The English Translation of Mr. Kamal Haasan Weekly Column in Tamil Magazine Ananda Vikatan
I affirmed that I will meet my people on February 21st. We have named this Journey – Naalai Namadhey, Tomorrow is Ours. Yes, that is the name of this journey! This name may hark back to MGR yet we have selected it as those are cherished memories. Some good readers may think I needn’t have given away the suspense, that I could’ve mentioned the name in the end of this article. Suspense and surprise maybe useful tools for cinema. In reality, it’s good if my communication is direct as I embark upon serving my people.
Some may wonder if I’ve given a filmy title to our Journey because I’m an Artiste. Our dream for Tamil Nadu is to bring about a change for prosperity and happy living which today eludes us, as Tamil Nadu belongs to someone else. Tomorrow is Ours is a clarion call for the promise of bringing in a positive Change to life in Tamil Nadu. ‘What were you doing yesterday and today?’, some of you may ask. Some others may even think that we can do what we embark upon without much ado or talking about it. But I am obliged to speak about our plans, because some people out there think I have ‘appeared’ in politics merely to comment and not take concise action.
This review/objective analysis is a reply to those queries/doubts. It is an analysis/review of the good welfare measures being done for the last 37 years. I was all of 23 when I was overwhelmed at the multitude who came under the umbrella of the word ‘admirers/fans’. I brought them together under another aegis where they were propelled to undertake welfare measures, big and small. At one point, I decided that their hours on earth must not be wasted in remaining just Fans. Each and every single fan of mine transformed into a generous philanthropist at that point. Today the ‘heroes’ of my Welfare Movement are no different from Bill Gates in their philanthropy. In fact, Gates said, ‘what is in excess only is meant for charity’ but my friends from my Welfare Movement give generously from whatever little they have.
Please do not think that I talk as if I’ve reinvented the wheel. I have learnt only from those who discovered the wheel and who know to spin it well! I imitated the good work done by the Lions and Rotary Clubs and initiated those measures into ‘things to do’ for members of my Movement. Eye donation and Blood donation camps began thus! At one stage, those very clubs wanted us to run such camps for them because our execution of welfare measures touched great heights. As a next level, we put forth the question of “what’s ailing your district/city/town the most?” to our people. We received all kinds of petitions then – from “the street lamp is not working” to “we don’t even have a street”! One such petition was that of an open drainage which was clogged and which hindered children from having to cross it to reach their school. Our Welfare Movement friends inspected the place and suggested that we must clean up the clogged drainage and build a bridge over it so children can cross without trouble. “Don’t get into building bridges thinking some squirrel will come to help you,” I warned. “We only have ourselves and only we must do it,” I said. Within a few days, I was shown a photo of the drainage being cleaned up.
My eyes welled up on seeing the photograph of those friends in my Movement, who stood in a line across the drainage, cleaning and holding buckets full of waste! It’s been 30 years since that drainage was cleaned by members of my Movement who endured the painful process of clearing out the filth. I was moved and affected by this real incident that I kept this as a sequence in my film Nammavar. Usually, we tend to reflect what we see on screen but here, the real work done by our Welfare Movement became Cinema.
The steps taken by members of my Movement took me to further philanthropy in life. I donated my eyes and then my organs in the presence of my daughters. An incident which happened then made me ask my daughters to sign my organ for donation. A member (I withhold his name here) died a premature death but he had donated his eyes earlier just because I had said so. His mother did not permit this donation to take place as understandably she was in turmoil over her son’s untimely death. Time was of essence for the eye donation to happen and I was notified. I rushed to their place because those were times of less awareness and if one such donation was stalled, the fear of no such donation happening in the future loomed larger. “He was so loving towards you, that son of mine is gone. Can you give him back to me?”, the mother asked. “They will keep another pair of eyes Amma,” I tried calming her. “But those eyes can’t see,” she countered. “But another person will see because of those eyes Amma,” I persisted. “Will you give me back my son,” lamented the mother repeatedly. “If I do?”… I took a stand. She looked at me calmly. I continued, “The eyes they will keep instead of his will be a duplicate pair. Similarly, the son you get back will not be your real son. But I am there, like a son to you. You can give my eyes too, I will be your son.” She hugged me and cried copiously and then agreed to donate her son’s eyes. The mother who was moved by my words of reassurance sends me notes enquiring after me even as you read this. She has not asked me any money for her needs nor has she imposed her right on her son (me) and asked any help from me till date. In fact, a person owning just one rupee gives 25paise from it to help another more than what any wealthy baron can do! That is what friends from my Movement have taught me.
My Welfare Movement is obliged to such members who maybe poor in resources but generous in their philanthropy. There are many such needs and we have our dreams of helping to fulfill them. All the good work we have done and are ‘on the go’, now finds a Centre (Maiyyam), from where we stand tall and go forth. As a first step towards our goal of bringing a pertinent change to Tamil Nadu, we intend to adopt villages. This step is like that proverbial grain of rice which will stand testimony to what’s being cooked in the pot! These adopted villages will be living proof of what we are capable of when we say we will bring about a Change, it will be our Calling Card.
This is not just my self confidence but it’s the confidence sowed in all of us by our Elders. “India’s strength lies in her villages”, so Gandhiji said. Those of us who shift to cities or towns from villages, do so because our needs weren’t met adequately. Today, if we can give enough facilities to villages, this shift will not happen. We intend to make the SMART VILLAGE dream, a reality. But we won’t take a giant leap and fall midway, no! We won’t convert villages ad hoc or based on some random selection of district or constituency. We will take up ONE village to begin with. We are preparing our resources to convert this one village first. I will undertake a trip to Harvard University shortly where I will be speaking on this mission. Yes, I am going to bring in further Talents for this goal. I will invite them to come into my villages. I don’t know how many will but we truly need their help and I believe they will come with enthusiasm – an enthusiasm which I find lacking in our politicians here. Our politicians have become rigid in how things must be run and wish to follow some sort of rules in their dos and don’ts. That’s why I said ‘I will challenge this status quo’ as Change is the only constant. Please don’t presume I’m commencing to bring that Change from our villages, only because I’ve respect for Gandhi. He has done enough and earned our respect. The respect I talk of in working towards a real Change is what we must show our country. The cities has us all lined up like fireflies in huddled spaces; our real strength lies only in our villages.
Okay, so what are a villager’s needs? Access to modern education to begin with. The education which is paid for in lakhs at American and British Universities must be made available to a villager who today thinks that education is some sort of Sindbad’s treasure which requires him to cross seven hills and seven seas to procure! People like Kamaraj Sir have sowed the seeds for these measures to be actioned upon. In fact, the Justice Party took some steps towards this end during their tenure. I have the duty to nurture these seeds and grow the plant to its full potential. I can’t be overwhelmed by my elders nor can I be underwhelmed by youngsters. The wisdom of the former and the energy of the latter must be irrigated into my villages.
A villager also needs clean drinking water, hygienic environment, avenues for artistic pursuits, better transport facilities to enable his/her commute and protection of natural water bodies. Whatever the government has failed to provide for them, we now embark on setting it all up. Complaining about a disproportionate stage because they don’t know the dance itself, is pointless! ‘Dance’ you say, so we shall show you our dance! The experience we will derive from setting up this one ‘model’ village, we will put to good use in bringing about similar changes in other villages. Members of our Welfare Movement who went scouting for the first such village for us to adopt were shocked to find almost all villages in Tamil Nadu with similar ‘characteristics’ of needing a makeover. If a school could hold 200 students, only less than 50 were present. In many places an entire school had only one teacher to call for Faculty and some others didn’t even have that one teacher. Mainly, a teacher to teach Tamil as a subject was lacking in most schools. How are we going to consolidate Tamil Nadu when there are lesser teachers to teach Tamil! I can sense the dejection in my people, they have given up on this government and its governance and blame it all on Fate.
We can’t have a laptop and mobile phone for food. But only those freebies seem to have reached many households. Education doesn’t come from owning a laptop. It’s just a tool. One must have the knowledge to use it. The fish and the fishing net are in different places and one needs to be taught the art of fishing to live a life of self-respect and self-survival. If and when this all powerful government intervenes and begins to work towards providing for the needs of the people after seeing what I, as a single human being and we, as a Movement would’ve completed, I will only consider our job well done. Until then, I realize it’s meaningless to keep tweeting on these issues. I’ve tweeted enough; I’ve ‘rained’ tweets on them but their skin is too thick, my showers have not made an impact or been of much use.
Hence, I’ve decided to get into the arena myself, to go out there into the field. “Tomorrow is Ours” (Naalai Namadhey) is an effort towards setting things right. Yes, Tomorrow is certainly ours.
Let’s meet on the field, let’s join hands, let’s help Tamil Nadu