Sunday, February 10, 2008

Julius Caesar – Redux

It's been a long time since I posted in here and nothing other than laziness can stake a claim to this. Yeah MBA does this to you.... anyways here's an article which made me double up when i saw the alacrity with which it was published. And pardon me for the language... I am rusty.

January 28th 2008 was indeed a black day (kari-naal) for civilization.

The extract from Outlook India reads “Amid thumping of desks by DMK members, Karunanidhi moved 'The Tamil Nadu Tamil New Year (Declaration) Bill, 2008,' which he hailed as "historically significant”.”

The Bill was about changing the Tamizh New Year from the first day of Chithirai to Thai Maasa Pirappu or Pongal. This is apparently a victory for the pro-Dravidian junta, a departure from the traditional Sanskrit (read Aryan) calendar. Forget the fact that people in the Southern TN celebrate it as Chithirai Vishu. Forget that the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Chithirai thiruvizha starts on that day. Forget the fact that the entire calendar has been designed keeping in mind the planetary movements and the solar cycle. Forget the fact that this very day is celebrated as New Year in Assam, Bengal, Burma, Cambodia, Kerala, Manipur, Nepal, Orissa, Punjab, Sri Lanka, Tripura and Thailand. And of course the fact that whether you like it or not Aryan influences on Tamizh culture will never disappear.

How does it matter you ask? Well it probably doesn’t… not to the scores of Tams all over the world (Mylapore, Mambalam, Mumbai, Madrid and all Agrahaarams included) who will continue celebrating it the way they used to. Not to all those who are used to starting the New Year with the Vishu Kani, the visit to a temple and the traditional feast (avial, chakkara pongal, mangai pachhadi included). Not to the age-old panchangams (Tirunelveli, Thanjavur and Naga) which will continue doing brisk sales in the run up to April 14th. And most of all not to me, who, despite living all his life in this city of dreams continues to long for his roots. However what it does reflect is the sheer audacity with which the DMK government has decided to run amok with its Dravidian agenda without considering the public viewpoint.

Unsurprisingly, except for the VHP and Tughlaq owner and political satirist Cho Ramaswami, no one has come out opposing this move. A few years ago, the DMK and ADMK used to play with Chennai bus routes (JJ vs KK), then came their leaders arresting themselves, and invoking new schemes to promote their popularity such as 2 rupees rice and color TV for all. The latest medium for proving their one-upmanship is the Tamizh culture which has been flourishing despite and not because of such antics inflicted upon it.

Yeah, really, the powers that be believe that this change has brought justice to the down-trodden brethren of the state for whom Dravidian culture is more important than two square meals a day. More so, the architect believes that this soul saving benediction of his can absolve him of a century of misgivings and will promote rationalism amongst his bloodied blood (pun intended). And what’s the rationale behind all this? Thiruvalluvar, the patron Tamizh saint, was born in this month and hence it is the most logical choice for this auspicious occasion. However, how certain are we that it is indeed so, when the saint is supposed to have lived some 2000 odd years ago, without any written records for the same? It is indeed a matter of shame that most Tamizh scholars endorse this view.

This is no doubt a kind of sadism, one that makes me cringe. Who on earth gave governments the power to change calendars? Well Caesar did do that on an ego trip and made himself immortal. But he was a person who respected his people’s wishes and did not make Romans flee their nation and settle in droves in the United States in search of a ‘good’ life. And Italians still love their last names (Corleone, Capello, anyone?) for he did not make his people conscious enough not to include their own surnames in their names. (Strangely this is observed only in TN I guess). But Caesar's wife (?singular?) must be above suspicion you see.

I can clearly see someone desperately trying to play Zeus here, but in the long run people’s beliefs are stronger than governments. To put things in perspective, there is actually no harm in this change of dates, for no government can ever change people’s emotions and beliefs through legislation as long as they don't serve as hindrances to peaceful human existence and the more atrocious the government behavior, the harsher the backlash, and the farther the alienation . The autocratic behavior of the architect only insulates him further from the so called Tamizh culture of which he believes he’s the supreme commander and protector. Legacies and heritages are things that outrun Emperors and Empires – the British Government will vouch this for sure. Emperor Ashoka learnt it the hard way in Kalinga. Perhaps the only place this blunder will make a difference is in government records, and the poor (!!) government servants will enjoy one holiday less.

Trail Caesar!

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