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Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
My desk dictionary provides two meanings for the noun, scarecrow;
(1) any crude figure of a person set up to scare crows and other birds away from growing crops,
(2) a person of ragged or disreputable appearance.
The Tamil word for scarecrow is ‘Veruli’. I was introduced to this word, while growing up as a six year old in my maternal grandfather’s farm which was located 4 miles from Mankulam, on the Mullaitivu road. Probably, it was from Aachi (my grandmother) that I learnt about a poem of Eelam Tamil folk poet Navali Somasundara Pulavar (1876-1953) on scarecrow, with a lilting rhythm. The title was ‘Kaththari Thottatu Veruli’ [The scarecrow of Eggplant garden]. In grandfather’s farm, we had quite two or three scarecrows planted in the paddy field, even dressed with a toupee. All this was before my introduction to the scarecrow character in the Wizard of Oz story and movie. Its unfortunate that I can recollect only the first two lines of Somasundara pulavar’s poem now. These are,
‘Kaththari Thottatu Murrathile Ninru
Now 46 years later since my introduction to the scarecrow during my carefree days at my grandfather’s farm, I think that Somasundara Pulavar’s scarecrow song is apt to note the pathetic plight of once-admired V.Muralitharan of Kiran [aka Karuna]. He is now singing from a 15 feet pit, literally and figuratively. He dug his own pit, and he is forced to sing a scarecrow song of his handlers and ghost writers. The latest addendum of his scarecrow song came out in the Colombo Daily Mirror of March 28th. The good news is, Karuna’s song is exposing the fibs of ‘pigs are flying’ tales written by D.B.S.Jeyaraj to the Sunday Leader, an year ago. The bad news is, Karuna will probably keep on singing the lines fed by his handlers and ghost writers, either until he regains his senses or until he receives summons from the Accountant General Chitragupta (an equivalent of St.Peter, in the Hindu mythology) of Lord of the Hades.
One has to wait only one year to check on the validity of D.B.S.Jeyaraj’s proclivities for fiction-writing under the garb of political commentary. After Karuna’s run-a-thon for life to Colombo from his Eastern front perch on the Easter Sunday of 2004, Jeyaraj wrote a cockamamy tale of “Karuna ends eastern revolt after deal with LTTE” [Sunday Leader, Colombo, April 18, 2004]. There hardly was any deal between Karuna the deserter and the LTTE. Karuna simply fled from his perch, when his life was in danger. Now, let’s check what Karuna has noted in his first anniversary statement:
(1) “The war unleashed on the [Easter] Friday did not escalate into a major confrontation, because we exercised extreme restraint. Nevertheless, it must be stated, that it was waged with the help of the Sri Lanka Government which, under pressure from the Norwegians and the SLMM, helped Prabhakaran to move his militant cadres from North to East…We accepted him as our redeemer, but because of the Cease Fire Agreement he turned against us and we lost thousands of our youth.”
(2) “It is now one year since we were attacked. This is not a historic event for us to celebrate annually. We remember this as the day we faced losses.”
For whatever its worth, in these statements, Karuna has clearly exposed D.B.S.Jeyaraj’s credibility as a critical commentator on Eelam Tamil issues. For whatever his worth in the past, Karuna also shows to the public in this anniversary statement, that gratitude ingredient is not running in his veins now; not only to Pirabhakaran, but also to the Sri Lankan government [and the Sri Lankan military folks] who saved his neck in the nick of time. He is also sulking against the Norwegians who haven’t given him any respect.
According to Karuna, or his ghost writers, “There is no need for the Norwegian facilitators to direct the way for our people.” In the 2005 world-view of Karuna, salvation can only be delivered from India. To quote him, or his ghost writers, “The only country that has the right to get involved in our problem is India alone and no other country has the right to interfere in our problem.”
What right? Karuna doesn’t [or cannot] expand.
By criticising Norway and praising India, Karuna also subliminally reveals his stupidity. He has failed to comprehend who’s dictum now runs in India? That of Sonia Gandhi, an Italian by birth and upbringing, who has more in common with European culture than the Indian political thinking of male geezers, whose ‘brains need Viagra’ [to borrow a colorful idiom from Paul Newman].
Despite all the bells and whistles of democracy, India’s culture for the past 4,000 years has been monarchic explicitly as well as implicitly. The dominant leader’s thoughts and tastes had prevailed, for four millenia there. From 1915 until his death, Mahatma Gandhi was the un-crowned monarch. Then, the crown passed on to Jawaharlal Nehru (1948-1964), his daughter Indira Gandhi (1966-1984, excluding the interlude of geezers 1964-1966 and 1977-1980), his grandson Rajiv Gandhi (1984-1989), followed again by 15 years interlude of geezers (1989-2004) and now to Rajiv’s widow Sonia (since 2004).
Despite the prodding of demented courtiers like N.Ram and pernickety taunters like Subramanian Swamy, as per Indian involvement on the Sri Lankan quagmire, Rajiv Gandhi’s widow has shown demonstrable pragmatism and restraint, which were missing in her husband during late 1980s. Thus Karuna [or his fellow travellers like TULF President V.Anandasangaree] is mistaken that Sonia Gandhi would turn a sympathetic ear to their umpteen pleas from the pit for an ‘Indian involvement’ in Sri Lanka.
Apart from Navali Somasundara Pulavar, the plight of Karuna was also foretold by Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919), in his 1903 lyrics to the scarecrow role, originated by vaudevillian acrobat-comedian Fred Andrew Stone (1873-1959). Stone was the inspiration for Ray Bolger, who played the scarecrow role in the Wizard of Oz movie, released in 1939. Bolger sang the song [‘If I only had a brain’] written by E.Y.Harburg, as I had noted in my previous commentary [vide, ‘Karuna facing defector’s dilemma’, sangam archives, June 3, 2004]. But, Baum’s original 1903 lyrics for the scarecrow was longer and more biting than the movie version sung by Ray Bolger. I reproduce Baum’s lines below, since they fit perfectly to Karuna’s current status:
“Though I appear a handsome man, I’m only stuffed
But until now [I stress, for the past 12 months], he has hardly mentioned anything about whether he knew the Oswald-Ruby combination [i.e., Dhanu and Sivarasan] of Rajiv assassination, though Dhanu and Sivarasan were projected by the Indian media hacks from 1991 to 1999 as LTTE Black Tigers. How’z that for Karuna’s insider status as a prominent LTTEer of 1990s? But this doesn’t preclude that in the near future Karuna will be not tempted to provide a cockamamy tale on Sivarasan and Dhanu to save his skin, though it’s a certainty that Rajiv’s widow Sonia would hardly be bothered with such a political spin at the expense of her late husband.