Tag Archives: drink

Tribute: Sasiperumal

1 Aug

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/77530#.VbxhtfOqqko

Translated by: Gokul

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While waiting for a bus today morning, I noticed a lungi-clad, middle-aged man enter a mango orchard with a helmet in his hand. Thinking it was a bucket that he held in his hand, I watched him closely. He placed the helmet on the ground and took out two bottles of rum. He squatted on the ground and poured the rum directly into this mouth. He didn’t even add water – and had nothing alongside it as well. Gulp, gulp. Five minutes. After retching once, he plucked a leaf nearby and chewed on it as he came and started his scooter that was parked near me.

A familiar scene. But it kept troubling me. When I visited Ambasamudram last year and went to the villages there, I saw men sitting idle in almost every house. The womenfolk were leaving for work. ‘His eyes wobble after the 10 o’ clock sun, sir, and he faints. That is why he doesn’t go to work’, they said. Liquor. Money for drinking? ‘He earns something. Beyond that, he snatches whatever I have’. The villages were full of these people afflicted by drink, sitting with swollen eyes and sunken cheeks, . The fertile land lay useless without any agriculture. The land which was immediately next to the road waited, transformed into ‘plots’.

The entire politics of this place is run on liquor funds. All free gifts (from the government) are funded by TASMAC. The corruption in TASMAC is the celebration of politics. TASMAC is completely destroying Tamil workers. Chemicals of the worst form are sold by the government as liquor here. The government itself orders and forces its employees and officers to increase the sale of liquor. The total revenues from liquor is published as some sort of achievement by the government. Early in the morning, one can see people sitting at the entrances of TASMAC shops waiting to start drinking. In this land of many more crores of workers, one cannot find a single person to work. One has to bring them from Bihar and Bengal.

Nobody speaks about this extrordinary repression and exploitation here. One group of apologists claim that liquor is part of ancient Tamil culture. Another group writes a few broken lines in the name of poetry and then drinks in celebration. Another group is content to wait for the grand revolution. Be it Tamil nationalism, Dravidianism – TASMAC is the venue for every sort of celebration. Drink has created a situation where women cannot go unaccompanied in any public space in Tamilnadu. In buses, in tourist places – drinkers make merry everywhere breaching all bounds of decency. Those who do not drink are their hostages.

Drink has always been here though. It was kept under check as it was designated a social evil through the influence of Jainism and Buddhism. It was during the British rule that they made it a commercial venture. The establishment of liquor shops enabled the systematic exploitaiton of workers. The British discovered that the auction of liquor shop licenses was an important source of income for the government. One can see the spectre of drink in the villages in the short stories of that era by writers like Pichamoorthy and Pudhumaipitthan. It exploited the deprived classes the most.

sasi

Seeing how drink wrecked havoc with the village economy and the lives of the deprived classes of India, Gandhi placed the struggle against drinking as one of the central activities of the freedom movement. Gandhi’s picketing of toddy shops was the only nation-wide movement against drink since the era of Jainism. It created significant awareness against drinking across India. In independent India, the governments that were formed subsequently found the British method of exploitation advantageous. They targeted the super normal profits from liquor. M. Karunanidhi officially introduced drinking in Tamilnadu, destroyed all social checks against drink and drove an entire generation into it. If he holds a place in Tamil social history, it is this.

Today, any voice against drinking is laughable for both the educated youth and the uneducated masses. But even today the voices from Gandhian age rise against drinking. It emanates as an expression of Gandhian obstinacy, deprived of support from either the people or the media. It is the voice of a conscience that refuses to die out in our society. It serves as proof that however it is quelled, Gandhism shall stay alive.

The news of Sasiperumal’s death reached today. He had collapsed and died during a demonstration against drink at Marthandam nearby here. A death that he would have desired. In a sense, this completes his life. But his voice never could converse with anyone’s conscience. The time was not ripe for that. In the intellectual discourse of this country, it is quite possible that Sasiperumal’s sacrifice will remain unnoticed by the media.

I got the chance to meet Sasiperumal and receive his blessings in an event organized by the Tiruppur Aram Foundation. A simple man who didn’t speak much. He had clearly set out goals for his life. He had realized Gandhi through action. It is infact the best way to realize Gandhi. And through that, to become Gandhi himself. My tributes to Sasiperumal, whom I saw as Gandhi himself.

J