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The Rediff Special/N Sathiya Moorthy

A Wedding In The Family

The last time a Tamil Nadu chief minister's 'child' got married, the associated pageantry shocked the nation. Last week, M Karunanidhi's daughter acquired marital status. N Sathiya Moorthy reports on a wedding with a difference.

The bride was coy, yet bright with smiles. The groom looked nervous and lost. The guest list -- small and select by prevailing standards -- numbered just around one thousand.

Conspiciously absent, were grandeur and vulgar display as DMK supremo and state chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi tied the knot with Aravindan, a Singapore-based lover of Tamil. The last time the state played host to a wedding in a chief minister's family, Madras was turned into a stage. Here, the function took place in the courtyard of the chief minister's home.

Interestingly, the turnout for this wedding was even less than the one that graced Kanimozhi's earlier foray into matrimony. Then, as now, Karunanidhi was chief minister when his daughter married Athiban Bose, head of a Sivakasi-based business family, in 1989. Old timers recall how the wedding, which took place the day V P Singh was sworn in as prime minister, created controversy when then deputy prime minister Devi Lal flew down in a special IAF aircraft to attend the ceremony.

That wedding ended in a divorce.

This time round -- Karunanidhi, one suspects, was only too conscious of the amount of illwill his predecessor, Jayalalitha Jayaram, garnered thanks to the ostentation surrounding the wedding of her then adopted, now disowned, 'son' Sudhakaran -- there was not the least room for controversy.The guests included Karunanidhi's immediate family, select friends of Kanimozhi, leaders of the DMK and it electoral ally the Tamil Maanila Congress whose chief, G K Moopanar, was prominent on the dais.

Jayalalitha had caused half of Madras to be blocked to traffic to facilitate the smooth passage of Sudhakaran's wedding procession. Karunanidhi, for his part, instructed the police to ensure that the traffic down Oliver Road -- a one-way thoroughfare which houses his home -- was not blocked because of the VIP wedding.

If the first marriage was arranged for Kanimozhi by her parents, the second one was love through literature. The couple started communicating when Aravindan thought of publishing some of Kanimozhi's poems in Singapore. A literary meet later brought Aravindan to Madras. The two met, embarked on a relationship that has now fructified into wedlock.

True to the traditions of Dravida politics, the actual ceremony was as laid down by the late 'Periyar' E V Ramaswamy Naicker. No priests, no vedic chanting -- merely an exchange of garlands before the assembled guests.

With so little of spectacle to recommend the actual ceremony, it was perhaps inevitable that most guests had eyes only for the presence, and visibly active involvement, of Madras Mayor and Karunanidhi's son M K Stalin. Kanimozhi, it must be pointed out, is Karunanidhi's daughter through his second wife, Rajathi. His first wife is now no more, and Mu Ka Muthu, her sole surviving son, was very much among those present. Interestingly, it was Muthu's orchestrated promotion to rival the late M G Ramachandran in Tamil filmdom that contributed largely to the split in the DMK and the formation of the AIADMK in 1972.

Family sources indicate that Kanimozhi will settle down in Singapore with her husband and his mother. And that, in turn, scotches persistent rumours of her imminent entry into politics. Kanimozhi had actively canvassed for the DMK in the 1989 assembly poll which brought the party back to power in the state after 13 years in the political wilderness. However, to be fair to Kanimozhi, she went out of her way to distance herself from the family's political fiefdom, confining her activities to literature and journalism (till she resigned a couple of months back, she was a sub-editor with The Hindu).

Friends close to the Karunanidhi clan describe her as a warm and friendly person without the airs one would expect from a person of her background -- one not above taking an autorickshaw home after work or at the end of some literary function.

Of late, she has also appeared on television, mostly on the family-owned Sun TV network, as part of literary programmes and women-oriented discussions. She also conducted a quiz programme in connection with the Independence Day Golden Jubilee, this one for Vijay TV.

And early indications are that it is literature and television that will occupy her time in Singapore as well -- whatever time remains after running her husband's household, that is.

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