An event headlined by Anna Hazare can be both spontaneous and carefully-crafted in equal measure.
If Chennai citizens had turned up in their thousands on the Pachaiyappa's College grounds without as much as a second invite to see the man many of them regarded as leading the nation's second freedom struggle against corruption, the event itself took on the trappings of a diligently planned public engagement.
Well before the 74-year-old Gandhian arrived for his first ever public rally in Chennai, the venue was transformed into a mass of tri-colors, and the trademark “I am Anna” or “India Against Corruption” tees. There was also the odd Mahatma Gandhi clone – and someone in the guise of an MGR too.
Though the audience defied age brackets, it was soon clear – from the moment of rap interludes accompanying the rendering of the Vaishnava Janato bhajan – that Team Anna was seriously targeting the youth to carry forward its campaign against graft. And, who better to engage the youth than the movement's iconic septuagenarian spearhead.
Mr. Hazare, who declared that “youth power determined a nation's strength” and how he himself felt reinvigorated on seeing so many youngsters at the rally, spoke of his frugal lifestyle inside a temple with only a mat to sleep on and a plate to eat from.
However, in spite of an austere life, he took great joy from the causes he espoused for the larger public good, he said.
Pointing out that he had sent home six Ministers apart from at least 400 officers during his battle against graft, Mr. Hazare remarked: “I took six wickets; imagine where India could leapfrog to if each of you took one wicket each.”
Mr. Hazare, who recollected the inspiration he got from reading Swami Vivekananda, reminded youth that service to the community and the nation was akin to worshipping the Almighty.
Advice to youngsters
Turning to his celibacy, Mr. Hazare said he was not the one to ask his youth followers to emulate him by abstaining from marriage. Go ahead and marry, if you will, and even have one or two children. But spare a few hours every day to serve the community, Mr. Hazare said.