Thousands came from far and wide to bid farewell to their beloved Amma.

Grieving but restrained Jayalalithaas followers say theres no one like AmmaPTI
news Jayalalithaa Tuesday, December 06, 2016 - 17:25

The surging crowds jostled for space to pause, one last time, before the mortal remains of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.

Grief was visible among her numerous loyal supporters, who had come from far and wide to Chennai’s Rajaji Hall to pay their respects to the late leader, and bid farewell to their beloved Amma. 

Tears rolled down the eyes of party men, who carried a photograph of the late CM on their breast pocket. “You’ve left us and gone,” wailed a few women as they sat on the pavement metres from the venue; some beat their chest, throwing their hands up in defeat; others waved the party flag as they shouted, “Puratchi Thalaivi Vaazhgu” (Long live, revolutionary leader).

But for the most part, the mass of Jayalalithaa’s supporters, known for their unabashed sycophancy in her victories and defeats, were restrained in mourning.   

Sarasi and Saraswathi

Sisters Sarasi and Saraswathi walked from their home at Elephant Gate in Georgetown, arriving at Rajaji Hall at 6am on Tuesday. Saraswathi, who has Jayalalithaa’s image tattooed on her arm, said, “We have been her supporters since we were young.” At noon, they were still standing by one of the exits at Rajaji Hall, appearing dazed and in shock after seeing Jayalalithaa’s mortal remains wrapped in the Tricolour.   

“I didn’t think she would die so soon,” said 55-year-old Lakshmi, a domestic help, as her eyes welled up. She was hoping to finish her morning chores so she would get to the venue in time to pay homage to Amma.  “I have always been an Amma supporter. She always did good for the people just look at the number of schemes. I will support Panneerselvam if he does good thing for the people like Amma,” she explained. 

Ponraj is one among the sea of policemen stationed at the Omandurar Government Estate. He was posted at the venue on Monday night. As his shift crossed the 12-hour mark, the constable said he was unsure when his day would end. Having stood on guard on the late CM’s convoy route on numerous occasions, Ponraj said, “I don’t know what will happen now that Amma is gone. Thinking about the situation makes me tense.” 

With songs from the 1969 film “Nam Naadu” starring MGR and Jayalalithaa playing from his mobile phone, P Ranganathan confesses he has been an Amma follower since the 1970s. “I will give my life for Amma. Who else is there like her? She understood politics like no one else. No one can surpass her. Everyone else is insignificant,” said the autorickshaw driver, as he navigated the city’s empty streets. 

P Ranganathan

Mourning her loss, the 53-year-old said, “The DMK is waiting to loot the state now that she has passed away. O Panneerselvam is our last hope.” He believed that Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala did not have the minimum education required to oversee state governance. “You should be smart enough to deal with files. She has not reached that level.” 

Predicting the beginning of a BJP-AIADMK alliance with Jayalalithaa’s passing away, Ranganathan trails off singing, “Nalla Perai Vanga Vendum Pillaigale, Nam Naadum Ennum Thottathilae Naali Malarum Mullaigalae” You should earn a good name, children, you are the flowers that will bloom tomorrow in the garden that is our nation.  

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