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Why does Subramania Bharati mean so little to non-Tamil India?

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Poet-patriot have to – and invariably do – get those sharp summits right. With, one should add, his simple, three wrap turban. These appurtenances make Bharati’s face. You can see them on images painted over auto-rick backs, random walls, shop board across Tamil Nadu.

And almost nowhere else.

To be sure, New Delhi provides as exception – Subramania Bharti Marg and Bharti Nagar. Bharti? No typo there. That is not how the poet spelt his nom de plume, but it is the way the National Capital spells the road and Nagar named after him in New Delhi. Is there anything to that beyond the absent-mindedness of the name-givers, the cluelessness of the painters of road signs ?

There is. And it makes one feel rather sorry, not for Bharati who had a distinct “don’t care a hoot”-ness to him, but for ourselves and for our collective consciousness. Bharati’s “flashing eyes” and, when not turbaned, his “floating hair”, reflected a Kubla Khanesque passionate intensity. He was passionate about the “stately pleasure dome” of Tamil, of Tamil Nadu and – India. He was passionate about a Tamil Nadu that belonged to India and an India to which Tamil Nadu belonged. And he strove to free both from colonial hang-ups of insecurity and inferiority, with a “I don’t care what the Raj’s cops and collectors say”.

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