CHENNAI: Thirty-nine-year-old Nithyanandam is a god-fearing man who spent a decade caring for late DMK president M Karunanidhi, a staunch atheist. Since the five-time chief minister’s death on Tuesday, Nithya, as Karunanidhi called him, has felt empty.His routine has been to visit Karunanidhi’s room at his Gopalapuram residence and then his resting place at Anna Memorial on Marina Beach. After much persuasion, an emotional Nithya, who started working for Karunanidhi in the early 2000s, opened up about his relationship with the leader.
Ayya, as Nithya refers to Karunanidhi, never treated him as an attendant but always as a friend, he recalls. “A few days after the tracheostomy was done in 2016, Kalaignar was lying in bed and I was sitting in front of him watching television. He signalled to me to come closer and I went to his side. At that moment, with tears rolling down on his cheeks, he asked me, “What have I done for you ? Why do you shower so much affection on me?” Nithya recounted. “I became overwhelmed by the simplicity of the great leader. I told him that it was my privilege to look after him because I must have done so much ‘punyam’ in my previous birth to be near him,” he said, with tears.
The son of a DMK functionary in Sevilimedu village in Kancheepuram district, Nithya joined the DMK headquarters for a clerical job in 1996. A few years later, he started assisting DMK general secretary K Anbazhagan. It was Anbazhagan who recommended him to Karunanidhi. In 2007, Nithya started living at the Gopalapuram residence for most of the time. After Karunanidhi underwent spinal surgery in February 2009, his mobility became limited and Nithya became his virtual shadow.
“I used to go to the temple very often but the frequency came down in recent months as I was caring for Kalaignar Ayya. I used to pray for Ayya even though I know he does not have any faith in it. During Aadi, I would to take part in firewalk in a temple for the good health of Ayya.” What was the most unique trait of the late leader? After thinking for a few minutes, Nithya said, “Kalaignar Ayya would make everyone feel important and special in his presence. He never treated persons based on their status, relationship or profession. That was his greatness.”
“Kalaignar Ayya would enquire about what is happening in the day-to-day life of anyone who met him. He would put the same question to the barber who used to shave him (in the past few years) and talk to him in a friendly manner. When the barber was leaving, Kalaignar, with a smile, would pay him. Later, when a big leader in the party met him, he would put to him the same questions. Perhaps, that was how he kept himself informed,” Nithya said.
What are the ways in which he cared for Karunanidhi in the past decade? “I just looked after him as if I was looking after myself. That is all I can say,” he said. He recalled that Karunanidhi’s son, and party working president, MK Stalin would tell him that he was one of the family.