The morning after Amma's death

S Balakrishnan *

AIADMK Election Manifesto Released by AIADMK General Secretary J.Jayalalitha
AIADMK General Secretary J.Jayalalitha :: Pix - Wikipedia/Prakashfotos

"Amma!" Mother, that is how the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa, (mind you, it is a double 'a') was fondly and reverently addressed by the devoted cadres of her party, the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. She preferred being addressed so, that was the point.

Dravida Munntera Kazhagam can be seen prefixed or suffixed to the name of many parties in Tamil Nadu; it means just that it is an organization (kazhagam) for the development/welfare (munnetra) of Dravidans, believe me!

The morning after her passing away, I woke up with bleary eyes. Though I am not attached to any party and vote during the elections as per the prevailing situation and need, I was glued to the TV set since I returned from office the previous evening.

Though by Monday evening 5 O'clock some TV channels had announced her passing away because of the cardiac arrest on Sunday night, they then retracted saying it was not official.

The Apollo Hospital, where she was undergoing treatment for the past 75 days since Sept 22, also issued a statement that it was not true. But very few believed it. In fact, the schools had closed down by afternoon and even the office goers were let off after noon.

As I was coming back to office after a meeting around 4 PM, I could see a mad scrambling of people and vehicles vying with one another to reach home before the eventuality. The shops had downed the shutters by then and people were trying to stock essentials like milk, bread, vegetables, etc., through the partially closed shops.

The vendors also wanted to make the best of the situation. Then, by 6 PM, as I was heading home by then the death news had been withdrawn I found the street devoid of the evening rush. Throughout the 5 km stretch between my office and residence, not a single police personnel could be seen; not even the traffic constables.

Maybe they had been heaped around the Apollo Hospital and her Poes Garden residence. Well, I reached home without any incident, else I would not be here narrating this story now.

On the way I could see men waiting pathetically before the closed liquor shop 'TASMAC', a Govt of Tamil Nadu undertaking. Maybe they wanted to drown their sorrows by drinking, but no luck. The government should have been kind enough to give police protection for opening of at least its own TASMAC shops!

After all, the citizens wanted to mourn the death of the CM who wanted to increase the sales target of TASMAC so that welfare schemes (free distribution of so many things) could go on! The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

Back home, as I was surfing the news channels till 10.30 PM (already they were functioning 247, and now there was no question of unplugging them), they were all saying the same thing, that she was critical but stable. They were also explaining with graphics the latest treatments being given to her.

But there was a hint that by midnight or early morning, an important decision would be taken. When I irresistibly woke up at 12.20, it was officially declared by then that she had passed away at 11.30 PM on Monday night, aged 68 years and 9 months (February 24, 1948 December 5, 2016).

Then it was continuous monitoring of the channels till 3 AM, until her body was taken from the hospital to her 'Veda Illam' residence in the posh Poen Garden area of Chennai city.

The house is named after her mother and she is J Jayalalithaa, 'J' standing for her father Jayaraman. In the meanwhile, the second in command in her cabinet, O Pannerselvam, and the existing cabinet in toto assumed office as CM and ministers, in a somber function at Raj Bhavan.

This is the third time Pannerselvam is assuming interim command, all the three times during unhappy developments for her and the party. So I could wake up only after 8 in the morning, that too with bleary eyes.

Even then I could not resist switching on the TV set to know the latest position. Jaya's body was lying in state at the stately landmark Rajaji Hall where the body of the past CMs like Annadurai and MGR was also kept for the public to pay their respects. As I rushed to my office, the whole stretch of 5 km was at my disposal.

Very few vehicles could be seen plying; all private, not a single govt town bus. A few autos were also plying. I reached office within a record 10 minutes, whereas it usually takes about 25-30 minutes. All the shops were closed tight, including petty shops.

Fortunately, we got our early morning supply of milk without any disruption. This had been ensured by the police, as announced last night. Throughout the distance, I saw only one petty shop owner selling papers and milk, even that just outside his closed petty shop.

Three cart vendors were selling their fruits and vegetables together (probably for safety sake) on the platform. A kind two-wheeler mechanic was also attending to the problem of a passerby.

Well, they have their own stomach and that of their family members to take care of. On reaching office, I rang up home to say that I had arrived at office safely, to the relief of my wife.

* S Balakrishnan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 07, 2016.

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