One hundred and twenty three years ago, this very day, was born a man so ahead of his time that the term “revolutionary” reads like an understatement. Though our hearts swell with pride at the mention of his name, it is also a disappointment that we tend to remember Subramanya Bharati only on his birthday, as if he were an unwanted footnote in an old history text.
Bharati’s songs are still very popular, the recent remix of his Chinnanchiru Kiliye Kannamma stands testimony to that. One of his poems that I like the most is Thedi Choru Nitham Thindru. To me, it sounds like a call to war, to action and to greatness. Those who have seen Mahanadhi might recall its rather strategic positioning… Kamal Hassan recites it after cutting his own arm in the climax.
I have fond memories of this verse, because of an incident that happened during my first semester in college.
I had to complete an entire record book, about 120 pages, I think. It was a Friday and I had just returned home. Mahanadhi was the Superhit Velli movie that afternoon. In my opinion, it is the best Tamil movie ever, and so I helped myself to another viewing. The climax, though doleful, changes to one of hope and anticipation, with a recital of this verse. Kamal’s voice couldn’t be more apt.
That evening, I wrote and finished the entire 120 pages (it too me 7 hours, I think). Not a feat by any standards, but one that I accomplished with great fervour. Every time my hand used to ache, I would take a 5-second break and tell myself “Naan veezhven endru ninaithaayo?” Voila, no more pain! I experienced that day that poetry could be energising and rejuvenating.
Happy birthday, Bard of Ettayapuram!
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