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February 26, 1998


'I am not scared of anything, not even Jayalalitha'

Devyani Devyani, 60, Marakkanam village, on the way to Pondicherry

I walked 30 minutes in this hot sun to reach here. Why? Because I am angry. Frustrated. Disappointed. When some of our village boys told me that she (Jayalalitha) would be passing this place, I decided to come.

I am not here to see her. I came to ask her some questions. I am not a big fan of hers, nor am I a party worker. I am just an ordinary, 60-year-old, village woman who can't tolerate what's happening any longer.

I have to do something before everything goes out of our control. I don't why nobody is taking the initiative. Unless we join hands, we will be exploited by these politicians, day after day, year after year.

I have stood here, at this very place, and seen great leaders like Kamaraj, Anna and, above all, MGR. In those days, we did not have this good, tarred road. What is the use of having such good roads when our villagers do not even have a house, when most of us cannot even afford a good meal a day?

You just come to our village and see how our roads are. We don't have a single proper road. These politicians feel that villagers do not need roads. No one in our village has a big car, no buses come there. How can we poor villagers afford cars? Most of us do not even have a bicycle.

Under the pretext of constructing a road, they have just scattered some stones there. Now our feet hurt when we walk. If somebody falls ill in our village, we cannot bring a vehicle inside. Why? Because we have no proper roads. This beautifully tarred highway only for those people who can afford to travel in cars.

During every election, these politicians promise us so many things. Do you think they come back to help us? They only return when the next election is announced. Shamelessly they ask for our votes, promising roads, hospitals and schools. Do they think we are fools? That they can take us for a ride all the time? Do they think we do not have any memory?

Our memory is very sharp, very clear. Yes, it is true they have fooled us till now. We thought they would really help us, we thought they were really interested in our welfare.

Today, nobody believes these politicians and their sweet talk. You ask even a five-year-old in our village, he will beautifully assess these selfish creatures. It is not that we never had any great and sincere leaders. We did. But that was long ago. The new breed of politicians are selfish, ruthless and arrogant.

MGR was the greatest leader we had. He cared for the poor. He honestly wanted to help us and see us happy. We could meet him, touch him and tell him our woes. But today's leaders! They just whiz past in big cars. We are not even allowed to touch their shining vehicles.

Don't they realise they are travelling in those huge cars because we voted them to power? Could they have behaved like this if we had not cast our votes in their favour? They think they can fool us all the time. They are fools to think that!

We voted for Jayalalitha because we thought she, as a woman, would understand our problems. Also, she inherited MGR's legacy. But she is different. I am glad I can read. Otherwise, I would not have known about what happened in Madras during her time. We saw that wedding on Sun TV. My God! We could not believe our eyes. When thousands of poor people were starving, she spent millions of rupees on that wedding.

Do you know, she never visited us when she was chief minister. Now that she is out of power, she is coming to here. Not exactly to see us, but to ask for votes.

That is why I am here. I want to ask her so many things. I want to ask her if it was right to spend so much money on a wedding when many in Tamil Nadu cannot even afford a square meal a day? Was it right to loot people? Was it right to acquire so many houses when there are thousands of people without a roof over their heads? Why do you come here only when you need our votes? Why didn't you come here earlier? Why don't you talk to us like MGR did? Do you know our houses were washed away recently in the rains? Do you know nobody came to help us? Do you know we have elected a member of your party? Do you know he never bothered to help us when we were in trouble? Are you not ashamed of coming here just to ask for votes? Do you know we still sympathise with you because you are a woman like us?

I will wait here for her motorcade to come. If the police do not allow me to ask her these questions, I will jump in front of her vehicle. Let me see what happens then. I am not scared about anything, not even Jayalalitha.

As told to Shobha Warrier. Photograph: Sriram Selvaraj

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