When I came across the news that our beloved Chief Minister Jayalalitha had suffered a cardiac arrest, I knew this was going to be the end of an era of the rule of a phenomenal woman. But I waited. Waited with bated breath, eyes glued to my television screen and twitter handle for any sort of news that would say she had won this battle too. I was overwhelmed at the sight of scores of people standing outside the hospital to catch a glimpse of their beloved leader walk out of the hospital hale and hearty. The wait did end. But the battle was lost. A woman who stood all alone and fought all her battles successfully could not face this battle. She finally succumbed and accepted defeat.
I have never been politically inclined nor do I hold politicians in the highest regard. I never had the affinity for Jayalalitha as a politician. But I held her in the highest regard for the woman that she was. Her bold and feisty nature is what made me look up to her. She called a spade a spade, never backing out from her opinions.
Born as Komalavalli into an aristocratic family, she was destiny’s favorite child. A beautiful girl with a million dreams in her eyes, all she wanted was to study, become a lawyer, marry, build a beautiful family and lead a normal life. But fate had other plans for her. Losing her father at a tender age and with financial fluctuations at home, she was forced into acting at the age of 13. Though a reluctant actor, she was of the belief that conviction in any work was necessary. And this mantra helped her in giving the best in every movie that she acted. But that didn’t deter the young Jaya from fulfilling her dreams. Studies were her priority and she stood state first in her matriculation exams. With a gold medal in one hand and a scholarship in the other, Stella Maris college beckoned her. But her dreams were short lived when acting offers came her way. And this journey gave her many hits and the deserved fame. Thus, Kollywood’s beloved queen had arrived.
A trained dancer, her passion for reading and quest for knowledge, turned her into a voracious reader. She carried books with her to the places that she traveled. And this reading habit turned her into a great orator. Personally I have always enjoyed her speeches, interviews or even quotes. With a remarkable confidence she places forth her opinions and suggestions, never backing out of them. And that confidence that oozes out of every pore of her being has always inspired me.
A tumultuous relationship and few dark days of her life were the ones that changed the course of her life again, unexpectedly. She was forced into politics by MGR (Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran), her onscreen hero with whom she was paired in 28 blockbuster hits. He took her under his wings and appointed her as the Propaganda Secretary of AIADMK, a post that was created exclusively for her. Though a reluctant politician, yet with her brilliance and oratory skills, she quickly climbed the rungs of party ladder, under the able guidance of her political mentor MGR.
But with the death of MGR, everything went haywire. When she tried to take over the mantle and lead the party, she was humiliated and harassed. She took everything in her stride, sprang back in action and became the leader of the party holding the reins tightly in her fist. No wonder she was called the Iron Lady of Tamil Nadu.
She served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for five terms, which is no mean feat for a woman in the political arena. The love of people was bestowed on her in the form of calling her Amma (mother) and thus, Tamil Nadu’s Amma arrived.
In a field that was dominated by an all men battalion, where she was looked down as a commodity and where she was humiliated to the extent of breaking her down, she withstood everything with a steely resolve. With grit and determination, she ascended the throne of Chief Minister and brought down all the men who ridiculed her, to their knees. Jayalalitha has always inspired women of Tamil Nadu to not to bow down in front of men who do not look at them with respect. She has always inspired us to walk with head held high and take bold steps in life, not to cower down even once. She inspired us to educate ourselves, by giving out a clear message that knowledge was everything. She taught us not to be afraid of working in a male dominated place, but to work equally with them.
A reluctant actor, reluctant politician, but a woman with a daredevil attitude, she lived a life that she did not dream of. It takes a lot of strength to travel on a road less traveled, but Amma did with extreme courage and ferociousness. This quality is what made me her fanatic. A woman with a golden hand, everything that she ventured into was successful for her.
After much struggle and two and half months of suffering, she was laid to rest today. As she was being laid in the coffin, I saw tears in my mother’s eyes and knew that the void she has left in the hearts of people of Tamil Nadu, especially women can never ever be replaced by anyone. She was and will always be the Amma of 77 million people of Tamil Nadu.
“J. Jayalalitha ennum naan”
“Makkalal naan, makalukagave naan”
(I am here because of the people, I am here only for the people)
As the funeral procession came to an end, these words that is used by her frequently, are still reverberating in my ears. Her booming voice and these words are something that I can never forget till the time I stop breathing.
May you find the peace in heaven, that you rightfully deserved, Honorable CM. Selvi. J. Jayalalitha.