E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As I was stepping into Saravana Bhavan in T. Nagar for breakfast, I saw the Ace Political Expert (APE), Kho Kumaraswamy, sitting alone in a corner, striking a very ponderous pose.
As my luck would have it, he was waiting to place an order and I joined him. APE was just beginning to dredge into his button idlis when I asked him whether Chennai, the city formerly known as Madras, would undergo further changes in name, now that it is more than 350 years old.
Kho Kum took his time. He was chewing each idli to their last atom before swallowing them.
He said, “I think it’s about time. You see, Chennai was only a standby name. I understand the top leadership wants to rename the city as ‘Stalinakudi or Stalinapakkam. God willing, this could happen in a year or two. The doting government at the Centre is waiting to sign the dotted line.”
“I am surprised, you said ‘God willing’! Isn’t the term strictly forbidden here?”
“Oh, that’s just a slip of the classical mother tongue. I should have said, ‘Non-Hindu Gods willing’. Hindu Gods are strictly forbidden here! They don’t fetch many votes in Tamil Naad.”
As we began picking at the pongal, I asked Kho Kum what he thought of the current leadership in Chennai.
“On one side, its vision is myopic, with all the focus on converting Chennai to Stalinapakkam as early as possible. Every obstacle is being cleared ruthlessly. On the other side, it is cross-eyed. Either it is dark or suspicious of anything that can delay the pet dream, or it is a perpetual yellow which makes it jaundice-eyed,” said KK with a glint in his eyes.
“The practice of a no-god concept in a sense must be helping the State make rapid progress?”
Kho Kho laughed and said, “Just because they don’t believe in Gods, it doesn’t mean they don’t worship here. It’s a daily ritual here for the young and even the very old to fall at their leader’s feet, swipe the dust off the feet, and rub it on the eyes. It seems there is a miraculous healing effect when the dust is applied to eyes although this may also be one of the reasons why most people in politics have developed a skewed vision here.”
As we began sipping filter coffee, I asked whether the leaderhip in Tamil Nadu would allow ‘Ramar Sethu’ to stay as it is.
“No chance at all,” said the APE emphatically. “The only way this could happen is, if the Centre renames it as ‘MuKa Sethu‘ and the whole cabinet from the PM downwards come down for the renaming ceremony and go through dust swiping ceremony. Of course, the UPA chairperson too has to be there.”
As we were leaving, Kho Khum said ominously, “I see this episode as the turning point in Indian Politics. Tamil Nadu might have kicked off a tsunami, not in the Indian Ocean but in the ocean of Indian polity. And like with the original tsunami, the toll may be uncertain.”