I don’t think anyone from outside the state of Tamil Nadu would fully comprehend the magnitude of this loss. That unabashed outpouring of grief, that unfettered display of emotion, that heartfelt cry of, “Amma!’ from a swirling sea of people… it might look weird, theatrical or downright ridiculous to an outsider. But believe me, there isn’t much fake about those scenes on your TV screen. That’s the Tamil for you – genuine, spontaneous, and unafraid to express his feelings.
Jayalalitha might have been a lot of things; but she was a leader who always stood up for her people. Whatever the motive behind all those freebies and concessions, she took care of her people, and the poor in her state were comparatively better off. She might have stayed inaccessible and distant, but the people mean it when they call her Amma.
And time and again, she rose like a phoenix – after each fall; after each public humiliation. She held her own in a male bastion, in a seriously chauvinistic society. She towered above her rivals and comrades, and won the grudging respect of even her hard-core critics. She was smart – brilliantly so, and a hard nut to crack. Humility might not have been her strong point; maybe it had to do with the path she had to tread to get where she was.
Since this afternoon, I have been overwhelmed by a strange and unexpected heaviness in my heart. And I know it has nothing to do with it being a cold, blustery, and overcast day. This is a sadness I did not expect to feel. She was just one of those people you took for granted and with politics never being a subject of interest, she was not really someone I gave much thought to. But now I suddenly find myself thinking of her and her journey through life; her rises and her falls; and what it means to be loved at this magnitude.
I have two identities – one linguistic/cultural and the other geographic. Though I indulge both sides as needed, I find more often than not, going with my linguistic identity. But today I choose to identify with my geographic identity. Today I am Tamil and I stand in mourning with my home state.
Good-bye phenomenal woman! There will not be another like you!!