Thursday, 25 June 2015

Rajaji, the writer

The May 2015 lecture of Tamil Valaratha CaanRor (தமிழ் வளர்த்த சான்றோர்) was about Rajaji. Kalki editor Venkatesh shared the stage with Dr VaVeSu. Rajaji’s contribution to the freedom movement, to administrative reform, to social reform, his sufferings and spirit of sacrifice are all worth discussing, but I will avoid them in this lecture, which will only focus on his contributions to Tamil, said VaVeSu, in his introductory remarks.

Rajaji wrote 54 books in Tamil!

He refused to heed Kalki's call to write an autobiography : he asked if great writers like Kamban, Kalidasa wrote about themselves. My work should speak for me, he quipped. Biographies on Rajaji have been written by others, including famously, by Rajmohan Gandhi, his own grandson, whose other grandfather was MK Gandhi.

One of his colleagues asked whether Rajaji did not have free time when he was Governor General ? No, Rajaji retorted, his time was mostly spent resolving conflicts between the PM Nehru and the Deputy PM Patel

He asked Thiru ViKa to write a foreword for Tamil book "Socrates." (சாக்ரதர்) 

Never asked anyone else to write a foreword for any of his other books.

Rajaji never made any references to himself in any of his books, said VaVeSu, with one significant exception. In the middle of his Tamil series Ramayana, titled “Chakkaravarthi Thirumagan (சக்கரவர்த்தி திருமகன்), which later came out as a book, he noted that Rakshasas were considered vile people who often behaved in the basest manner, but nowhere had Kamban referred to Tamils as being of the Rakshasa race. But nowadays (in the 1950s) there are people who claim themselves to be descendants of these same Rakshasas. This was mocking the claim of  a section of the Dravidian movement at that time.

Saying Tamil is deficient in sounds is like a customer of a second hand shirt complaining about its lack of fit.

Using words like motor in Tamil is ok, but words like time and speed, for which there are Tamil words, is like a patient used to disease, and believing that is the normal condition of the body.

We both fish in the same pond says VaVeSu, but I used a thoondil (fishhook) and Kalki Venkatesh used a net.

Rajaji explained the differences between Kamban – “lyric with glitter” and Valmiki – “blank verse” (like Tamil agavalpaa!)

Gopu’s Notes


I left the program after an hour because I wanted to watch the IPL finals between Mumbai Indians and Chennai SuperKings, which the latter lost in a lopsided contest. These talks are recorded on video, so may be available on the net.

This is perhaps the most frivolous of my blog posts, especially considering how much I admire Rajaji, and how much more I could write on him from my own readings. Rajaji fascinates me as the only national leader other than Bala Gangadhar Tilak to write about science, that too in Tamil. He was the strongest voice, perhaps lonely voice, against the rampant socialism of Nehru and an island of free market advocacy in a murky ocean of communist propaganda. But I am merely sharing some quotes which I jotted down during the lecture.

I think the Tamil title of Rajaji's Ramayana Chakkaravarthi Thirumagan (சக்கரவர்த்தி திருமகன்) was deliberately self-referencing. He belong to the Nallan Chakkaravarthi clan and could well claim the title or epithet for himself.

Metaphors Rajaji was a master of the metaphor, especially in coining new ones. The two examples above barely scratch the surface. That deserves a separate study.

Related Posts


3. Athiyaman's blog on Rajaji and Capitalism

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