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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha > Six Blind Men of Indostan

Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

Six Blind Men of Indostan

21 July 2000

[see also Media & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam]

By contemporary literary yardstick, the American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) is not a major figure. There are no entries about him the standard reference sources such as the Encyclopedia Britannica and Encyclopedia Americana. However, Saxe is remembered by poetry lovers for one of his exemplary poems entitled, 'The Blind Men and the Elephant', which describes humorously about an Indian fable we learnt in our childhood days; i.e., how a handful of blind men ventured to portray the elephant they believed they had 'seen'.

The manner in which the Eelam Tamil nationalism is now portrayed by the international mass media (especially that of the Madras Hindu group) is akin to John Saxe's description of six blind men. First, let me present the lines of John Saxe in entirety. Then, I will identify the six blind men who have been covering the Eelam scene regularly for the Indian news media.

It was six men of Indostan to learning much inclined
Who went to see the elephant though all of them were blind,
That each by observation might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the elephant, and happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, at once began to bawl:
'God bless me! But the elephant is very like a wall!'

The Second, feeling of the tusk, cried, 'Ho! What have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp? To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an elephant is very like a spear!'

The Third approached the animal, and happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands, thus blodly up and spake:
'I see,' quoth he, 'the Elephant is very like a snake!'

The Fourth reached out an eager hand, and felt about the knee,
'What most this wondrous beast is like is mighty plain,' quoth he;
' 'Tis clear enough the Elephant is very like a tree!'

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said: 'E'en the blindest man
can tell what this resembles most; deny the fact who can
This marvel of an elephant is very like a fan!'

The Sixth no sooner had begun about the beast to grope,
than, seizing on the swinging tail that fell within his scope,
'I see,' quoth he, 'the Elephant is very like a rope!'

And so these men of Indostan disputed loud and long,
each in his own opinion exceeding stiff and strong,
though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!


So oft in theologic wars, the disputants, I ween,
rail on in utter ignorance of what each other mean,
and prate about an elephant; not one of them has seen!

One can identify the 'six blind men' who report regularly on the LTTE and Prabhakaran for the Hindu group of news media. They are, (in alphabetical order) Rohan Gunaratna, D.B.S.Jeyaraj, N.Ram, V.S.Sambandan, T.S.Subramanian and V.Suryanarayan.

Among these, one blind man (Rohan Gunaratna) openly associates himself with the Sri Lankan Intelligence Services. Another blind man (N.Ram) suffers from delusions of grandeur that he is the contemporary Chanakya of Indian foreign policy so much so that the initial 'N' in his name should stand for 'Narcissus' Ram.

Knowledgeable sources have alerted that a couple among the remaining four blind men have functioned as 'front men' for the Indian Intelligence Services.

For the past decade, all six blind men have been predicting regularly the fall of Prabhakaran. In the national media of Sri Lanka, their pontifications are given prominence, since their analyses are touted to be full of insight on the mind-set of Prabhakaran. But, as John Saxe wrote poignantly,

'Each in his own opinion exceeding stiff and strong,
though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!'

Granted that, the lilting cadence and poignant choice of simple words by John Saxe for his exemplary poem on the blind men of Indostan is difficult to match - however, when I have time at my disposal, I wish to challenge myself by composing a current version of John Saxe's delightful poem - only replacing the symbolic 'elephant' with that of a 'tiger'.


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