Thursday, September 10, 2009

Follower, in a way

'Bharathidasan' is probably the smallest of the people whose statues are lined up along the Marina. Not in a physical sense, of course: some of the statues are of folks whose features have been shaped by imagination rather than data, but Bharatidasan suffers from a 'recency effect'. He died in 1964 which means many who have memories of him are still around to try and knock him off his pedestal once in a while.

Born in Pondicherry in 1891 and named Subburathinam by his parents, he came under the influence of Subramania Bharathi while in his teens. Bharathi mentored him in his early days and Subburathinam acknowledged that by changing his name to Bharatidasan (Follower of Bharathi). Mentee struck a slightly different path from mentor, being more fiercely protective of the Tamizh language against external influences as well as being an atheist, involving himself with the Dravidan political movement in the late 1940s and the 1950s. Though he had thrown himself into the independence movement earlier, he did not generate the reverence that his mentor did. Maybe that explains not only his political involvement, but also his search for an identity: he used several pseudonymns even as he continued to write as 'Bharathidasan'

And yet, the fact remains that when the World Tamil Conference was held in Madras in 1968, he was considered worthy of being placed alongside the greats of generations past - something that would probably make his the tallest of the statues along the Marina!

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