ANNA MY ELDER BROTHER - A.P.Janardhanam. M.A. Back
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Though I have more than a dozen younger brothers, I do not have any elder brother. In 1937, in my seventeenth year, Anna filled the gap.
When first I read his speech in “Viduthalai” I was excited, elated, thrilled, enthused and danced in joy. The alliterative Tamil completly captivated me. I read it many times, to myself, to my friends, to my partents and it was heady wine to me.
I resolved to meet his in Madras. The great day was September 17, 1937. Eager with expectation, heart thrilling, I climbed to the third floor of a house in Mint Street, Madras. Anna, the his comrades Arranganathan, Panchatcharam, Sivagnanam and Dr.Ganesan, was engaged in serious conversation.
I eagerly asked, ‘who is Anna?’ anna simlingly nodded and I gave out the facts of my life. I told him that I was immensely impressed with his speech, that I was fiery young Champion of the Justice party in Voorhees College, Vellore and that my great ambition of meeting him was fulfilled that day. He kindly introduced his comrades to me and invited me to come to that place often. It was the self respect youth league. In that tiny room, Anna, bubbling with youthful vigour, conducted a strong compaign for the Justice party.
With the comrades, with great difficulty, he collected money for conducting Justice party meetings. Armed with a ladder, a paste bucket and bundle of posters, they pasted posters on walls from 10PM to 4AM. In the end, in the Coronation Darbar Hotel Park Town, they had tea, and dispersed.
Frequetntly, in the Sivagnanam park, Peddunaickenpet, Anna used to challenge congress big guns like Mr. Satyamoorthi. He gave his best, unmindful of the chill penury, spurning all great offers.
He used ot organise with the help of Comrades Jesudasan and Basdudev, the have-nots like rickshaw-pullers.
With shorts and fervour, I was doing errands in the Justice office, in Long Bazaar, Vellore, distributing handbills, shouting in the microphones, purchasing tea and Cigarettes to party orators who spoke in the fort maiden, eagarly devouring R.P.A. Books, petted and patted by the Leonine Periyar and affectionate Anna. In the heat of involvement with party, I forgot to study and failed thrice in the III part in the Intermediate.
Anna, whenever he came to Vellore, affectionately spoke to me of the great Non-Brahmin movement and the dynamic self-respect movement. He used to regale me with anecdotes about Justice ministers and Periyar and his marathon Campaigns. He trained me in the art of oratory, the art of tackling the reactionaries and champions of the old order. He came from his native place Kanchipuram in bus. I was with him to the last, seeing him off at the bus-stand.
I will just record here some essential facts:
In 1942, when Anna brought out his brilliant weekly ‘Dravida Nadu’, I used to purchase 5 copies and give them to my intimate set. I used to read alour, with gusto, the crusading articles, packed with punch and vigour. Anna’s letters, short stories, skits, imaginary conversations, all were lapped up eagerly and even the opponents imitated Anna’s style which became the rage of the youth. College students got very attracted to his writings.
I used to go to Kanchipuram often joining Anna reading and writting far into the night. We would feel drowsy and fall asleep. But Anna would go on writing til 4 A.M. He used to discuss with us plots like “Kalinga Rani”
I eagerly watched the rehearsals of Chandrodayam; the stirring drama in which Anna enacted the part of Dorairaj, the revolutionary. The training of Ezhathy Adigal and comrade C.V.Rajagopal made us roar with laughter. Polur Subramaniam in his peon’s role impressed well.
My trip to Andhra with Periyar, Anna, Mrs. Maniammai and Mr. Gajendiran, is memorable. In Nagadla, near Chiraala, Anna gave me valuable lessons in debating, expounding Rationalist themes. I translated his english into Telugu. Periyar spoke for hours in his own unvarnished, simple Telugu.
In 1944, anna was invited to address College forums invariably accompanied him I had a strong band in the Pachiappa’s College I was envouraged by professors Varadarajam, Thiruvenkatasami and C.D. Rajeswaran, who all impressed on the oratorical talents and varacious reading of Anna during College days.
Anna’s comments on comments on comrades, and athe movements were saucy, spicy and affectionate. He urged me to stick to Periyar through thick and thin. Before and after the Salem Justice Confederation. Anna championed the leadership of Periyar.
From 1944, the Dravidian students movement pioneered by comrades Thavamanirasan and Karunanandam and led by Comrades Nedunchezhian, Anbazhagan, Mathiazhagan, Ilamvazhuthi, Thillaivillalan and Kalaignar Karunanidhi, became the workshop for Anna’s ideas.
The summer camps and campaigns of teh students conducted by Periyar, our Ravana, produced a great awakenings.
In the corner estate building in Sembudoss street, we the select few student leaders, were petted and patted by Anna.
Thanks to his guidance and envouragement there was outburst, a boom of magazines, all brought out by comrades. There were 36 magazines at the one time, all working for the Dravidian renaissance. I was editing “comrade” and Anna encouraged . He was so much impressed by me then he deputed me to speak in his place in college symposium and huge railway rally.
We were bursting peals of laughter when Anna used to describe his experiences with Periyar in the North, as guest to comrade M.N.Roy.
In those days after the beach meeting, I would accomponied Anna to Karuppannan Street, in George Town. Anna took me to see English films in Minarva theatre, full of bugs. Anna was an ace playwriter and many an excellant article was pending after seeing films.
I met Anna when he was leterally struggling to make both ends meet. With mother, wife and very affectionate aunt, he lived in Mint Street, preferring self-respect to gilded slavery. Even now I am terribly moved by the question he put to me in 1938. “Janardhanam, shall I confidently prepare meals for you! Do not goaway!” We shared poverty, jail, travel by cart and jutka. In spite of these harrd, harsh conditions, Anna never lost his balance and sense of humour. He was always studying, to find arguments and authorities for Periyar’s straight, strong themes.
I accompanied Anna to many meetings and conferences. In many places, the meetings were organised by poor comrades who could not afford to provide his comforts and to and fro charges. When we were seen off, the local organiser would hand over a cover containing a small amount. Anna, after some distance, would say, “Janardhanam, I am glad that atleast he was able to conduct that meeting in the teeth of bitter opposition and the people listened to us well”. He was moved by the sufferings of humble volunteers, some of them belonging to very very backwards and depressed classes.
Many a meeting was distrubed. Qustions were answered by Anna ins such a way that even the orthodox were touched. Stones were hurled. But as Anna’s telling effect spread, even the opponents came to listen and the meetings became very crowded.
Sometimes, after meeting and meals, we would walk to the station in chill weather, sit on platform benches (Travelling III class) braving icy winds, chatting with comrade who came to see us off.
Anna, in order to encourage me, praised me very much making me feel very shy. Once, in Karur, he told our Mayakovsky. Bharathidasan that if every be forgot his own lines, he could get them from me. I was so full of enthusiasm for our revolutionary poet that I used to pour them out to anna. Anna was a so fond of my reading english books that he would take me for book-hunting in China Bazaar and the Moore Market.
But I was such a serious idealist that I could not take to the stage, thought Anna compelled me to act in minor roles.
From 1937 to 1946, I was very close to anna, sharing his joys and sorrows. He moulded me. My devotion to Periyar and the self respect movement was so strong that after 1946, I drifted away from Anna. He was then surrounded by Navalar Nedunchezhian, Professor Anbazhagan, Comrade Mathiazhagan, Chezhian and Vanan.
I began supporting Periyar very very strongly, arguing for hours with my comrades. Once in a cart, from our hotel to conference venue in Karanthai, I was defending Periyar very strongly and Kalaignar and his comrades were attacking me for my Periyar passion.
In 1949, when Anna parted company with Periyar and formed the D.M.K. I prefferred to back Periyar. Anna himself and the highest regard for Periyar’s role as the great social revolutionary and the Dravidian patriarch appealed most to anna and he maintained that both the D.K. and the D.M.K. were like a double barrel gun. Anna was all admiration for his one and only leader periyar and never chose to hit back Periyar even when bittery attached.
In D.K., I was lionised by the black-shirts and felt very shy and embarssed when they praised me sky high.
I guided the Dravidian students’ federation, emphasising social reform. I petted an encouraged young orators like Com.Veeramani. We had strong bases in Annamalainagar, Pachaiappas, Law, Trichy and Kumbakonam. In attacking narrow reaction and superstition, in exposing myths and sanctimonins humming, insprading seminal ideas like Birth-control and script reform, our students were the heralds of a new order. In showering affection on my comrades, in advertising their talents, in the parts of drawing crowds, I had Anna as my model. Periyar, who was always wary of young orators, sometimes burst out, saying. “You are like Annadurai. You encourage these immature students. They won’t stay for long in the movement. They will seek green pastures. By personal example and direct persuasion, I got good results. Many students opted for Inter-caste marriage. In their areas they are red rags to reactionary, conservative monopolies. They live for Periyar.
In the D.K. I attacked Anna mercilessly, but never hit below the belt. On certain occasion I pulled up speakers when they attacked Anna in a nasty way.
On the question of supporting congress blindly, I differed with Periyar and joined te D.M.K. in 1960.
Anna magnaimously, lovingly told me, Janarthanam I always felt that you were with. He urged some organisers to convene meetings for me.
For my part, I never lost my great respect for Periyar. In every meeting I used to say that I had just shifted from father to elder brother. To the last, I used to visit Periyar, and he was all affection for my wife Manoranjitham and daughter Vennila. In social reform, in opposing caste, I am even now Periyar’s Alsatian. The re-union between Anna dn Periyar came in 1967. Touching incidents from Anna’s seeking Periyar’s blessings, to Periyar anguish at Anna’s passing away, are all memorable in our great Dravidian family.
AFter joining the DMK, I used to visit anna often and he was very affectionate to me. Anna encouraged laugher and banter. Comrade C.V.Rajagopal was our constant companion and provided a lot of fun.
In the 1962 assembly elections I canvassed door-to-door along with party notables, in Kancheepuram, for Anna. I spoke in meetings in villages nearby.
Tou great sorrow, Anna was defeated. But this was a blessing in disguise for Anna entered the Rajya Sabha, and his presence and speeches there make us readily acceptable by veterans like Vajpayee.
Today, whenever I speak in the Rajya sabha, or go to the wellstocked parliament library, anna inspires and guides me. Comrades Rajaram and Chezhian remind me of those sixties when Anna captivated even the treasury benches with his plea for reason and understanding.
When I launched my Tamil weekly “Inamani”. Anna gave a ritten appeal for support.
During the Anti-Hindi struggle, when Anna was in the Msdras jail, his aunt, who lovingly brought him up, passed away. Even now, when I read his jail notes describing his attachment to his aunt and deep concern for her in her last days, I am moved very much. We all went to Kanchee to witness with tears the very pathetic spectacle of Anna lighting the pyre.
In 1965, in teh night of January 26, we were all rounded up and detained in the Madras jail. I gave Kandekar novels to Anna and he kept us all spell bound with his anecdotes. With him, we were elated and prison life became very enjoyable.
Anna discussed with me the 1967 election strategy and I presented to him Low’s cartoon collection.
As the results came, we were all very very happy. But Anna told me that people had called us to office too soon and that we would have to strive hard to give a square deal and meal to our people.
The day of assumption of office was marked by scenes of the wildest enthusiasm. The poor volunteers who had made it possible, danced with joy. The common people had the utmost faith in Anna.
Anna’s rupee-a-measure scheme validation of self-respect marriage, preference for plain, living all earned him much goodwill