KAMARAJ MADE ME FEEL LIKE A HEROHINE!

What a mem­ory!

Woman's Era - - Contents - Jyothirl­lata Gir­ija

Anusuya Devi, a friend of mine, was run­ning an as­so­ci­a­tion called Young Women’s Har­i­jan Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion. I used to ac­com­pany her when­ever she met celebri­ties for seek­ing their help in run­ning it.

One such mem­o­rable meet­ing hap­pened in 1963. It was with the late Perun­tha­laivar – the great leader – Kamaraj. Many per­son­ages of our coun­try have writ­ten about Kamaraj, but com­mon­ers like this writer have also had unique per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences wor­thy of nar­ra­tion. I had the golden op­por­tu­nity of meet­ing him once at his res­i­dence in Thiru­malai Pil­lai Road in T. Na­gar when he was the chief min­is­ter of Tamil Nadu. Many peo­ple were al­ready wait­ing to see him. We were the only ladies. But, within two min­utes, his helper, Vaira­van, ma­te­ri­alised be­fore us and asked us in.

There were no chairs in the room. Only some mat­tresses were spread on the floor. Kamaraj too was sit­ting on a mat­tress, his back rest­ing on a pil­low. He greeted us smil­ing and ges­tured to us to sit. We sat af­ter greet­ing him. His sharp eyes fell on me with cu­rios­ity and my friend in­tro­duced me as a writer for chil­dren. (At that time I was writ­ing only for chil­dren.) When she said I used to write in Kalka­ndu, he asked, “Tamil­vanan’s mag­a­zine, isn’t it? But who has the time to read Kalka­ndu?” and smiled broadly.

Just then Vaira­van came there and asked if the vakil’s clerk could come for read­ing out an ur­gent af­fi­davit and Kamaraj nod­ded. The next mo­ment the clerk came in and he asked him to read it. He started to read it which was in English and he lis­tened in­tently tap­ping with his fin­gers on top of his head. Sud­denly, he in­ter­rupted him in Tamil and said, “Why are you beat­ing around the bush? In­stead, you could have used the sim­ple le­gal term habeas cor­pus, isn’t it?” The clerk scratched his head guiltily as well as sheep­ishly and al­tered the af­fi­davit. My friend nudged me se­cretly, which meant, “Didn’t I tell you, he un­der­stands English very well and speaks it too?” Yes. Be­fore com­ing there, she’d told me that though he didn’t study in school beyond the 7th or so stan­dard, be­cause of his close as­so­ci­a­tion with the great Congress leader, Satya­murthi, for long, he’d gath­ered a lot of English knowl­edge.

COL­LECT­ING FUNDS

Then, af­ter he fin­ished read­ing, he sent him away and turned to us:

“Tell me. What is the next film you’re plan­ning to screen for col­lect­ing funds for your as­so­ci­a­tion?” She said she had the idea of screen­ing Ezhai Pan­gaalan and she’d come to him only to seek his help for it. Gem­ini Gane­san had acted in it and the ti­tle which meant “Friend of the poor” painted ob­vi­ously to Kamaraj. He promised to do the need­ful and asked her to ring him up af­ter two days. Then he smil­ingly rem­i­nisced about his hav­ing seen the film Malaikkallan with MGR as the hero when she screened it for col­lect­ing funds and said MGR was at his best and he also liked the act­ing of co­me­dian Du­rairaj as con­sta­ble 441 in it. He re­mem­bered even the con­sta­ble’s staff num­ber!

That was my only meet­ing with him. Af­ter a long gap, elec­tions for Madras Cor­po­ra­tion Coun­cilors was an­nounced and Kamaraj came round the city stand­ing in a bul­lock­driven cart greet­ing the pub­lic with joined palms and smil­ing, silently can­vass­ing as was his wont. Spot­ting his cart at the street-end, all the res­i­dents thronged at the en­trances to glance at the beloved leader. It was a nar­row street. To avoid a bump, the cart swerved and came very near our house and the gap be­tween him and us was just three feet. He spot­ted me, nod­ded, and ges­tured too wav­ing his hand, smil­ing. The neigh­bours around eas­ily guessed his ges­tic­u­la­tions were all for me alone! I was too pleas­antly shocked to greet him in turn, but just smiled back. My neigh­bours asked me, “You know him?” I proudly said (rather lied), “Yes!” (as one can­not say so hav­ing met the per­son only once!) I mar­velled at his mem­ory. Ev­ery­one around me was amazed and I felt like a hero­ine!

Men are more of­ten bribed by their loy­al­ties and am­bi­tions than by money.

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