By Robancy A Helen
Puducherry: Lenin alias Dalit Subbaiah is a singer, writer, lyricist, poet who passed away at on February 16 at Puducherry. He succumbed to diabetics and was 67.
Subbaiah was born to Karuppan, a Siddha doctor in a small slum in Muniyandipatti, Melur in Madurai district. Muniyandipatti is a village-like the caste-ridden villages in Tamil Nadu, South India.
His parents named him Pitchai. But his primary school teacher renamed him Subbiah to dignify his name (Ayya means sir in English).
Subbaiah had to face multiple caste discrimination as the dominant caste people did not allow the Dalits to use the common road and get educated. It was his school teacher who took the Dalit children to school and pioneered them to be educated.
“During my school days, I used to await the concert of Dalit Subbiah in Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary in Madurai. His songs enkindled me to be active in my political journey,” bemoans Divya Bharathi, a Madurai-based advocate and a director of documentaries.
“I used to wait for those nights to wait for comrade Dalit Subbaiah’s majestic voice. Every time I finished listening to his song, my whole body would be thrilled,” adds Bharathi.
As a child, Subbiah revealed his talent for singing and the dominant caste people prohibited him to sing. There were people like his Tamil teacher Pachaiamma who encouraged him.
He developed a friendship with the left-wing people when he studied at Madurai Thiyagarajar College.
Born to a deaf and dumb mother, his songs become a revolution, a voice for the voiceless and it is going to tear down the ears of the dominant caste people.
Dalit Subbaiah is one of the leading personalities of Dr. B.R Ambedkar’s (father of the Indian Constitution) ideology. He brought out the thoughts of Ambedkar through his songs. That brought awareness and the pain of Caste discrimination.
He has sung many music albums which are illustrious and are listed in all the social awareness songs in Tamil Nadu. He joined the farmers and organized them in 1981.
Subbaiah joined Father Devasagayaraj Zackarias, the former national secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Office for Dalits and Backward Classes and trained many young people when he took charge as the diocesan youth director for the Archdiocese of Pondicherry–Cuddalore, recalls Masil Benjamin, a Dalit Christian singer from Villupuram, Tamil Nadu.
He wrote many Dalit awareness songs under the guidance of Father Packianathan and Father Devasagayaraj. Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC) published his first volumes of songs titled ‘Isaipor’ (war of music). This volume contains 82 songs followed by the second volume of 66 songs in his name.
His contribution to Dalit music is enormous. He has written in a simple style for the people to learn easily. His songs are research-based. Songs can explain the problems and are solution-based.
He always has the history for all his songs. His famous songs are Ambedkar is an invincible hero who fought like that of a lion (வெல்ல முடியாதவர் அம்பேத்கர் அந்த வேங்கையைப் போல் போராடிய வீரன் யார்).
His songs are still sung in all the social and Dalit awareness programs. His songs are written based on education, politics, and women’s empowerment.
He had the ideology of Dr. Ambedkar, Thanthai Periyar (an Indian social activist and politician), Jesus, Buddha and Karl Marx.
He lived a simple life, but his thoughts edified society. He authored eight books. He is friendly, disciplined, and soft-spoken but never compromised, adds Benjamin.
“We will all miss this giant of music but his majestic voice and ideology will remain in the hearts of all those who work for social change and Dalit empowerment,” he added.
Gengai Kumar, a poet from Thiruvannamalai shares his grief. The translation of the poem is given below:
He cultivated the crop of self–respect
And spread the Dalit slogan everywhere
Following the food steps and guidance of Ambedkar
Your immortal songs spread his glory
To lead a simple life
Proved all day.
Our affectionate poet
Motherly Dalit Subbaiah
Man of friendship.
Pure in Morality
You have passed away
With grief, I am registering.
Your loss is irreplaceable
My heartfelt condolences to family, friends, comrades.