It was surreal to watch the funeral procession of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa from the terrace of my office building in Anna Salai. The fact that she is no more was just beginning to sink in and there she was in a glass coffin surrounded by flowers, followed by police and her ardent followers. It was hard to take all that in.
Many of my colleagues and I gathered in the terrace at 16.30 today to bid adieu to Amma, as she is fondly called here, one last time. Hundreds of people, who had come to Chennai from different parts of Tamil Nadu and AIADMK party cadres crowded outside Rajaji Hall, where her moral remains were kept for people to pay her last respects. Even when we were chit-chatting to break the tense atmosphere, all our eyes were glued to the corner of the road, where we expected the vehicle that carry Amma to pass. Armed with our smartphones, we were ready to record the last moments of an iconic leader.
Minutes ticked. Streams of people were going in and coming out of the building. Police force were deployed to keep the crowd in check. There was no sign of her yet. Time was 16.45. We could see over 20 men in white shirt and dhotis in procession towards Marina Beach, where she will be buried. Following them were women police, who formed human chain on either side of the road to prevent people pushing forward.
And finally at a distance, we got the glimpse of the body of the Chief Minister in a glass case carried by a van decorated with white and red flowers. She was accompanied by whistles and wailing so loud that we could hear them even at a distance.
In addition to Tamil Nadu police, forces from the Centre including Rapid Action Force were deployed to prevent any untoward incidents. With RAF and additional security personnel in a large truck in front, her funeral vehicle passed through. We could see it only for a minute or so and all I could make it was the Indian flag and the barely visible green colour of her saree. Zooming in on my camera did not help. So I moved to a different location, where I hoped to get a better angle. When it ended in vain, I locked my mobile and just observed the procession as far as my line of vision would allow.
It was impossible to see the road with so many people joining the procession. Even visible areas are covered in yellow saamanthi flowers, thanks to a group of Amma loyalists. When I could not even make out the van that carried Amma, I decided to return to my work desk, where I can see the continuation of it in TV.
Remains of Jayalalithaa was buried near the memorial of former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, her mentor, friend and anchor. Last rites was performed by her friend Sasikala Natarajan and her nephew Deepak Jayakumar. She was buried along with the predecessors of Dravidian party with the State honour.
It really was over. The era of the controversial Chief Minister who no one could ignore and one none has figured out. Her death though unexpected, was the most dignified. One could say that she was regal, even when dead. Many high profile leaders starting from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chief Ministers of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa came pay respects. I’m sure not many can boast of commanding such respect, which was hard earned.
If you were reading all those obituaries in media, you will realise that her life till the end was full of thorns, because of people and later due to health. When I passed her memorial on the way home, I could not help but think: She could rest in peace, at least now.