Ilankai Tamil Sangam
Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA
Scarecrow Song of Karuna
by Sachi Sri Kantha
My desk dictionary provides two meanings for the noun, scarecrow; (1) any crude figure of a person set up to scare crows and other birds away from growing crops, (2) a person of ragged or disreputable appearance. The Tamil word for scarecrow is ‘Veruli.’ I was introduced to this word while growing up as a six year old on my maternal grandfather’s farm which was located 4 miles from Mankulam, on the Mullaitivu road. Probably, it was from Aachi (my grandmother) that I learnt about a poem of Eelam Tamil folk poet Navali Somasundara Pulavar (1876-1953) on the scarecrow which has a lilting rhythm. The title was ‘Kaththari Thottatu Veruli’ [The scarecrow of the eggplant garden]. In grandfather’s farm, we had two or three scarecrows planted in the paddy field, even dressed with toupees. All this was before my introduction to the scarecrow character in the Wizard of Oz story and movie. It is unfortunate that I can recollect only the first two lines of Somasundara Pulavar’s poem now. These are,
‘Kaththari Thottatu Murrathile Ninru
Kaaval purihinra Sevaka’
‘[You] stand in the garden of eggplant
and do guard work of a servant’
Now 46 years after my introduction to the scarecrow during my carefree days at my grandfather’s farm, I think that Somasundara Pulavar’s scarecrow song is apt to note the pathetic plight of once-admired V. Muralitharan of Kiran [aka Karuna]. He is now singing from a 15 foot pit, literally and figuratively. He dug his own pit, and he is forced to sing a scarecrow song for his handlers and ghostwriters.
The latest addendum of his scarecrow song came out in the Colombo Daily Mirror of March 28th. The good news is that Karuna’s song is exposing the fibs in the ‘pigs are flying’ tales written by D.B.S.Jeyaraj to the Sunday Leader a year ago.
The bad news is, Karuna will probably keep on singing the lines fed by his handlers and ghostwriters, either until he regains his senses or until he receives summons from the Accountant General Chitragupta (an equivalent of St. Peter, in the Hindu mythology) of the Lord of the Hades.
One has to wait only one year to check on the validity of D.B.S.Jeyaraj’s proclivities for fiction-writing under the garb of political commentary. After Karuna’s run-a-thon for life to Colombo from his Eastern front perch on Easter Sunday, 2004, Jeyaraj wrote a cockamamy tale that "Karuna ends eastern revolt after deal with LTTE" [Sunday Leader, Colombo, April 18, 2004]. There hardly was any deal between Karuna the deserter and the LTTE. Karuna simply fled from his perch when his life was in danger. Now, let’s check what Karuna has noted in his first anniversary statement:
(1) "The war unleashed on the [Easter] Friday did not escalate into a major confrontation, because we exercised extreme restraint. Nevertheless, it must be stated, that it was waged with the help of the Sri Lanka Government which, under pressure from the Norwegians and the SLMM, helped Prabhakaran to move his militant cadres from North to East…We accepted him as our redeemer, but because of the Cease Fire Agreement he turned against us and we lost thousands of our youth."
(2) "It is now one year since we were attacked. This is not a historic event for us to celebrate annually. We remember this as the day we faced losses."
For whatever its worth, in these statements, Karuna has clearly exposed D.B.S.Jeyaraj’s credibility as a critical commentator on Eelam Tamil issues. For whatever his worth in the past, Karuna also shows to the public in this anniversary statement, that gratitude ingredient is not running in his veins now; not only to Pirabhakaran, but also to the Sri Lankan government [and the Sri Lankan military folks] who saved his neck in the nick of time.
He is also sulking against the Norwegians who haven’t given him any respect. According to Karuna, or his ghostwriters, "There is no need for the Norwegian facilitators to direct the way for our people." In the 2005 world-view of Karuna, salvation can only be delivered from India. To quote him, or his ghostwriters, "The only country that has the right to get involved in our problem is India alone and no other country has the right to interfere in our problem." What right? Karuna doesn’t [or cannot] expand.
By criticising Norway and praising India, Karuna also subliminally reveals his stupidity. He has failed to comprehend whose dictum now runs in India. That of Sonia Gandhi, an Italian by birth and upbringing, who has more in common with European culture than the Indian political thinking of male geezers, whose ‘brains need Viagra’ [to borrow a colorful idiom from Paul Newman]. Despite all the bells and whistles of democracy, India’s culture for the past 4,000 years has been monarchic, explicitly as well as implicitly. The dominant leader’s thoughts and tastes have prevailed, for four millenia there. From 1915 until his death, Mahatma Gandhi was the un-crowned monarch. Then, the crown passed on to Jawaharlal Nehru (1948-1964), his daughter Indira Gandhi (1966-1984, excluding the interlude of geezers 1964-1966 and 1977-1980), his grandson Rajiv Gandhi (1984-1989), followed again by 15 years interlude of geezers (1989-2004) and now to Rajiv’s widow Sonia (since 2004). Despite the prodding of demented courtiers like N.Ram and persnickety taunters like Subramanian Swamy, as per Indian involvement on the Sri Lankan quagmire, Rajiv Gandhi’s widow has shown demonstrable pragmatism and restraint, which were missing in her husband during the late 1980s. Thus Karuna [and his fellow travellers like TULF President V. Anandasangaree] is mistaken that Sonia Gandhi would turn a sympathetic ear to their umpteen pleas from the pit for an ‘Indian involvement’ in Sri Lanka.
Apart from Navali Somasundara Pulavar, the plight of Karuna was also foretold by Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919), in his 1903 lyrics on the scarecrow role, originated by vaudevillian acrobat-comedian Fred Andrew Stone (1873-1959). Stone was the inspiration for Ray Bolger, who played the scarecrow role in the Wizard of Oz movie, released in 1939. Bolger sang the song [‘If I only had a brain’] written by E.Y.Harburg, as I had noted in my previous commentary [vide, ‘Karuna facing defector’s dilemma’, Sangam archives, June 3, 2004]. But, Baum’s original 1903 lyrics for the scarecrow was longer and more biting than the movie version sung by Ray Bolger. I reproduce Baum’s lines below, since they fit perfectly to Karuna’s current status:
"Though I appear a handsome man, I’m only stuffed with straw.
‘Tis difficult a man to plan without a single flaw.
Though you might think my lovely head - a store of lore contains,
The farmer lack of skill displayed and quite forgot my brains.
When brains are missing from a head, it’s usually the rule
That wisdom from the man has fled and he remains a fool.
So though my charms are very great as I am well assured
I’ll never reach my full estate, till brains I have secured.
Alas! For the man who has little in his noddle that he knows!
He’s under a ban and is called a rattle-pate where e’er he goes.
He always does the very thing he never ought to do,
He stumbles, and he fumbles, and is aimless.
A lobster is he as anyone with half an eye can see,
You can hear them jeer and sneer, for his wheels are out of gear –
and it’s plain he’ll remain quite brainless.
When first upon a man you gaze you think he must be filled
With wisdom worthy of your praise condensed and quite distilled.
But when at last he starts to speak and only wags his jaw
You then decide that he’s a freak and merely stuffed with straw.
Then the way some people act would lead you to suspect
That they are brainless for a fact and shy on intellect.
So ‘tis a matter I deplore that in my cranium - I
Can never any knowledge store till brains I can supply!"
Those who have studied Karuna’s diatribes against his former mentor Pirabhakaran for the past one year should notice one thing. Before Karuna fled to Colombo, he had killed one of his fellow colleagues in the LTTE, Sinnathamby alias Neelan, and had tried to gain the attention of Indian Poo Bahs and journalist hacks by hoisting a canard that Neelan was an involved member in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination of 1991. That desperate act of vengeance didn’t fly high and nothing came out of Karuna’s bombast. But until now [I stress, for the past 12 months], he has hardly mentioned anything about whether he knew the Oswald-Ruby combination [i.e., Dhanu and Sivarasan] of Rajiv's assassination, though Dhanu and Sivarasan were projected by the Indian media hacks from 1991 to 1999 as LTTE Black Tigers. How’z that for Karuna’s insider status as a prominent LTTEer of the 1990s? But this doesn’t preclude that in the near future Karuna will not be tempted to provide a cockamamy tale on Sivarasan and Dhanu to save his skin, though it’s a certainty that Rajiv’s widow Sonia would hardly be bothered with such a political spin at the expense of her late husband.
Posted April 7, 2005