Which one of us would not like to hear praise about ourselves from other people? Very few, we guess. And so Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa is no exception. Except that in this case, her completion of a year in office led to the faithful becoming a bit too exuberant with even the assembly speaker singing a song in her praise. Other MLAs joined the chorus with their songs of devotion. The iron lady of Poes Garden allowed herself a fleeting smile, of approval that is. And, of course, many are up in arms at these levels of sycophancy. But let us remind you that this over-the-top worship of political leaders, many of them cine stars, is nothing new in the state.
From dedicating temples to many of them, to lying prostrate in respect in front of them, our Tamil brothers and sisters cannot do enough to display their adoration of their leaders. Earlier some enthusiastic ladies are said to have Ms Jayalalithaa’s image tattooed on their inner eyelids so that they could see Amma in their dreams. Rolling on the ground for the health of leaders and putting up gigantic cutouts of them are all par for the course in Tamil politics. They are a sentimental lot at the best of times, these Tamils. Some of them have done away with themselves at the news of the death of a popular politician or film actor. If you have ever seen Tamil films of yore, the very dialogue was replete with hyperbole. None of that nonsense of ‘what a nice day.’ It would be more like ‘it was on this day when the moon entered the seventh phase of Jupiter and when stars shone brightly in the sky that our leader told someone that it was a nice day.’ Of course, when it came to addressing a foe, Tamil cinema was at its exaggerated best. A mere threat would not do. The threat of elimination of not only the foe but several generations of his family would be in order.
Ms Jayalalithaa is just going with the flow. Should the speaker have been so partisan? No, of course not. But this is land where people do not shy away from a little sycophancy. Indeed they wear it as a badge of honour. A lesson for us editorial writers when annual increment time is upon us, perhaps?