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Saturday, September 12, 2009

THE BODHI TREE


Chapter 1

THE BODHI TREE

Saunters in Subramania Sivam (Sivam) (1884-1925), the spit-fire patriot clad in a loose shirt, furled dhoti and tilted turban tut-tuting his inseparable staff. The staff and his flowing beard remind one of a domineering Moses. Having shattered the calm in Navasakthi [4] office, he aggravates the situation by loudly hailing for the ‘castor-oil Mudaliyar’, his epithet for ThiruViKa. His other epithets for him are, vendaikkai’ and ‘vazha vazha’, all insinuating that there is no ‘cut and thrust’ to his writings. A contributor to the weekly himself, he had come to tongue lash him for supporting an Indian marrying a foreigner. Rukmini Devi (1904-1986), the classical dancer, was marrying George Sidney Arundale (1878-1945), the Theosophist. Leading lights like the Hindu and Swadesamithran had deplored it. C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) (1878-1972), Gandhiji’s ‘conscience-keeper’ drops in one day to exercise his persuasive charm on a reluctant ThiruViKa to append his signature to an announcement which was to escalate a schism later.

E.Ve.Ramasamy Naicker (EVeRa) (1879-1973), every inch the cap less Fidel Castro, drops in often for some robust disputation. He is the founder of the Dravidian movement, the staple of the Tamil Nadu politics. Mahakavi Subramania Bharathiyar (Bharathiyar) (1882-1921), the uncrowned Tamil poet-laureate, stages a majestic entry one day. In the assistant editor Ve.Swaminatha Sarma’s words: Open coat, collarless shirt with tie, a blue towel casually draped on a shoulder, bright striped turban, red dot in the forehead, cropped moustache, sunken cheeks and ‘tiger, tiger burning’ bright eyes, horror of horrors – puffing a long cigar! [Sarma, (1959). p.233) [5] This was, but, at Desabakthan office earlier.

Thiruvika lost his customary cool one day at Desabakthan office, which could have cost him dearly. The police had entered the office in his absence and commenced search operations. For once, he was belligerent. Storming in, he berated them and asked them to get lost; it is said, that he pushed an officer or at least made for it. They departed, grumbling that he lacked manners. Shocked beyond belief, Va. Oo. Chidambaram Pillai (VaOosi) (1872-1936), the fiery lawyer who had defied the British by running a shipping line, put him in his place by reading the riot act.

The neem tree in the gardens of Sadhu Acchukkudam, the printing press and offices of Navasakthi at Ganapathy Mudaly Street, Royapettah, Madras was a mute witness to all such trespasses into the pristine precincts of the weekly. ThiruViKa’s favourite perch was a chair under this tree. The printing press and the weekly, the tree coming as a bonus, were gifted to him by the working class. His brother, Thiru. Vi. Ulaghanatha Mudaliyar ran the back office and minded the till as the proprietor, leaving him to his Bodhi tree and his meditations. The Bodhi Tree is a metaphor for him.

Notes:

4. The Glossary will explain unfamiliar and Tamil words in italics, as in this sample.

5. Referencing and citation: Harvard APA. A History referencing system, with a protocol for using footnotes, will also be considered for the book.


[to be continued]

By S.Soundararajan