An island called TN

A tour to North India last week came as reconfirmation of my long held view -- not about our north but TN. The State hardly matters in the national scheme of things. But if you are able to overcome this initial surge of shame, you actually feel relieved you are not in ‘stiffling’ TN and that is the bad part.

Almost every other region, including distant Dharamshala has something of India going on in its days with some reciprocation from Delhi, but TN barely figures. Even the ‘neglected’ North-East is no longer so, but TN if off the grid. Down Under of the world is nearer, and not just due to cricket, but down under of India is way below the radar. Indeed, it looks even PoK would have more of India than TN.

Rest of India’s disconnect with TN is owing to reasons ranging from historical to political to personal mindsets. To our consolation it must be said that the mocking Madarasi tag attached to us was a long standing monstrosity. But all Southerners came under that label and quickly came out too except, well, the real Madarasi. TN’s declared disdain for Hindi did not help either. A Northern bias against South and TN in several fields is pretty obvious. But since the Eighties, with many stars and Parli ‘stall-warts’ storming Delhi, such anomalies could have easily been rectified but were not.

Our current status as an ‘island’, cut off from ‘mainland’ India by unfathomable seas of mental isolation is largely self-imposed. TN is not in the reckoning because it opted out. It all started a century ago with the Justice Party, which was the cutting edge of the infamous ‘Divide and Rule’ policy of the British in this part of the country. The concocted Aryan Invasion Theory gave the North Vs South campaign a spurious scientific sanction. If indeed there was any invasion or mass movement in the past it was from South to North as people were pushed upland by rising seas that swallowed the shores and made a peninsula of a perfect rectangle. Really we should be taking credit for a great part of national culture but we want nothing of even what is on offer!

Despite nationalists like V.O.C, Bharathi and later, Rajaji and Muthuramalingam, the poisonous seed of separatism stayed put parallelly. ‘Dravidian’ AP, Kerala and K’taka refused to buy, but TN’s people easily fell prey to Periyar and his progeny’s rhetorical pranks. Post-Independence, after gathering steam for two decades, in 1967, by a familiar twist of their tongues they dumped the larger Dravidanadu cause to settle for power in lesser TN, which ‘Island’ State they have laid waste since then.

This Island is now ever more alienated. The rest of India, politicos and media alike, keep a discreet distance, not wanting to tread out of dread or for bread. For national political parties, the chieftains who have been alternating in power here will also alternate as allies. Keeping them in good humour is always a good political investment. The State and its people are expendable collateral damage in their dealings. Sometimes, so are their own local units. The hotline between Lutyens estate and sprawling estates here is ever open. Why go around in big circles like Lord Muruga when you can pluck plum political fruits by just circum-navigating a deity here a la Lord Pillayar? And thus TN’s special status stays with elected Annans from here acting as emissaries of their leader in Capital while northern netas and jis drop in to pay respects or whatever!

But ‘civil society’ is the real joker in the pack. Like in India, in TN too honest officials commit or are made to commit suicide. But none from beyond wants CBI enquiry. Like elsewhere, rapes happen, but the usual candle-lights are absent. Crimes abound as do cover-ups, but media sleuths who throng other States, just keep off. Activists from afar look away from the grassroots-to-treetop corruption. The entire Election Commission should have been commissioned to study the mock (buy)polls in Srirangam, but remained spectator to malpractices. Primetime is rarely TN time unless it is about the fate of a Kamal movie. Vociferous panelists are caution personified if topic is TN. Political characters that are routinely caricatured in ‘India’, are handled with care ‘here’. Sure, fanhood and fear are hardcoded into the State’s genetics. But should the rest of the nation, that wants to know and speak out on everything under the sun court willful ignorance on happenings right under its nose?

It is baffling to see TN’s touch-me-not syndrome getting such absolute national reciprocation. The State’s wish for secrecy and privacy is fully ratified and fearfully respected. What happens in TN stays in TN.

So next time a quiz master asks the name of the ‘island at South-East edge of India’, remember the answer is not ‘Sri Lanka’!


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