Raghu vs Swamy: Why the TamBram Is Not Rising to the Occasion

RK Raghavan questions the TamBram community’s choice to be mute spectator to the Rajan-Swamy spat.

4 min read
(Photo: IANS/Altered by <b>The Quint</b>)

Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, announced his exit from the position on 17 June, causing instant uproar in the world of banking and finance.

This article from The Quint’s archives, which had been published on 10 June, has been republished in the light of Rajan’s announcement.

I am extremely envious of the kind of attention and adulation that Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan has been receiving these days in the media. I had no reason though to feel jealous, because Raghu is two decades younger and much more handsome and intelligent. Still, as a fellow TamBram (Tamil Brahmin), whenever I see the smart visage of Raghu on TV, I suffer a kind of inferiority complex that I had never felt all these years.

Interestingly, I know the whole Rajan family for more than four decades. Raghu’s father and I belonged to the same Indian Police Service. Of course, the elder Rajan, now in his mid-eighties, was ten years senior. I stayed with the family briefly on my first visit abroad in the early 1970s.

When I interacted with them for the first time, I did not imagine they – especially Raghu and his younger brother Mukund (who works for Cyrus Mistry) – would reach the dizzy heights they have now attained through sheer hard work and ambition of the right kind.They do not flaunt their knowledge nor their connections. They are soft and polite in conversation, and refuse to get provoked.


Targeting Their Own

Talking of provocation, I am extremely annoyed and intrigued that Raghu’s chief tormentor is a TamBram, who has gone unchallenged. It will be thousand pities if his demand for Raghu’s ouster finds favour with government. The hunch is it won’t. Nevertheless, the episode confirms that TamBrams are great at scoring self-goals, and they are no longer clannish, something they had been assailed of in the past, by the Dravidian parties.

In fact, they seem to enjoy targeting one of their own clan for their perceived inadequacies or snobbishness. Incidentally, my own detractors in the officialdom to which I once belonged, were all TamBrams, and they continue to haunt me and despise me for their imaginary grievances.


Futility of Questioning Patriotism

I am not very sure whether I would have been half as composed as Raghu is, after his patriotism was questioned. Asked on this by NDTV’s Barkha Dutt a few days ago, he was cool and suave and said he did not want to respond, lest whatever he is accused of gains the credibility that it did not deserve. Typical TamBram equipoise?

To question Raghu, therefore, of his Indianness or the lack of it, is downright crude and silly. An Indian is no less an Indian whichever passport he holds. I can speak with authority from the example of my own grandchildren, who still root for India when the latter play against England at the Lord’s! And they have spent less than a year in India in all their twelve!


Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan during a charity reception at a Mumbai hotel on 10 April 2016. (Photo: IANS)
Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan during a charity reception at a Mumbai hotel on 10 April 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Indifference Within the Community

This brings me logically to the next issue: What is the future of the TamBram community? The question itself is preposterous, because the community is shrinking in numbers due to some rigorous family planning. It may become something like the Parsi clan. Thanks to the witch hunt against it first by the EVR-led Dravida Kazhagam, and later by the DMK, the average TamBram is more comfortable in Delhi, London or New Jersey, than in the hoary Mylapore or Alwarpet.

Many belonging to the community, who now live in Chennai, are doddering senior citizens like me, who do not have to compete for jobs or seats in medical colleges. If they are not visiting their children in the US or Europe, these senior citizens are content with listening to music at the Academy or savouring paruppu usuli (a delightful crispy combination of a vegetable with lentil) at Pattappa Thaligai, the latest native restaurant that has come up in Chennai’s Luz Corner and which aims at catering primarily to the fussy Iyengar mama or mami’s palate.

This is why I am not surprised that the average TamBram is indifferent to the savage attack on one of their own distinguished members. It explains also the lack of interest in the matter of other eminent TamBrams like Jayalalithas and Mani Shankar Aiyar, who should have risen to defend Raghu to the hilt. This is particularly when neither is an admirer of Raghu’s tormentor. Actually, one of them, hates the latter like poison. Interesting days are ahead for both Raghu’s supporters and baiters, who are watching closely the developments, both in Delhi and Mumbai. I am afraid life is going to be dull if Raghu eventually chooses to hang up his boots and returns to the balmier corridors of the University of Chicago.

(The writer is a former CBI Director.)

Also read:
Is Raghuram Rajan Turning Hawkish?
Ra Ra About Raghuram Rajan?

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