Jayalalitha – The Good, the Bad and…

She Ignored Her Health Until it was Too Late…

As the State that introduced sycophantic politics to India is in mourning, what inevitably comes to mind is that Jayalalitha had failed to pay attention to her health all these years. She could have taken better care of herself, with the state machinery at her command! She appeared to have been more worried about getting assassinated than being consumed by her own ill health.

She was just 68 when she gave up her battle against cardiopulmonary ailments and complications from diabetes. That is not an age to die at times when advanced medical care is available for longevity.

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But that is only when the individual does not ignore his or her health until it is too late. Sadly, that is what appears to have happened with Jayalalitha, who reminds me of my mother, Sathiavathy Gnanadhas, who too cared little about her health and paid the price for it.

State Topper

Jayalalitha will be remembered for many things that include the good, the bad and the ugly.

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As a student, she was brilliant and a State topper – at the prestigious Church Park Presentation Convent in Chennai, having come first in Tamil Nadu in the 10th exams.

  • She could converse very well in English. She was an intelligent leader with the ability to engage in meaningful conversations with anyone, business and political leaders alike.
  • She was often brash with the media as was evident in a rocky interview she gave years ago to the BBC with Karan Thapar, at the end of which she refused to shake hands with him and said: “it wasn’t a pleasure talking to you.”

Amma Food and More

Her “Amma” (meaning “mother”) concept of delivering quality food to the poor at heavily subsidised prices was a huge hit with the people. Its success made her take the idea to other areas of service such as health – Amma Pharmacy, Amma Water, Amma Salt, Amma Gym, etc.

As chief minister, she was fully in control of the state and all actions had her stamp of authority and leadership. That was, however, found wanting when Chennai faced the worst floods ever last year.

Be it in cinema or in politics, she led a life of courage and determination. She entered both careers rather reluctantly, as she had admitted in one television interview to Jennifer Arul long ago. She had been pushed into cinema by her mother who was a failed actress. She was drafted into politics by late actor and chief minister MG Ramachandran (MGR).

However, she did not regret any of that and gave her careers all it took to succeed – from cinema to politics.

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MGR had made her the Propaganda Secretary of the party he founded – AIADMK. There was resentment within the party and when he died, Jayalalitha had to endure the ignominy of being pushed out of the gun carriage carrying his coffin.

The Holy Dip and Her Foster Son’s Wedding

History will not be kind to her for at least two events:

  1. The Mahamam holy dip she and her confidante Sasikala took in 1992 and the temple saw a stampede that resulted in the deaths of around 50 people.
  2. The money she splurged on the ostentatious wedding of Sasikala’s nephew, Sudhagaran (Jalayalalitha’s foster son), in 1995. Together, Jayalalitha and Sasikala were seen as a symbol of corruption – she had spent several months in jail after being convicted.

Jayalalitha, according to some reports, may be holding assets worth Rs 20,000 crores. If that is true, when a fight for her wealth begins, skeletons may start to tumble out of the cupboard.

She has bid adieu to a life filled with turbulence all through but the legacy she leaves behind is enough to ensure she remains in the hearts of her followers for long.

May her soul rest in peace.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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