Thanga Tharagai (Golden Maiden)
Worshipped, revered, feared and fearless.
One needs no more lexiconic liberties than these aforementioned adjectives to describe the woman that individually transformed the political landscape of south Indian politics, to the tunes of a woman with no political lineage or support.
Born, Feb 24 1948, a believer in astrology she once confided that she was a true Pisces. Emotional in all her pursuits and bearing the best of all the 11 preceding sun signs. The 4 time Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, between 1991 – 2016 was often discussed as the only politician in post independent India that had the enviable authoritarian approach to leadership and yet the most penetrative ground connect with people. Indira Gandhi was seen as an elitist administrator, while Amma, as she was fondly called was the Iron Willed lady that had snatched the reigns of control and conquered what was until then a patriarchal male bastion.
She began her career as an actress after having passed from Sacred Heart School, at a very young age of 16. Having acted in over 140 films in various regional languages, she even debuted in Bollywood against none other than the He-man of the industry, Dharmendra. However, it was with her fellow co-actor MG Ramachandran, who was another stalwart actor turned politician that she found her calling in state politics.
Serving as the General Secretary for her party AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), she was also the Rajya Sabha member from Tamil Nadu. Post MGR’s death, she staked her claim to the party’s leadership much to the anguish and envy of other tall leaders. Some even claim that the day MGR died, he was planning to suspend Jayalalitha from the party in lieu of all the complains he received from party workers of her one-upmanship order and dealing things with an iron hand. Fighting inheritance battle against Janaki Ramachandran, the widow of the minister, she was pushed off the carriage on live TV during the funeral procession where she swore vengeance and within 4 years of campaigning and building a base amidst her followers came to power unchallenged in 1991.
When CBI raided her residence and confiscated all her belongings including her jewellery during Karunanidhis term as CM, she swore never to touch jewellery again, only to concede on a mass appeal made by her ardent fan followers in 2011. Such was the aura around her that people couldn’t envisage their leader’s sentiments being scathed.
However, as destiny would have had, this serene face of absolute and total control riding on her image of having the most generous outlook towards social welfare programs , Amma went on to become as many hailed her as “Goddess of Tamil Nadu”.
Her political career was marred with allegations of corruption when she first came to limelight for having spent 100 crores on her adopted son’s wedding and was even imprisoned for 21 days post a court ruling in a disproportionate assets case in 2014. 7 people immolated themselves in broad day light just to protest her arrest. Such fanatic mortal worshipping for a woman leader was never before heard of in any part of the world.
As the fierce soul lays to rest, this blog isn’t an attempt to downplay her political mishits. There shall be other occasions. To her best friend and soul sister and confidante for almost all her adult life Sasikala Natarjan, Amma was a defiant fortress that couldn’t be breached, for her adversaries that left no stone unturned to douse her flames she was ferocious, merciless and an unflinching machine and for the millions that feed off a hearty healthy meal every day for less than Rs 1 through her intitiative Amma Canteen, she was, is and shall remain until time immemorial what scores of literary works have addressed her as “AdiShakti” (The Goddess).
On the show Rezendevous with Simi Garewal, the world saw the tender side of Jayalalithaa where she confided that she missed the love of the family and even went on to sing her favourite song, Aaja Sanam, Madhur Chandani Me Hum….
The feisty tigress, with the tranquillity of Buddha, stood tall against an army of wolves and was without a shred of doubt or debate the literal embodiment of power, courage and will. Her departure leaves a void so deep into the psyche of an entire state that shall never be filled for a long time to come. The tears in the eyes of six year old girls to 80 year old men is a testament to her accomplishments that history books shall deploy now to inspire generations to come.
Resting in peaceful slumber, right next to her mentor and guide MGR, the Tamilian identity shall forever not just be indebted but an indispensable proponent of Amma’s awe-inspiring tale of feminist bravado and legacy…