TOO MANY THINGS WERE HAPPENING in Periyar’s life in March. His wife had just given birth to a boy, and he was expecting her to join him soon at their new house in T Nagar, Chennai. He had moved back to the city from Singapore a year earlier, but had recently quit his IT job and launched an HR consulting firm. Between setting up his business, hiring people and bringing his wife home, he knew the stress was playing games with his emotions.
Periyar came from a political family that subscribed to the Dravidian ideology of his namesake: the iconoclast, anti-Brahminist and founder of the Dravidian movement, Periyar EV Ramasamy. Periyar’s younger brother had been named after Annadurai, the founder of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK)—the political party of the Dravidian movement—and the party’s first chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Periyar’s life as an IT professional had linked him with a broad community transcending language and ethnic identity, and he had now moved on from Dravidian tenets such as rationalism, and hostility to Hindu religiosity; he had even started to practice meditation in an attempt to control his emotions.
But the violence inflicted on Tamils in Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict was a source of great distress for him, and so, on 19 March, he joined his fellow IT professionals in a human chain in Chennai’s Siruseri IT corridor, where some 2,000 people brought together by Facebook and Twitter demanded, among other things, the hanging of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa.