Bitter truth by C V Anand
It was 1987 when Komalavalli first appeared on national television. Images of grieving Tamilians thronging for their last glimpse of MGR their savior. A stoic defiant Komalavalli or Jayalalitha stood by the venue for hours in hope of a glimpse of the lifeless body of her mentor. MGR’s family led by wife Janaki Ramachandran had ordered Jayalalitha to be kept out of the official mourning.
As it should have been party leaders rooted for the wife and opposed the alleged girlfriend. After all she was an ‘attakari’ – Tamil (derogatory) for an actress.
But that young beautiful woman stood there bracing herself. She took all abuses as though a penance. She kept smiling at anybody who bothered to look at her.
Then a Door Darshan reported approached her for a byte. She was asked who would be heir to MGR’s legacy to which she replied how MGR had trained herself under her benefactor. She then skirted a question on Janaki.
Finally the reporter asked her if she had the required experience for running a state. Her statement remains with me till date.
“ I have been in social work for years under my leader’s guidance. Politics is the natural extension of social work”. This astute reply was played over and over in all DD news bulletins. I think this reply changed her destiny.
It said what she was doing, under whom and the direction of her growth trajectory. She had till then put much money and spare time in alleviating peoples woes. She was MGR’s stress buster and at times work spouse. Fact that she was good looking and spinster made her available to him 24/7. He was 60 at the time taking oath as CM and probably ignored by wife.
Do not remember much as I was 15 at that time but Jayalalitha’s statement brought her sympathy of at least the English speaking media. Do not know if she had a Tamil version too but of little consequence that. Anybody who mattered in Tamil Nad spoke English.
In ’87 it looked so heroic that the most eligible Tamil woman chose to stand at the venue of her guru’s last rites than let her be charmed and consoled by the hordes in Q for her attention. Is sure she never expected to be CM but the indignation forced on her that day decided fate of Janaki. Jayalalithat won post MGR elections and Janaki sentenced to oblivion.
Today though in retrospect it feels like such squalor. A life wasted for the heartless proletariats. Everybody thinks of how her proven and alleged wealth would be distributed. Not one soul mourns for that beautiful woman who withstood insults with nothing but determination.
Like Krishna’s Radha , Jayalalitha will always be mentioned in the same breath as MGR.
C Anand Velayudhan is Special correspondent – India for an American Television Channel ‘