Vignettes from Kovai Ayyamuthu’s reminiscences of Periyar – I

Posted: May 13, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Translated by Vamanan

Gopalbagh on Coimbatore’s Avanashi Road is a place every one should visit. One can see there, in one form or the other, the great achievements of science from the world over. Similarly, one can see there at at different times, great men from all over the world, commoners, good people and louts. From powerful persons ruling the world to common scavengers…everybody visits the place.

G. D. Naidu, who owns Gopal Bagh, is a very great name to reckon with. He is person who elicits wonder. He is a genius, but also an eccentric. He is a man who has toured the world many times over but does not know how to live in peace with it! He is an expert in law but can also obstinately hold on to indefensible positions. He commands a lot of power and can be offensive as an opponent. He may feast you or send you hungry. He may flood you with his generosity or extract his pound of flesh. He knows how to amass wealth but is equally adept in losing it!

I have known him for the past forty years. I have associated with him for so long. He has not changed a bit. The same speech! The same dress! The same deportment! The same affability!   The same man!  Everything changes on earth. But G. D. alone does not change. I have deep respect for him then, now and forever. But to this day, I have not spoken to his hearing, a word in his praise or support! In fact, I have done just the opposite. I have been telling him that he should be sent to Kilpauk (mental hospital).

I won’t be wrong to say that he has affection for all those who associate themselves with him. He is such a good-hearted man. But he is also mischievous! One night, I had gone to Gopal Bagh.

‘‘Do you know that there is a Tirukkural conference today? Let us go. Periyar has met Rajaji at Tiruvannamalai and shared some secret. We must find out what it is,’’ he said, pulling me into his car and setting out.

The conference was being held in a big shed erected in the vacant plot owned by C.S.R. on Coimbatore Mettupalayam Road. When we alighted from the car, Periyar was addressing the gathering. When he had completed his speech, G.D. Naidu got on to the stage and began to speak.

‘‘Vallavur has spoken against lying. Periyar who recommends Valluvar’s Kural to the people should not lie.  He must reveal to the people gathered here what transpired between him and Rajaji at Tiruvannamalai’’, said Naidu to laughter from the audience.

‘‘There is nothing that you need to know. I had just made a courtesy call on him. We were speaking about our personal matters,’’ answered Periyar. His words did not satisfy anybody.

A play was to be held at the conference pandal after the conference was over. Naidu made the proposition that they could go to his bungalow and come back by the time the play started. Periyar agreed and came with Naidu.

We had dinner at Gopal Bagh, and before returning to the conference pandal stopped at my shop at Oppanakaara Veedhi.

My wife who now saw Periyar in a Black shirt welcomed him saying, ‘‘I don’t know in how many other guises I am going to see you still’’.

My wife Govindammal is a dyed-in-the-wool Congresswoman. She had gone to prison for Congress causes many times. She had no interest in any party or movement that was against the Congress. For her, Congress was a temple and Gandhi the deity!

Naicker’s eyes fell on the textiles stacked up in my shop. I pulled out a black silk bale and began to cut out a piece for him.

But by that time, GD who was standing beside me exclaimed, ‘‘If we keep wasting time like this here, all the money that is collected at the pandal by selling drama tickets will be…’’

Even before Naidu could complete his sentence, Periyar jumped to his feet and rushed to the car, saying, ‘‘Yes…yes…you said it right….Dishonest chaps…One should not trust them at all’’.

As the car sped forth, My wife and I bid goodbye with folded hands, even as we laughed uncontrollably.

(Excerpt Translated from ‘Naan Kanda Periyaar’ published in May 1957)  

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