Fresh from discussing the plot of Inception with a friend, I went to sleep yesterday night.
In a dream I had, came Subrahmanya Bharathi. “Was this real?” I asked. No, this is a dream, corrected the Tamil bard. “How wonderful would it be if this were real?” I asked him.“POnathellaam kanavinai pOl puthainthazhinthE pOnathanaal, naanum Or kanavO? Intha gnaalamum poi thaano?” he sang, to correct me again. That was not the purpose of his visit. He wanted to share an anecdote.
It was 1907. The congress session was going to convene in Surat that year. The previous year, there was a big split in the Congress between the extremists and the moderates. This year, people were afraid, the split could deepen. The moderates’ policy was to extend a helping hand to whatever the Sarkar, the British, did in the hope that they would get favourable returns. The returns could be anything. Whether it was freedom or money, the moderates never told anyone. They were proposing to put the name of Rashbihari Ghosh for the post of the President. Of course, he had to be elected. The extremists, especially Bharathi and VOC, wanted Lala Lajpat Rai for President. They wrote to Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo Ghosh, who replied saying that if there was necessary support, they could oppose the candidature of Rashbihari Ghosh. The moderates had, in the meanwhile, published an abusive article on Tilak, Aurobindo and Bharathi. The extremists requested the moderates to remove the article. The moderates refused and the extremists spoke about bringing in Lala Lajpat Rai’s name for the President’s post. Lala, however, refused to be drawn into the scene because the moderates told him that his candidature could cause unrest. However, he asked them to remove the article, which they refused. The day of the session came and the moderates put forth the name of Rashbihari Ghosh. Tilak went to the dais to oppose the candidature. He was shooed by the moderates. “’Go to your seat’ they shouted”, told Bharathi reminiscently. Tilak wanted to be given a chance to speak on why he was opposing the candidature. He was continually booed. He then stood there like a log till he’d be given the chance to speak. “It was like watching a silent lion in the face of a 100 elephants going berserk” told the poet. The moderates then started throwing chairs on Tilak. A lot of his supporters including Bharathi went to the dais, formed a ring around him and heaved the chairs away with their hands. Rashbihari Ghosh then started to read his acceptance speech without being elected. “I asked him not to read because he wasn’t elected”, told Bharathi with a laugh. “Suddenly goondas came into the scene and started beating us. The moderates called the police and left the scene”, he grimaced. The extremists were shown out by the police and a moderate went as much to show Bharathi and VOC to a policeman saying they were trying to divide the party at the behest of a vested interest. Moderates, Bharathi says, were absolute third-rates.
“Sir, did this incident inspire you to write ‘Nadippu SuthesigaL’?” I wanted to ask him, but I woke up.
This anecdote of Bharathi’s brought to my memory another incident.
Two weeks back, the Indian home secretary, Mr. GK Pillai called a spade a spade when he said that the ISI could be involved with Lashkar in the 26/11 attacks. Less than two weeks back, SM Krishna went to Islamabad for talks and asked Pakistan to curb Hafeez Saeed for making inflammatory speeches against India. SM Qureshi, his Pakistani counterpart, retorted saying India did not curb Pillay’s statement and they will not curb Saeed. Krishna gave a muted response and came here to say that Pillay’s comment was ill-timed and it did not create the right mood to talk. This was analogous to a landlord reprimanding the guard for stopping a thief. Period.
It was here that Bharathi’s idea was implanted in my mind, becoming a seed. To clarify, there is another incident to be recalled.
It was 1526. Babur was in Kabul with 12,000 men. He was up against the Indian king, Ibrahim Lodi, who had 100,000 men. One of his generals tried to dissuade him against the enterprise, cautioning him that he was up against formidable odds because the Indian king had a huge army of elephants and men. After listening to him patiently, Babur replied calmly, “Don’t worry. We will win because Indians never learn from history”.
As I was thinking thus, there was a pat on my back. “A lesson well learnt”, said Bharathi. “I think, Sir, you are terrific”, I was telling him but he kept patting me stronger.
It was my mother and I was finally awake. Or am I?
P.S. The first incident, apart from my dream, appears in “VOC yum Bharathi yum”, a book containing letters, anecdotes and diaries from the pens of VOC and Bharathi. Regarding the dream, I shall not reveal if it happened or not, because I have promised Bharathi I will not.