- World News
- In Pics
What makes our great leaders tick? How are they able to ration their time, balancing pressing domestic needs with their public obligations? We kick off our ‘A day in the life of’ series by chronicling a typical day in the life of one of India’s greatest statesman and progressive social thinkers, the venerable Thiru Karunanidhi.
Our southern correspondent, Vetti Vijayakumar, became a fly on the wall and tracked the Kalaignar’s routine, which always begins at the crack of dawn from his Gopalapuram residence and ends in his alternate residence.
5:00 am: Chennai wakes up, not to the twitter of birds but to the roar of aircrafts passing overhead.
Kalaignar Karunanidhi stirs in his bed, props himself up on the bed, stifles a yawn, slips a finger into his sunglasses to rub his eyes, and stretches his arms. He then sits upright and recites 1330 Tirukkurals without a second’s pause.
6:00 am: Kalaignar presses a button on the side of his bed. His personal assistant Muthuvel enters the room, and wheels the veteran DMK leader out into the living room. The aroma of the breakfast being prepared floats into the room from the kitchen.
Karunanidhi: Muthu, read the news, paa.
Muthuvel (clears his throat): Bomb blasts in Bengaluru. PM strongly condemns the blasts.
Muthuvel: Violence on the streets of Kolkata. TMC workers on the rampage
Karunanidhi: I had advised her not to desert the UPA. Look how she lands herself in one controversy after another. (gently rubs his chin in deep thought for a minute) Anyway, continue.
Muthuvel: Bomb blasts in Boston. Obama condemns it.
Karunanidhi: You have already read this news, la. Where is this Boston? Is it in Karnataka?
Muthuvel: It is in the US, Kalaignare. (peers at the newspaper) Something important here, Ayya! Massive support for Modi across the country. Scheduled to address meeting of TN Chamber of Commerce shortly.
Karunandhi: Tell Stalin to arrange a meeting. Make the best arrangements at our house. Does he like fried kozhi (Editor: chicken)?
Muthuvel: Ayya, his personal preferences are unknown to the nation. We only know that he is unmarried.
7:00 am: Breakfast arrives. The scent of rice upma sprinkled with ghee cannot be missed. The Maran brothers (Kalanidhi and Dayanidhi) join the elders at the breakfast table.
Karunanidhi: Daya, how is your case progressing? Have you surrendered the ISDN connections?
Dayanidhi: I have. But the routers I have not returned to BSNL. You need to speak to Delhi for speedy disposal.
Karunanidhi: Hmm…Kala, how about you? How is the team doing?
Kalanidhi: They are playing well, winning impossible games. We are among the top four. Importantly, Dale Steyn is taking IPL seriously and Ishant and Mishra have learnt to bowl well.
Karunanidhi: Can we make it to the finals?
Kalanidhi: We have a problem, again from a Sri Lankan. Sangakkara, the captain, is totally out of touch. Tom and Laxman are thinking of bringing in Darren Sammy the T20 WC winning captain.
Karunanidhi: Duraiswamy? Must be a Tamilian. Yes, go ahead. We need to show our Tamil face.
Kalanidhi: As you say, Kalaignare.
Karunanidhi: Good. Meanwhile, I’ll protest against that Sinhalese Sangakkara, and once again fast for the Tamil cause till lunch.
Kalanidhi (wipes a tear from his eyes): That’s an incredible sacrifice, Kalaignare
Dayanidhi (in a voice choked with emotion): You have done so much for the cause of Tamils.
Karunanidhi (impassively): Hmm. By the way, do get my wives tickets to the next Sun Risers IPL match.
1:00 pm: Karunanidhi breaks his marathon fast with chicken curry, mutton curry, and an assortment of other delicious dishes. Kalaignar finishes the last morsel of food on his plate, wipes his plate with the end of his yellow shawl and burps. He then descends into a meditative state(Editor: siesta) for the next one hour, during which time the others respectfully watch with their arms folded.
3:30 pm: Kalaignar stirs. Muthuvel hands Kalaignar a notepad. Kalaignar spends the next one hour writing delightful poetry – alternating between pensive thought and deliberate scratches on the notepad.
4:30 pm: The phone rings. Muthuvel answers it.
Muthuvel: Hello…yes, this is his house…who is this?…Oh, Rajnath Singh’s PA?… Oh, Rajnath wants to speak to Kalaignar? Yes, of course… He will speak in Hindi?… Er, wait a bit.
Muthuvel makes a few calls, and minutes later, Ismail and Senthil enter the room. Rajnath Singh’s call comes in and Muthuvel puts the phone on speaker mode. The arrangement is as follows: Rajnath cannot speak English, so he speaks in Hindi. Ismal translates it to English, and Senthil translates that further into Tamil, which Muthuvel suitably garnishes with appropriate salutations and communicates to Kalaignar.
Muthuvel: Ayya, Rajnath greets you. He also asks about your health.
Karunanidhi: Same to him. Tell him I am doing fine. With Stalin around me, I am in good health too.
Muthuvel (after communicating Kalaignar’s lines): Rajnath Sir remembers the NDA of Vajpayee of which you were a part. He has come with an offer of the DMK joining the alliance.
Karunanidhi: Tell him I am glad he called but we believe in post-poll alliances not pre-poll. Our joining the NDA will carry the condition that we get the portfolios of Telecommunications, Surface Transport and Chemicals.
Muthuvel: He says that the party will decide and Modi will take a final call.
6:00 pm: Kalaignar is seen watching TV. A MGR-Jayalalitha song suddenly appears causing Kalaignar’s face to contort in disgust. “Kandravi” he mutters with rare feeling.
Meanwhile, A. Raja walks into the room and prostrates himself at Kalaignar’s feet.
Karunanidhi: Hmm… enna paa, Raja… this enquiry… what they call… JPC…is it over?
A.Raja: Yes. They have held me totally responsible for the scam. This, after spending so many months in the Tihar Jail. Anna, you should do something to help me.
Karunanidhi: Let’s see. I will speak to the PM.
Muthuvel dials the PM
The other side: Silence
The other side: Silence
Muthuvel mutters Hello a few more times with the same result. He cuts the call and tries again.
An answering machine switches on the third ring and says, “Callers with urgent messages may contact Mr. Rajiv Shukla, Hon’ble Minister.
Muthuvel calls, but his voicemail informs that Rajiv Shula is in Mumbai for an IPL match and is sitting next to Nita Ambani, and will not be able to pick the call.
Karunanidhi: Tell him to call me during the strategic time-out.
8:30 pm: It’s dinner time. The entire Karunanidhi family is gathered around the table. There is Stalin, there is Kanimozhi and Alagiri has just arrived from Madurai.
Kanimozhi (to Alagiri): Anna, when did you arrive from Delhi?
Alagiri: Delhi? No Delhi. I am coming from Madurai.
Kanimozhi: You had some business in Madurai?
Alagiri: I had to lead a rally of DMK activists. I had to address two meetings.
Karunanidhi: But you are leading rallies against your own party. What is this show of strength? Burning of houses and offices? Why don’t you stay along at Delhi and act like a Minister?
Alagiri: If I am in Delhi, they ask me to attend Parliament and there they ask questions. Nobody asks me questions, you know.
At this point, Stalin slams his fist on the table, springs from his chair, his face a mask of disgust, throws a baleful glare at Alagiri, and storms out of the room. Alagiri, too abandons his seat, takes a step towards the other door, before turning to pick his half-full plate, and storms out of the room.
Karunanidhi (sighs deeply): Well, that is that. How are my two beloved ladies doing today?
Rajathiammal and Dayalummal (fold their hands in front of them, glare at each other, and snort): HMPH!
Karunanidhi: Enna maa Dayalumma? What happened?
Dayaluammal: How come she gets better spots for tomorrow’s Sun-Risers match than me? I always knew you loved her more than me. It’s because she’s younger, isn’t it?
Dayaluammal begins to sob inconsolably, leaving Kalaignar in a rather confused state.
Karunanidhi: Aiyo, nothing like that, maa. Rajathi, why don’t you give her your tickets and take hers?
Rajathiammal: What?? You are so partial to her!!! How can you do this to me? You don’t send her kids to jail, but you send my child Kani to Tihar for months together. Now, when I get a chance to watch my favourite player Sanga from close quarters, you try to snatch that too from me! You hate me!
Karunanidhi: Aiyo, don’t say that aloud maa, or I’d have to fast again tomorrow for the Tamils.
Rajathiammal breaks into sobs as well, and leaves the room wailing loudly. Dayaluammal leaves from the other door, wailing equally loudly, leaving Kalaignar alone in the room with Muthuvel.
Kalaignar (sighs deeply, and looks at Muthuvel): Yet another day, and I’m still alive. Vaa pa, let’s go.
Muthuvel wheels back the DMK supremo back to his bedroom where Kalaignar stretches out on the bed and within seconds passes out.