For 15 days and counting, Apollo Hospital on Greames Road in Chennai has been buzzing with activity. Tamil Naduâ€™s cabinet ministers drive in and out of the hospital, getting instructions on their ministerial tasks. AIADMK functionaries together with pujaris chant prayers and perform poojas in front of a dozen cameras, capturing every ritual. Journalists furiously jot down the coming and going of vehicles and their passengers, as photographers and camerapersons shoot away. A swarm of police personnel stand on guard in front of the hospital gates, even as medical staff, patients and visitors get screened as they enter the premises.
But for some others, life has come to a standstill since Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was admitted to the Apollo Hospital on September 22.
49-year-old Ponram, a daily wage worker from RA Puram in Chennai has not gone to work for over a week. â€śAmma is sick, so how can I go for work? I have been coming here for the last one week and want to know how she is doing,â€ť he says.
Ponram is not alone. Pandian, an AIADMK party worker from Theni has been camped at the hospital for a fortnight. â€śEveryone in the state loves Amma so much, we are wishing she gets well soon,â€ť he explains. Rumours of Jayalalithaaâ€™s recovery circulate among the throng of supporters. Pandian says, â€śWe heard that today she got up and sat. This news makes me very happy.â€ť
Parked near the visitorsâ€™ gate is an auto-rickshaw, its rear and right side dominated by two large flexi boards bearing the image of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Driver G Sukumar promises visitors free rides from Apollo Hospital in his auto-rickshaw until Jayalalithaa is discharged.
With a smiling face, he welcomes his passengers. "For the past few days, I have been seeing patients with severe health issues unable to walk from the guest house to the hospital. So I decided to start a free ride service from the hospital till the guest houses where the patients stay,â€ť says the self-proclaimed Amma fan.
Sukumar, who began his free auto service on Friday, explains that he fills petrol for Rs 400 and ferries passengers the entire day until he runs out of fuel.
Ponram, Pandian and Sukumar, just like the many others gathered outside the hospital hope and pray that Jayalalithaa recovers soon. They wait with bated breath for that moment she steps out of the hospital gates.