By Aditya Aamir
Wednesday, a Tamil scholar won the day, posthumously. Thursday, a Hindi aficionado was chosen Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson. A balancing of languages! One as old as the tongue. The other still flung on faces where it’s yet to ring.
The English medium is still looking for superlatives to describe Muthuvel Karunanidhi. ‘Wordsworth’ would fit. The BBC settled for ‘Wordsmith.’ Probably uneasy that the death of a Tamil could trigger such an outpouring of public grief. Otherwise for the western world, it was always ‘Only a Princess’ death…’
India’s own English TV news channels couldn’t look beyond ‘colossal’ and ‘titan’. A couple of anchors roped in ‘icon’. But to the Tamil impresario it fell short of the stature of the man. As for the Hindi medium communicator, Karunanidhi was somebody who shouldn’t have registered sympathy, even in death!
The Tamil chauvinist had no time for Hindi. Contempt, yes. Apprehension, maybe. The DMK patriarch made a career out of anti-Hindi-ism. If anybody should have clapped at his demise it should have been the Hindi-speaker. But Hindi medium – press and TV channels – found itself tongue-tied at his passing away.
Karunanidhi’s Hindi-phobia was not called out. Cowards!
This man was so ‘Tamil’ he saw Hindi as enemy, alien. English? Oh, no, Sir! Not by a long shot. That because English did not make a fetish of English! The language of the commons. English didn’t hurt Karunanidhi. Tamil absolutists were cool with Fort St. George and Egmore. ‘Madras’ sounded just fine. Hypocrites!
But ‘Dalmiapuram’ for ‘Kallakudi’ was blasphemy. Resentment broke all dams. Karunanidhi and his Tamil band went on an ‘erase Hindi’ rampage. Stretching across railway tracks. Cutting with rhetoric at Dalmiapuram Railway Station. Karunanidhi became instant Tamil hero. It filtered down that what you see (in/of him) is what you hear (from him) – A Tamizh!
Anti-Hinduism was another Karuna forte. The Brahmin got hit, hard. Brahmin journalist GS (anonymity deliberately kept) in a drunken stupor would rant against Dravidians. His family fled Madras for Hyderabad. Thanks to ‘Mu Ka’ Tamil fanaticism. GS did not weep for Kalaignar. Better a ‘stiff tongue still!’
No wonder BJP MP Subramanian Swamy and Tughlaq editor S. Gurumurthy couldn’t stomach the thought of Karunanidhi finding dead satisfaction at Anna Memorial. That said Karunanidhi saw to it that Tamil remained the lingua franca of the southern Aryan, too. And even if Tamil film heroines were mostly Hindiwali, it did not matter so long as the heroes were Tamil Singham!
Of Karunanidhi, it’s said, he wrote for reel like he spoke in life – a “forceful, understandable” Tamil, which when it rolled off the tongue of an MGR or Shivaji Ganesan, it was like speech delivered on stage – monologues that stretched till everyone in the hall was on his/her feet.
Thunderous prose with social message – rebellious, electrifying. Dialogues like those which Guru Dutt spoke in Hindi films. Newly-elected RS deputy chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh is no screenplay writer. He has a history of journalism. Karunanidhi too was journalist. DMK mouthpiece Murasoli is his baby.
Singh fathered no such baby. But if Rajya Sabha MPs are to be believed, he can keep a “scoop” from melting in his mouth! The ornery hack cannot keep a secret. Singh is not ornery. A close confidante of late Prime Minister Chandrashekar, he knew beforehand that the ‘PM’ would put in his papers the next day, but kept his mouth shut and pen in pocket till after the event. Just for that he wouldn’t get a journalist’s job in this day and time.
Karunanidhi passed away at a time when Hindi is on the rise and Tamil faces challenges. Social media is bringing Hindi to south India in a muddled rush and today’s Tamil are not Tamizh chauvinists. Tamil cinema too has broken away from the Parashakti-template. Mani Ratnam and AR Rehman have laid low the language barrier!
Harivansh Narayan Singh succeeded a Malayali PJ Kurien to the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson’s post. He edited Prabhat Khabar which broke the fodder scam story. The Hindi language journalist covering Parliament will henceforth walk with a newfound swagger. But even with that, it will take a Karunanidhi-like language stalwart to leave a lasting impact. Language cannot ever speak for itself. It requires a voice. A tongue! (IPA Service)