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Tamil Nadu’s famous poet Kannadasan in a song of everlasting beauty for the Tamil film Paadhakaanikkai (பாதகாணிக்கை), sung by TM Soundararajan, tuned by Viswanathan Ramamurthy runs thus:
வீடு வரை உறவு
வீதி வரை மனைவி
காடு வரை பிள்ளை
கடைசி வரை யாரோ?
veedu varai uravu
veedhi varai manaivi
kAdu varai pillai
kadaisi varai yaaro?
Translation: (When one dies), the grief of relatives is confined to the house, the wife accompanies the body till the street, the son comes till the cemetery. Who comes with you forever? These four lines of Kannadasan bring home the highest in philosophy that everything in life is temporary, nothing is permanent. Kannadasan was obviously inspired by the works of Pattinathar, a Tamil savant, who attained samadhi in Tiruvottriyur, Chennai:
அந்தமும் வாழ்வும் அகத்து மட்டே
விழி அம்பொழுக மெத்திய மாதரும் வீதி மட்டே
விம்மி விம்மி இரு கை தலை மேல் வைத்து அழும் மைந்தரும் சுடுகாடு மட்டே
பற்றித் தொடரும் இரு வினை புண்ணியம் பாவமுமே.
andhamum vAzhvum agathu matte
vizhi ambozhuga methiya mAdharum veedhi matte
vimmi vimmi iru kai thalai mel vaithu azhum maindharum sudukAdu matte
patrith thodarum iru vinai punniyam pAvamume
Fun, frolic and relations is at home.
Women (partner) who showered you with longing looks on the bed is only till the street.
Sons who hold their head with both their hands and weep inconsolably can keep you company only till the cemetery.
The only thing that sticks with you are your good and bad deeds in your lifetime.
When Kannadasan was asked why he did not write his last line on the lines of Pattinathar, and instead wrote “Who comes with you forever?” the poet replied that he did not want to do so as it meant telling the reader that his bad deeds would follow him till the end. A poet should not convey negative thoughts, as they could come true.
Even if Kannadasan wanted to be kind, the words of Pattinathar could well haunt the leaders of the two Kazhagams, the DMK and the AIADMK, as their bad deeds in allowing houses to be built on lake and river beds, permitting encroachments on water bodies, and later regularising them after demanding and accepting “bribes”, keep following them.
Such misdeeds over the last 50 years cannot be wished away, and continue to torment the chief ministers whether they be Karunananidhi, Jayalalithaa, Edappadi Palaniswami or M K Stalin.
However well intentioned Stalin may be, and however hard he works on trying to improve the lot of the city, and despite intensified relief works on the ground, he has inherited the legacy of fault lines for the sake of vote-bank politics.
Images of the CM wading through knee-deep water in several areas of Chennai and suburbs hardly look good on television, indicating that the infrastructure of the city badly needs overhaul and a comprehensive approach.
The courts can hardly take credit for the strictures passed on governmental neglect, as district courts too have been built on water bodies in the newly-formed districts of the State in the last ten years. Lake beds and river beds have been used to build collectorates, offices of the police and the courts, indicating that there has been apathy all around us.
NGOs and the Greater Chennai Corporation have done well to provide food to the stranded citizens in several parts of the city, where water has still not drained off though the rains stopped two days ago. Quick action has been taken to clear the subways, and restore power in many areas. However, the all-too familiar story of waterlogging during rains has taken the sheen off the Stalin administration.
The all-too familiar story of waterlogging during rains has taken the sheen off the Stalin administration
Officials wring their hands in despair over how to tackle the Mambalam canal problem, for instance. There is a limit to how much water can be pumped out from the canal to the Adyar river, while areas in T Nagar and Kodambakkam have to wait for days together to get their areas free of waterlogging.
With the public not being kind towards the ruling dispensation even if the latter is not directly responsible for the present mess, and people pointing out that it is the same old story of waterlogging even if governments change, the ruling DMK is not prepared to hold the urban local body polls in the month of December as originally planned.
Although courts have insisted on a December deadline, the officials could well refer to the ongoing flood relief works on in several inundated parts of Greater Chennai and get a postponement. Until two weeks ago, the DMK and the state government were going all out to make preparations for the civic polls in urban areas, boosted by the excellent showing in the rural local body elections, but the recent rains and the inundation of many areas would cause a postponement since the voters are still reeling under the impact of the heavy rains, and it would take several days for them to return to normalcy.
Even if the DMK functionaries refer to the poor performance of the previous AIADMK government resulting in the present crisis, the overall track of the two parties while in power has been abysmal, with the DMK being only marginally better than the AIADMK. People cannot forget the trauma of the 2015 floods, when water entered the houses of many on the banks of the Adyar and Cooum rivers and caused incalculable damage to lives and property. People are not in a mood to forgive the AIADMK for the action (or passiveness) on the part of its chief minister Jayalalithaa in not releasing water from Chembarambakkam reservoir in phases earlier and instead resorting to a huge discharge on one day.
Even if the DMK functionaries refer to the poor performance of the previous AIADMK government resulting in the present crisis, the overall track of the two parties while in power has been abysmal, with the DMK being only marginally better than the AIADMK. People cannot forget the trauma of the 2015 floods, when water entered the houses of many on the banks of the Adyar and Cooum rivers and caused incalculable damage to lives and property.
This is reflected in the massive defeat of the AIADMK in Chennai area in the 2021 elections. If the AIADMK gets only 2 points on a scale of ten, the DMK would only fare slightly better at 3 on the same scale of 10.
Hence, the DMK is in no position to take chances, and is well aware that public anger could well turn against them too in the urban local body polls if held within a month now. The DMK could well play safe, put off polls for a few months, come out with a concrete long-term plan through its flood mitigation panel, and then seek the mandate of the people, on the ground that its good deeds are more in number than the bad ones.
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