of the slum dwellers.
Another incident also will clearly bring out this aspect of Anna’s character. As soon as the DMK government was formed during March 1967, students of Tamil Nadu led an agitation against the imposition of Hindi. Gradually it took violent turn and some of the railway coaches were set on fire. The police wanted to open fire for averting further damage. But Anna was not amenable to the request of the top-rank police officials. His argument ran thus:- “If one or two coaches are destroyed or burnt, the damage can be recouped – but if the life of a student is lost, nothing can compensate that loss!” Such was Anna’s respect for human life – this sentiment was born out of his deep love and affection towards the entire human race.
A nationalist, Beyond Doubt
Anna often used to say “I am more ill-know than well-known!” – This declaration he made in his characteristic vein. The Drividian Movement as a whole has been depicted by its adversaries as a “Movement of antinationals”, but it is far from truth, especially in the case of Anna.
He had a great regard to the Freedom Movement and to those who participated n the Movement. Just at the verge of Indian Independence, a valuable opportunity presented itself accidentally whereby Anna could establish beyond doubt that he was a true nationalist. Periar declared Independence Day as a “Mourning Day” and directed his partymen to celebrate that day accordingly. Anna did not approve of this direction and spirit. He openly expressed his difference of opinion unmindful of the possible repercussions. He knew fully well that this assertion would kindle the ire of Periar and Anna’s political adversaries would make use of this opportunity. But his nationalist spirit – partriotic fervour – made him plunge in that venture! Perhaps, this was the first schism between Periar and Anna.
Again when Anna had the opportunity of meeting the Pope in Vatican, he pleaded with him to use his good offices to get the release of Mr.Ranade, a freedom fighter, who was till that day (1968) languishing in Portugal prison. Somehow or other, the so-called “National Leaders” did not take cognizance of this languishing freedom fighter. It was Anna who realized his sacrifice and sought his release. Anna’s request was instantly accepted by the Pope and as a result Mr.Ranade was released. What more evidence is needed for the nationalist spirit of Anna?
During 1962, when Anna was in Vellore Jail, in connection with his agitation against the spiraling prices, Chinese intrusion took place. A state of emergency was proclaimed and the Prime Minister sought the support all the political parties – not after releasing him from the prison – but simply keeping him behind the bars. Even then, Anna did not grudge a bit; but extended his earnest support to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for all the measures taken by him for protecting the sovereignty of our nation. Anna suspended his demand for the formation of an independent Dravidian land. In the meeting addressed in Vellore, he justified his gesture with the following words:- “If only we own a house, can we think of replacing its tiles and renovating it! If only our country is independent, can we fight for our rights! So, let us muster strong and strengthen the hands of our able Prime Minister! Let us safeguard our freedom first!”
These historic words of Anna are still ringing in the ears of millions of Tamils! This spirit is needed to every Indian national. Hence, every syllable of Anna’s above declaration is relevant even today – even for many more centuries to come!
He was a prolific writer and speaker both in English and Tamil – dramatist comparable with George Bernard Shaw – a fine conversationalist like Samuel Johnson. As a writer, he has produced about 50 short novels, more than 100 short stories and two dozen dramas. All his books were sold like hot cakes in the market. His “epistles” to “Thambi” in “Dravida Nadu” created history and people in thousands waited in the newspaper stalls for the arrival of his weekly. Such was the fancy he could create. Those epistles have been published in 20 volumes and they are relevant even today. His captivating captions, subtle satires, similes, metaphors, allegories – most of them at least – are green in the memories of thousands of his followers, even now. Such was the impact of his writings.
A Marvellous Seed Time
Just as the Elizabetan Age of England, Anna’s era of Tamil Nadu was a marvelous seed time. A number of new writers sprang up following the footsteps of Anna and tried to imitate his writings. Nearly two dozens of journals were published by his followers in the Dravidan Movement. Anna himself used to proudly call himself a journalist. At the beginning of his political career, he worked as the Chief Editor of “Kudiarasu”, edited by Periar. Then he started his own Tamil weekly “Dravida nadu” during 1942. After 1963, this weekly was edited as “Kanchi”. During 1957, he started an English weekly, “Homeland” – this also was published as “Homerule” during 1966-1968.
In spite of the popularity Anna’s writings, both in Tamil and English, they have not been systematically edited and brought out in book form. We, who claim to be the sincere followers of Anna, are to be blamed and there is no use shifting the burden.
Fortunately, after a lapse of more than three decades after his tragic demise, his writings in Tamil have seen the light of the day. But his writings in English which are in no way inferior to his Tamil writings, have not come out in proper book form. Since I had the privilege of serving as the Sub-Editor of his English weekly “Homeland” I have been thanking that it is my onerous duty to bring tout his English writings in book form. But time has ripened only now. With a view to fulfil this much-needed task, Dr.Natarajan, M.A.Ph.D., M.O.I.F, came forward to publish them, if proper attempts were made at that direction. So, I undertook the task of compiling and editing Anna’s articles – Essays, Editorials, Epistles and Satires – and with pardonable pride we have re-produced them in this book. These masterly pieces were written by Anna in “Homeland” during 1957 to 1960.
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