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Archive for October 20th, 2012

C. Rajagopalachari (1878- 1972)
Politician, last governor-general of India

Rajaji, as his friends called him, in his younger days fell foul with the Brahmin orthodoxy. He was convinced its hidebound customs were morally wrong. On one occasion when he organized inter-caste, cosmopolitan dining, there were moves to ostracize him. They had their revenge when his father died in 1914, for no Brahmin priest could be found to conduct the last rites. That however didn’t deter him from his conviction.
During his tenure as the Chairman of Salem municipality he upheld the right of the Harijans (low- caste) to use public water taps. As premier of Madras Province, in 1937, he opened the gates of temples hitherto barred to a large section of Hindus-the untouchables. It was a milestone in the social history of the Province.
His humanism shone through his many acts however unpopular with a section of the people that prompted Kamaraj, his one time political rival to comment that he had that rare quality to consider and respect man as man.
2.
He had great respect for his English teacher John Guthrie Tait. This Scot after returning to his native land received news of his pupil and he sent him one pound of the finest Indian tobacco every month. Even when Rajaji was in gaol he had seen to that his teacher received his quota. This continued till his death.
3.
During his stay in Pudupalayam village in Salem district he established a Gandhi Ashram. One day Rajaji noticed a displaced mesh of the chimney and he set about to correct it. Normally one Chinnan did odd jobs around the Ashram.
Rajaji’s daughter seeing her father precariously perched atop a ladder hurried to him and said, “Isn’t Chinnan there? Will he not do it? What if you fall and injure yourself?”
Back came Rajaji’s reply, “If he falls and injures himself, it doesn’t matter, does it? ”
4.
In every deal, which he struck he looked into merits than money value. Rajaji wanted to settle down in Madras and thus his house was put up for sale. He also had a buyer a Doctor Sundaram who wanted to set up a hospital. Rajaji argued, “ Doctor Sundaram wants the house only to do service to the public. ” Selling the house at a price the doctor could afford, Rajaji left Salem.
5.
In 1937 Rajaji as the Premier of Madras wanted to introduce a Bill to relieve the indebtedness of the poor from the clutches of moneylenders. During a discussion in the State Legislature, Shri. T.T Krishnamachari advised Rajaji to collect the statistics of people affected before such a bill was put up. Rajaji’s reply was thus, ”If my friend Krishnamachari troubled by mosquitoes wants to go in for a mosquito curtain he will not certainly not take a census of mosquitoes and their proportion of distribution between Mylapore and George Town.”
6.
In one of the pre-Independence sweltering summer CR was travelling by train and he had an Englishman as his co-passenger who fretted over the heat. Perspiring freely he commented, ‘It is a very hot afternoon.’
‘Not hot enough,’ replied Rajaji.
Edgily the Englishman queried, ‘What do you mean?’
‘Not hot enough,’ CR answered with a smile, ‘to keep you gentlemen out of our country.’
7.
When CR was the Governor-General of India during the UN celebrations held in New Delhi in 1948 he spotted Shri S.R Ranganathan, an eminent librarian. Among many dignitaries present to hear him he saw S.R seated in the back row. Making a beeline towards him he queried, “ What have you professors to do with this political show?”
Later during the film show CR made him sit next to him. In Tamil he said, “A professor or a librarian is as good as a Governor-General. Why are you so shy and go to the back bench?”
8.
During a tour of Mysore as the Governor-General he was driven through a busy artery of Bangalore. The security was high and despite of it a decrepit old man managed to break the police cordon and reach him. CR recognized him as his old cook of Salem days. He motioned his security staff to let him come near. After accepting his greetings CR asked him to meet him at his camp. At the end of the interview he presented the old cook with hundred rupees as a token of services rendered some 30 years ago.
9.
While discussing over some recommendations presented to the Foreign Affairs committee CR the Home Minister and Jawaharlal Nehru took divergent views. Two members fell in with Nehru’s stand. CR tried to persuade Nehru to his views. In the end Nehru said, “You see, Rajaji, the majority is with me.”
Accepting that for a fact he said with a grin, “But logic is with me.”
10.
On decline in morals: Morality without religion is like calories without vitamins.
On deception: There are two ways of deception: one is a simple deception and the other by compromise.
On sabre rattling among politicians: fireworks and lightening are preferred to candlelight.
11.
Caste prejudices and communal biases were anathema to CR. When a correspondent inquired about his ‘gotra’ he wrote back, “I am of the Srivasta gotra but neither my intellect or folly is traceable to it.”
12.
When one of the miscreants threw stones at him during a meeting in Madurai he observed that the young man had a poor aim. “If he was a good marksman, he could have found place in the police department and risen very high.”
13.
Profulla Chandra Ghosh, former Chief Minister of West Bengal, along with Acharya Profulla Chandra Ray were proceeding to attend the Congress session held at Kakinada. They boarded the train at Vijayawada and as they moved to their own berths they passed Rajaji who was alone in his compartment. Ray turned to his companion and observed, ‘frail, frail frame’. CR retorted, “ leading to the fourth f failure.”
14.
As custom demanded CR once recited a South Indian name where a person’s name necessarily carried the place of birth, father’s name, caste. It was too much for Pyarelal who was Gandhiji’s personal secretary and he said, ‘Let me call a stenographer.’
Ignoring this CR asked innocently, “What is Hakim Sahib’s name?”
“Hakim Ajmal Khan.”
Rajaji asked, “How do they refer him at a public meeting?”
In those Non-cooperation days national leaders were given elaborate honorific titles and Hakim Khan was exalted as Masih-ul-Mulk, Hazal ul Hakim, Hakim Ajmal Khan Sahib.
Pyrelal began reciting the name with his full titles at which Rajaji said, “Stop, let me call a stenographer!”
15.
In his 1964-65 Central Budget, the then Finance Minister T.T Krishnamachari introduced an Annuity Deposit Scheme, whereby individuals were to deposit a certain amount with the Central Government and it was to be repaid in 10 instalments. Rajaji who was then 86 wrote to the Minister saying that a man of his age should not be expected to live for another 10 years to collect his dues. Thanks to Rajaji the Government excluded people aged 70 and above from the scheme.
16.
As the Rowlatt Act was being considered in the Imperial Legislative Council, Rajaji was at Salem. He fell in with Gandhiji’s call for Satyagraha.
In 1919 he moved to Madras where CR became busier than ever. He would return home late and study into small hours. One day his daughter found him poring over law books and asked, “Are you reading for a law case?”
With a smile he replied, “I am reading about breaking laws.” He added seriously, “Sometimes a bad law has to be broken. ”
(Ack: Raj Mohan Gandhi author of Rajaji, A Life)
compiler:benny thomas

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