Karunanidhi’s lasting friendship with a post master

Karunanidhi earned some lasting friendship in his life. One of them was with R Venkataswami, a former post master of Salem, who had helped him find a house on rent in 1949 when Karunanidhi was working for Modern Theatres here.

Upon reaching Salem at the invitation of filmmaker T R Sundaram for writing the script for Manthiri Kumari, Mr. Venkataswami, an acquaintance of K Somu an assistant director at Modern Theatres, had helped Karunanidhi find a house at the Muslims-dominated Habib Sahib Street. He moved in with his mother Anjugam, wife Dayalu and son Muthu (born to first wife Padmavathy).

During weekends Karunanidhi and Mr Venkatasami would attend public meetings.

Screen presence: M. Karunanidhi being presented a statue by Sivaji Ganesan on behalf of the film industry in Chennai. Also seen is J.H. Patel, then CM of Karnataka.

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“I accompanied Karunanidhi to all the public meetings he addressed during the week-ends in Salem for about two years. We used to leave on Saturday evening and be back in the city in early hours of Monday,” recalls Mr. Venkataswami, now 87, and residing in Hasthampatti.

Eventually Karunanidhi would depend on him for receiving and extending hospitality to visiting DMK leaders of the time such as ‘Anbil’ Dharmalingam, ‘Mannai’ Narayanasami, Thillai Villalan and Ilamvazhuthi.

Mr. Venkataswami was with Mr. Karunanidhi during his maiden election from Kulithalai in 1957 and from Thanjavur in 1962.

He recalls that Anjugam died, then Congress leader K Kamaraj was the first to arrive at Karunanidhi’s house though they were bitter political rivals.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi signing the register on arrival at the Cabinet meeting in Chennai, on February 17, 2007.Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

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From the beginning Karunanidhi used to call Mr. Venkataswami as “Sir” and this continued “till he (Karunanidhi) fell sick last year”.

Mr. Venkataswami, himself a good writer, has authored about 50 books. Karunanidhi used to regularly send word that he has gone through his books.

Whenever, Karunanidhi visited Salem, Mr. Venkataswami was a regular in his car. The DMK leader volunteered and solemnised the marriage of two of the three children of Mr. Venkataswami. During his visits to Karunanidhi’s house, he would have complete access to the household.

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Of late, on the instructions of Karunanidhi, both M. K. Stalin and Kanimozhi, were regular to his house whenever, they visited Salem. “Stalin calls me regularly over phone. Recently Karunanidhi sent me the ‘Murasoli Pavala Vizha Malar’, in which he had mentioned about his association with me in one of the articles,” said a proud Mr. Venkataswami.

“My father is not moving away from the television (after Karunanidhi’s sickness and death),” said V. Balaji.

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