Jayalalithaa’s final journey: How Chennai bade Amma a worthy and graceful goodbye….writes Bikram Vohra

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi pays tributes to the mortal remains of Ms. J. Jayalalithaa, in Chennai on December 06, 2016.
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi pays tributes to the mortal remains of Ms. J. Jayalalithaa, in Chennai on December 06, 2016.

The people of Tamil Nadu, especially those of Chennai, said goodbye to their leader, mentor and ‘amma’ with grace and dignity and profound restraint.

Putting paid to the fears that there would be rioting and violence and that high rollers of emotion would lead to clashes in the city, the public was mature, well behaved and allowed the ceremony to be conducted the way it should be in a state funeral.

So much for a nation that has learned a reputation for idolising its stars and political luminaries and celebs and placing them on vertical pedestals a mile high.

What they did was greet the cortege with grateful acknowledgment and, for the most part, an eerie and telling silence.

If there was any annoyance it was the endless natter of the TV channel anchors all of whom completely failed to understand and appreciate the power of silence and could have just been quiet instead of flinging clichés as the solemnity of the procession moved onwards. Less would have been so much more.

That the military took over the ceremonies added to the poignancy of the moment and the playing of the Last Post always brings a lump to the throat. As the sound of the bugles died away Marina Beach and the stretch that led to it projected its sorrow through the throng’s courtesy and respect, both of which were tangible, the sun went down on an era.

Even the entourages of the VIPs were unobtrusive and did not meddle with the proceedings.

This was the right way to say goodbye. Done in the same style that personified Jayalalithaa, it shows we have as a people come a long way.

There was no pushing and shoving and all the concerns that people would kill themselves and that the city would burn were so totally misplaced that nothing can detract from this 24-hour cycle of exemplary conduct.

As histrionics rendered place to immense planning done at the last moment and a huge exercise in logistics and security it has to be said that from the moment the Apollo hospital announced the demise of the chief minister the system rolled out the ‘red carpet’ in grief without a falter.

Those who were expecting chaos must have been sorely disappointed. From the arrangements at her home to the cortege and the procession to controlling crowds and making sure that law and order was maintained, the government of Tamil Nadu did their fallen soldier proud in her final journey.

But it was left to the common man who opted to show his affection through the two finger V for victory sign, some party slogans and a wave and a fare thee well or simply a head bowed in silence.

We have a habit of letting ourselves down and always finding fault.

There was no fault to find. If the world was watching it saw a people stand together and it saw a nation who knew its protocol and its class in adversity and walked tall as a leader was put to rest.

Being alumni of Loyola College in Chennai myself I feel a certain kinship today and this state, even as it mourned, made the nation stand up that much straighter.

Even Jayalalithaa would have smiled and thought that the lessons in the discipline have taken root.



  1. Usually people compare Jayalalithaa to her guru and mentor, MGR, more often than not for her will power and determination in steering the AIADMK, success over success in some of the elections. And finally she laid to rest without a resurrection many would have remember the 1987 riots when MGR lost her final breath. People frustrated, temperature soared as resulted in the destruction of public amenities. Many transport buses and shops were felt the heat as stones pelted on them relentlessly. Quite naturally every body have envisaged the same .
    But Tamil people rises to the occasion and delivered a peacefull farewell to Amma, they were heartfelt, not physically but mentally. Even the late CM would have thinking in heaven how my Tamil ‘makkals’ were so disciplined in giving a fitting farewell to me! Usually Tamil people are so emotional in their expressions as they consider film stars as god and goddess. There is a practice in Tamil Nadu that they will give huge reception to film stars turned out to be politicians. So many had thought that they will become expressive when they hear that bad news. But it never happened and those people wrote a new chapter in dealing the death of a leader even if they consider them as their god.


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