October 2, 2008
Mahatma Gandhi’s 140th birth anniversary.
Yesterday, the great theatre artiste Poornam Vishwanathan passed away in Chennai. He was 87. Morning today, I went across to his home at Kotturpuram to pay my respects. There lay the body, in the glass case, looking ever so peaceful, almost smiling, like a theatre person in quiet joy after the curtains are down, at the end of a successful play. His chest adorned by a beautiful garland that had been sent specially by the Swamiji from Sri Ramakrishna Mission Universal temple – the flowers having adorned the holy idol of the Sri Ramakrishna, whose humble devotee was our ‘fullness’ of theatre – Sri Poornam.
After paying my respects, I went across to Marina beach – to pay my respects to the one was born today, 140 years ago – the great Mahatma. They used to build a little stage around the statue, and have wooden steps etc, so one could go right up, garland the Mahatma – one and all could do that. Since last year they have dispensed with that. Perhaps the political leaders go to a different statue of the Mahatma. The statue at Marina still draws a lot of people, and there stood the Mahatma, in simple festive decor. Some folks were relaxing under a tent put up nearby. An elderly Gandhian stood near the statue. There was even a White couple from overseas who walked up, paid their respects, and the lady posed in front of the statue for a picture.
I walked across to the other side, and took another picture. You can spot the statue of the great actor Sivaji Ganesan on the back, right-side of the picture, with the tree in the background. The ‘Lions’ national emblem of India, is on a pillar on the left of the picture.
On this day, the anniversary of the birth of the Mahatma, Sri Poornam Vishwanathan’s mortal remains will be consigned to the fire. I wondered whether Sri Poornam Vishwanathan had a connection with the Mahatma. And in my first search-results screen, I came across a wonderful interview of Sri Poornam Vishwanathan carried by rediff. You can read that here.
Here’s some information that I have extracted from that interview.
When India attained independence in 1947, Sri Poornam Vishwanathan was posted in Delhi. He was a newsreader with All India Radio, and stayed in Lodhi Colony. During those days, he used to go to his office via Birla house, which needed him to make a small detour, so that he could have darshan of the Mahatma. He has attended many prayer meetings of Gandhiji. He has read out his speeches, translated in Tamil, in All India Radio.
About Gandhiji, he says, “”When I first saw Gandhiji, I was pleasantly surprised to see that his skin was like the skin of a child. Soft and beautiful. There were no wrinkles on his skin or hands even though he was very old.”
When asked by the interviewer whether he had ever touched Gandhiji’s hands, he replied, “”Oh, no. I only touched his feet.”
And Poornam Vishwanathan got his great prize, when at 5:30 a.m, the morning of August 15, 1947, it was he, who read out the first news in All India Radio, the first external broadcast from a Free India. “”All India Radio, seythikal vasippathu Poornam Viswanathan…India is a free country…”.. After completing the news-reading, he cried in joy…
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते . पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ..
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
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