அறிஞர் அண்ணாவின் கட்டுரைகள்


Sadhu Santharam was in a meditative mood - a rare phenomenon - he was almost sorrowful.

That was surprising, for I was all along thinking that Sadhu Santharam would be extra-jovial.

“Hey, you, silly feller! You are in the habit of showing scant respect for Sadhus, aren’t you? Now, hang down your head in shame! The nobility of the Sadhus has been recognized by no less a person than the President of the Indian Republic! Babu Rajendra Prasad, knows the great ‘service’ that we the Sadhus are bound to render to Bharath. In fact he requested the Sadhus, (after paying his tribute to their godliness) to contribute their quota for raising the level of the people, especially their moral character. The politicians could build up dams - but of what avail are they when the soul is damned!

Factories and laboratories, work houses and colleges, cultural parlours and a host of other institutions could be built, in their hundreds - but of what avail, if in this process, spiritualism is lost?; That is exactly where, we are needed. We alone are ordained, to keep aloft the Torch of Heavenly Wisdom and through us alone could you the Materialists hope to get a glimpse of the Supreme Being.

Babu Rajendra Prasad knows this - he is well versed, a Sanskrit scholar, and hence it is, he sought our help.

I was ‘of course’ expecting Sadhu Santharam to pour forth his thoughts - torrent like - in some such way - for I had seen in the papers, that Babu Rajendra Prasad took a prominent part in a Conference of Sadhus, and spoke in a reverential way - almost praying before the Sadhus - asking them to bless this land, its rulers, and their attempts at improving the lot of the commonfolk.

Sadhu Santharam had a grouse against me from a very long time.

I used to argue, with animation, that these Sadhus should not be given an honoured place in the society at all. I had some ugly things to say against them, and my words were not totally vituperative, I had a mass of evidence to substantiate my thesis.

Oftentimes Sadhu Santharam used to retreat. He would be infuriated, naturally, but not being in a position to advance any argument in defence, he used to mutter that the times are bad - that people have lost the real perspective and so on.

Naturally, I used to be elated.

So, when I read in the papers that Babu Rajendra Prasad, in spite of his multifarious engagements found time to take part in a conference of Sadhus, I was aghast. Instantly my thoughts went to Sadhu Santharam. That man would gloat over this - in fact he would be emboldened to question my very common sense. He would begin to admonish me even.

When such were my thoughts, I found Sadhu Santharam appearing before me, with meekness. Is it any wonder that I was surprised, mildly shocked?

Perhaps, he knows not the news, I thought, and I was determined not to let him know it.

“What ails you, Oh! good-for-nothing!” I asked Sadhu Santharam, in a jocular way. He grumbled something - and sat by my side in a pensive mood. Now this was a sight that usually irritates me. I am delighted to meet those who discuss with me, though inwardly I used to wish that I should be the victor.

This spectacle, of submission and silence, is not to my taste. So I wanted just to lift him up, tickle him if that could help him.

“Santharam! Why are you in such a mood - especially when ...” I did not finish my sentence, for I did not want to give up my stand, by a lack of prudence.

“Especially, what?” asked Sadhu Santharam. There was dejection visible in his tone and demeanour.

I was a bit moved. Said I, “Why Santharam! I thought that you would be jubilant.” He picked up the hint, but did not change his mood.

“Are you referring to our conference!” asked Santharam.

I was not happy, over the word ‘Our’, hence instantly corrected him, “Yes, your conference.” I added.

“That’s what is worrying me.” said Santharam, to my astonishment.

What impudence I thought, and lest I should give vent to my anger, I kept mum.
Santharam spoke.
“Naturally, you people are apt to think that we Sadhus, would be mightily pleased by this Conference. Not me. There may be some Sadhus, ready to share your views. There are Sadhus and Sadhus, you know. But no self-respecting Sadhu would be happy or proud over what took place”

This was too much - impertinence of the worst type - I thought.

I was all along thinking that all right-thinking individuals, all liberals, the Radicals at any rate, the self-respecters at all costs, should take Babu Rajendra Prasad to task for having degraded the great trust imposed in him by millions of our country men; for was it in the fitness of things, that the Head of the State should mingle with mendicants?

Only the distance between poor me, and Babu, stood in the way of a reprimand.

And to hear, Sadhu Santharam, to say, that he is not happy over the incident, is something in the nature of a shock.

And he talks about the ‘Self-respecting Sadhus!’

“Santharam! There should be a limit even to arrogance. The Head of the Republic condescends to take part in a conference of Sadhus, at a time when they have become the laughing stock. Not only the teenager, but grannies too are today up against these saffron-clad men, who pray but to prey on the poor and the unlettered. These Sadhus - at least most of them - are parasites. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said once; and there are many who wish that Nehru should say this again and again. And yet Babu Rajendra Prasad, the President of the Republic, honours you folks, by his presence and participation; and you have the cheeks to say as a self - respecting Sadhu you don’t feel happy over it.”

I could not resist the temptation of being virulent.

Sadhu Santharam refused to apologise - on the other hand he became aggressive.

“You say, we Sadhus should feel honoured by the presence of your President, don’t you! You are bound to say that. Why any B.D.O. is enough for you folks - you are all alert at the very smile of any officer. Not the Sadhus. Why should we? Babu Rajendra Prasad is the President of your Republic - not ours! - Our Republic has for its President, none else than the Almighty! We bow before the Supreme Being and take orders from Him alone. Do you think that we would - and should - get elated by the presence of the President? No. Certainly, not. Had I been to that conference, there would have been pandemonium. How dare you Sir, however highly placed you might be, how dare you dictate to us? - I would have asked with all the emphasis at my command.

"Immersed as you are in mundane affairs, you do not know, you cannot understand the history behind our holy institutions. Time was, when Monarchs trembled before Sadhus, and thrones toppled because of the Sadhu’s curse!

"We the Sadhus, gave Laws, -nay gave life unto the Laws enunciated by Emperors.

"You are not a Sadhu to know, that in days gone-by, those who wielded the sceptre, when in doubt or in remorse, when faced with danger or dilemma, would in all humility confer with the Sadhus. And the Sadhus used to point out the Path to be followed and no monarch refused to listen to the words of wisdom from the Saffron-clad.

"Mighty monarchs, used to pray and beg before the Hermit - for just a nod, a few words - a blessing.

"Deserts would blossom forth, by the mere sprinkling of the Holy water, and Sadhus have driven away not only devils, but also droughts.

"Sadhus, used to offer their advice to Sovereigns, but now, it is a topsy-turvy world! We the Sadhus are gathered together like so many naughty school children, to hear advices - admonitions - from the President.

"We the Sadhus were the Law-givers!

"We are now asked to respect Law!

"Our very presence meant, Holiness and Godliness - and look at the awkward situation, we are reminded of our duty, we are asked to become Holy and God-like.

"We, Sadhus, are ordained to get the services of and obedience from the ‘Worldly ones’ - and here is your President asking us to Serve Society!

"Is that for such ‘menial’ work, that we discarded the worldly ways - to serve the people!!

"It is indeed an irony of fate, that we the Sadhus, who ought to have convened a conference of these Rulers, to examine how far they have carried out their duties according to the ancient Scriptures, bless them if they have been following the path of righteousness, warn them if they were wavering, curse them if they have erred; it is indeed an irony of fate, that we the Sadhus were asked to gather together to hear sermons on good conduct, service, humility and the like from those in power.

“That is what is tormenting me”.

Sadhu Santharam’s outburst astounded me.

He had a logic of his own, and there was a sort of sincerity too. I thought that I would be no match for him, at that particular moment.

As if understanding my difficulty, Santharam asked me, “Do you know what I propose to do?”, and without waiting for my answer, he said, “I am going to give up this garb, this Saffron cloth.

"If in spite of this garb - or to be more correct because of this - we are asked to sit and learn the motto of service why not we discard this and don on the white garment!

"Saffron is not safe now from the eyes and tongues of those in power! And why should we continue wearing that garb?

"That conference, is an eye-opener, and it is now clear, that the future before the Sadhus, is not bright. The prying eyes of the public will be on us! Babu Rajendra Prasad’s speech, is a time-signal - a warning!”

Sadhu Santharam did not remain there, to hear my remarks.

There was determination in his voice, and he dashed on in the direction, not of his favourite Mutt, but to the hovel where, I along with a select few knew, dwelt ...

Oh! Why should I expose poor Santharam, at this juncture. Let us all wish him success!!

(Editorial - 17-11-1957)