“Public figures cannot afford private life”, Jawaharlal Nehru is reported to have lamented once. But there was one figure in Indian politics in the recent past who willingly merged his private life into his public life. The former Chief Minister of Tamilnadu and All-India Congress President, K. Kamaraj was one such personality. July 15, 2003 marks his birth centenary. A life-long bachelor, this freedom fighter had only aspired for his mother-land’s freedom from foreign rule and to serve its people afterwards.
Kamraj’s life story had been stranger than fiction for its unbelievable incidents and turn of events. Almost an illiterate with no formal education and born in a poor family in a remote village, he rose to great heights of eminence in the political arena.
K. Kamaraj was born on July 15,1903 to the couple Kumarasamy and Sivakami in Virudhunagar, Tamilnadu, in the southern-most part of India. His father Kumarasamy had a small coconut shop to support his family. While Kamaraj was studying in the primary school, the family was struck with a misfortune. His father, the only breadwinner of the family, succumbed to a massive heart attack. This put an end to the education of Kamaraj. He had to take up all kinds of odd jobs including that of a street vendor to support his widowed mother and sister. The Independence struggle was in full swing in the country at that time. Kamraj was eager to contribute his mite to the freedom movement pioneered by Mahatma Gandhi. Inspired by the patriotic leader Satyamurthi’s fiery oratory against British atrocities, Kamaraj plunged headlong into the movement. From then on there was no looking back for him. He became an able organiser in mobilizing people for public meetings addressed by patriots. Appreciating his skill, Satyamurthi took him under his fold. In due course, Kamaraj, by his selfless devotion, rose in stature. Starting as Satyamurthi’s personal assistant he ultimately rose to become the President of the Indian National Congress.