Many more unhappy returns!

Just a little over sixty days into the new year and TN has already seen quite a number of festivals. Now, I am not talking of the ones like Pongal (the new new year day from the next new year) or Sivarathri, which are about traditions or Gods. Rather I am referring to the many ‘political festivals’ that come one after another and are all set to outnumber the real festivals in due course. For if in rational TN the dravidian leaders have replaced the Gods, Aryan or otherwise, as adored objects, then is it not logical that their B-days are deemed festivals?

The ‘minority’ DMK regime has, however, cornered a sizeable majority of the festivities so far. MK, who is two thirds of DMK, has till date celebrated three Birthdays, not of his co-borns whom he often quotes but of his own blood- borns on whom he dotes. In comparison, the AIADMK has just one to its credit, that of its one and only supremo J. But of course, none in that party would dare compare with that and therefore Feb 24 will likely remain the sole AIADMK festival. Other ‘leaders’ are as good as unborn, having voluntarily forfeited their Birth (day) rights!

But let’s get back to K & Sons. The man of the moment, as all would agree, is Azhagiri. Till middle of last year, hardly anyone in these parts knew when he was born though we have been hearing of not just his existence but his exploits too in Madurai and thereabouts: The land of Azhagar actually belonged to Azhagiri. But come May ‘07, and the Son rose with a bang scorching three innocents in a family feud and entire TN, nay the whole nation, felt the heat, so to say. From then on, it was A all the way with the just Manu Needhi Chozhan at the helm looking the other way. Today, A is the apple of his dad’s eye and this was amply evident from his B-day celebs in Jan. Madras became Madurai overnight with A’s armies conquering it comprehensively and the bespectacled B-day boy peering down at his new subjects and their pot-holed roads from tall cut-outs. A has arrived!

But the eldest of K’s sons was not so lucky. Estranged for almost eternity, M K Muthu, who was touted as DMK’s answer to MGR in the seventies, had a quiet B-day, which was his sixtieth. Yet, the event did create a mild flutter in the media as almost the entire K clan was in attendance to greet him. None knew when the reunion had happened because last heard Muthu was surviving on a dole from J delivered when she ruled. It is doubtful if a resurrected M would make a bid for power in true family tradition but we would do well to remember his B day too, just in case.

And then came March 1, the day when Stalin’s earthly sojourn started. The dad had some days earlier advised the party cadre to go slow on public displays of ostentation and even the politically knowledgeable believed S’s B day would be low key. But the cadre of the DMK, brought up on a diet of K’s writings, took the cue and did the opposite, painting the town black and red and plastering the walls of Singara Chennai with the posters of the CM-in-waiting … for-long! But with one too many sons, should TN now be trifurcated? But the mother, rather, the father of all B-days falls on June 3, when the Thalaivan and Tamil, both being same in the rational scheme of things, will be felicitated for passing yet another ‘rare’ milestone.

J’s B-days are unique events for her partymen. Besides her date of birth, this ‘dravidian’ leader’s star birthday too stars prominently in her party calendar, thus spoofing at Periyar. And this year being her sixtieth, sycophantic fanfare mixed liberally with spiritual fervour. The highpoint was the religious function at Thirukkadayur Temple where in J and her friend garlanded each other, setting off a frenzied debate, that was not wholly political. There were B-days of certain other leaders too but we would let them pass because of little ‘public interest’. Again, we are not taking into account the B-days of some dead leaders. After breathing their last, these leaders become all-party property. For instance, MGR, on Jan 17 this year had so many visitors calling on him that he would have turned in his grave wondering if someone had moved him the night before.

Gokulashtami, Ramanavami and Christmas are all birthdays of avataras or messiahs and have religious significance. Gandhi Jayanthi and Childrens’ Day were not celebrated during the lifetime of Gandhi and Nehru. Of course, besides those two, the other great leaders of India are only ‘remembered’ on their Birthdays; the days are not celebrated. In TN the birthdays of Anna and Periyar are celebrated like festivals by their political progeny. But this is a recent phenomenon. The reason is two fold: One is the race for dravidian legacy, whatever it means, among the many warring contenders. But the bigger motive is to make the two dravidian patriarchs posthumous partners of the flattery fraternity here. That way, having thus delivered their dues to their mentors, it would be easy for the current leaders to have their own insatiable egos tickled endlessly on their B-days. Such days also turn into alibis for political enemies to patch up, or pretexts for rebuilding burnt bridges. But worse, the unabashed bashes of many living politicians have become official and institutional events whence government schemes, often in their names, are launched, with even ‘unattached’ bureaucrats, besides partymen, in full attendance. Yes, there are blood donation camps too, but that’s only after they have sucked all the blood out of you!

But on that score, there is someone who could give all our local leaders and their lackeys a lesson or two: Mayawati. Her B-days are a mix of medieval splendour and modern plunder: Grandiose celebrations and professional extortion join hands to warm the B-day baby no end. Mayawati was born on Jan 15. That would be when our new new year ..ok, ok …starts. Why not invite her for the honours in 2009? She might herald a new high here on that auspicious occasion!

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Jawahar T R