Story of a wounded man


September 24, 2012

Prof. Balusamy traced the factors that shaped Bharati’s personality.

Photo: Professor Balusamy

September 24, 2012

Prof. Balusamy traced the factors that shaped Bharati’s personality.

Photo: Professor Balusamy

Bharathi had said this of Gandhi. “The world has to wait for a good 1000 years to become fortunate enough, to have a person like him among us”. Didn't that apply equally and in full measure, to Bharathi himself?

Bharathi's remembrance day was organised at the Arkay Convention Centre, under the aegis of Tamil Heritage Trust, on September, 11th, 2012. Professor Balusamy of The Madras Christian College spoke grippingly on “Bharathi – The Humanist”. Badri (Kizhakku Pathippagam) gave a brief introduction about the speaker.

Balusamy started his talk by saying that Bharathi came before us as a complex personality, an enigma, almost. He lived during the nation's most turbulent times – the end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Bharathi's story then was the story of the wounds he had suffered. While Gandhi experimented with truth, Bharathi experimented with Freedom itself.

Bharathi was in reality a concept as much as Gandhi was a puzzle. Bharathi had recognised Gandhi's potential and had named him people's man, who would one day lead the nation. Bharathi's autobiography written in poetry form was entitled Dream (Kanavu). It was written when he was barely 28. Did he have a premonition that it would at long last, be an unrealised dream? “All of us know that he was a 39 year old youngster, when he had breathed his last, with less than 20 at his funeral.” Balusamy struck a chord here.

Bharathi lost his mother when he was five and that longing for motherly affection left an indelible scar on him. Unfortunately that coupled detrimentally, with the strict upbringing of his father.

Bharathi's father wanted him to shine as an engineer. But Bharathi's pet aversion was mathematics. “He was a passionate traveller and embraced all and sundry, even a donkey, to tell you the truth.” He wanted to lead the life of a common child, pranks and all, but that was precisely proscribed by his dear dad. Chellamma his fond wife had confessed once – “Today I am known as the wife of a Maha Kavi. Time was when I was addressed by the epithet – a mad man's wife.”

For Bharathi, Chellamma was his Rathi. (‘Ninnaye Rathi Endru Ninaikkurenadi Kannamma’). Bharathi was ostracised (as a chaste non-brahmin) and was put in a remote unreachable corner and was left starving. He was unable to attend his daughter's wedding for this reason.

Bharathi hated English education though he loved and mastered many languages, including English. He was primarily a journalist and had joined Swadesamithiran in 1904. Later he started his own magazines -India, Karmayogi and BalaBharatha (in English) and a few more. Poetry occupied his life. He was monarch of prose, mind you Tamil and English. “Can we call him an Octopus with a hundred hands?” (and a hundred tongues). Balusamy burst into sudden gladness as he uttered these words. Philosophically he was in tune with Advaita. He lived among saints (siddhars) and even indulged in drugs. There were reasons behind whatever he did. Utter desperation could have been the real cause. Who knew what was churning in his mind?

Finally Balusamy read out a letter from Bharathi seeking alms! It was from Periasami Thooran's special collection of Bharathi's works. Even that is a script that asks for development of tamil, progress of science, bringing industrial wealth to Tamil Nadu, the proliferation of schools and what not. The last sentence asks beseechingly for aid. Broken financially, Bharathi still thought of the Nation.

The talk was preceded by Keerthana’s rendition of Bharathi's songs.

Originally published in HINDU – (


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