Rediff.com’s A Ganesh Nadar, mingles with the unceasing flow of people outside Rajaji Hall in Chennai, who had come for one last look at J Jayalalithaa.
Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu came to a standstill on December 6 to mourn the death of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who passed into the ages on Monday night.
There were no buses, autos, call taxis or app taxis. Only the trains were running as usual.
The train from Velacherry just passed Chepauk station when all passengers on board rushed to the left side of the train. Rajaji Hall, where Jayalalithaa’s mortal remains were kept for the public to pay their respects, came into sight. All the passengers in one voice screamed, ‘Amma’ as a gesture of bidding her goodbye.
A man, who had been crying, told this correspondent, “All her schemes were for everybody without discrimination”.
Her last darshan on Tuesday was also without discrimination. On one side there was the President, the prime minister, and superstar Rajnikanth and other dignitaries lining up to pay their respects and on the other we had the common folk from vegetable vendors and autorickshaw drivers.
In spite of the lack of transport the venue was overflowing with people. A policeman told Rediff.com, “In the morning there was less crowd. Now the crowd has swelled to unmanageable levels. Now they are pushing their way in. Only the strong and very determined can get anywhere near the stage, where the body was kept.”
On the road they had put up a large LCD screen where you could see the stage. Many people were content observing the scene from outside. Shouts of ‘Amma’ rent the air at regular intervals replaced by ‘Thalaiva’ a couple of times when Rajnikanth appeared to pay his respects with his entire family.
Vendors were doing brisk business selling tea and water packets. There was a lady who was giving biscuits and soft drinks only to the police. The cops, usually stern-looking at such venues, smiled when they came across this unusual lady. “They have been working for the past 24 hours continuously,” she explained as she refused to share her goodies with other onlookers.
A young girl said, “I should have stayed at home, it was clearly visible on television. Here I cannot go anywhere near Amma.” There was a continuous flow of army helicopters landing near the hall. So many VIPs were landing that people lost count.
There were many elderly people who braved the crowd and the sun to see their Amma one last time. There were heart-rending scenes of people weeping even as the line crawled ahead slowly.
There was no food available anywhere but no one was complaining. The cadre from the southern districts had come in trucks. They entered the venue shouting slogans. It was mostly the elders who were weeping.
The sea of humanity could have deterred lesser beings but the Tamil Nadu police was calmly going about their work. They had already decided from where the crowd would come in and from where it would go out.
The police continued to herd the people in the direction they had worked out. Every person was allowed one last glance and a hurried prayer before being ushered out.