It is not everyday that one gets to meet the Chief Minister of a state, especially a high- profile one such as the redoubtable and formidable Jayalalitha, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. I had this opportunity in 2013, when I was working with Global Hospitals in Chennai.
The occassion came when a renowned Malayali actress, Sugumari,was admitted to our hospital. She seemed to be quite an icon of the Malayali matinee world, and had a sizeable following in South India. Admitted to the ICU with burns, incurred while cooking in her kitchen , she was of the VVlP category, with even the Chairman of the hospital concerned about her well- being ,and the media following her progress in eager attendance. But all this was nothing compared to the fanfare surrounding Amma’s visit.
Exactly two days before Amma came in, the health minister of Tamil Nadu did a recce of the hospital, to ensure that things were in order. Then followed a retinue of other ministers, party functionaries and police officials. And lo behold, prior to her visit, the streetlights on the usually dark street leading to the hospital, off which we unfortunately lived, were repaired.
The eminent plastic surgeon under whom Sugumari was admitted , was all attention ,knowing the importance of this VVIP case. And we, the administrative brigade, were made to stand all in attention, awaiting the visit of Puratchi Thalaivi. Needless to say, the hospital got more than its fair share of cleaning, whitewashing and scrubbing !!
D- Day dawned loud and clear. A cavalcade of police cars,sirens blaring, rolled into the campus. Out walked Amma, truly like the queen. And for the privileged few who got to meet her, it was truly a memorable occassion of pomp and grandeur. Actually, it would have been comical if it was not based on a serious event like ICU hospitalization.
It was a once in a lifetime chance to meet Amma. Amazingly fair, dressed in a resplendent Sari,Amma looked every bit the graceful lady she was. It was not difficult to imagine the beauty of this lady in her heyday years. And it was not at all difficult to see how she had cast her spell over the denizens of Tamil Nadu.
Amma moved to the bedside, took the ailing lady’s hands into her own,and in the presence of her relatives, uttered a few words of comfort. And it was then that we saw the softer, humane side of this iron lady, who was used to demolishing political rivals with ease. As the flow of empathy spread from one artist to another ( both of them being famous cine actresses in their heyday) ,it was truly a memorable and touching moment.
And then, in ten minutes, it was all over. Amma did a Namaste to all those present,talked to the attending doctor, and briskly walked out of the room, her followers, ministers and police officials in tow.
Our profession brings us into contact with many eminent people of society. Over the years,I have been fortunate to meet quite a few political and social personalities. But this was truly an occassion. graced by the great Puratchi Thalaivi herself, that would be memorable to me forever,for I had the once in a lifetime chance to meet the grand damsel of the south, the inimitable,unconquerable J Jayalalitha herself!!