A grieving Chennai appeared to move on with life on Wednesday hours after millions of weeping mourners paid their respects to chief minister J Jayalalithaa, belying fears that the beloved leader’s death would shut the state down for days.
The streets of Tamil Nadu’s capital city was packed with cars and buses on Wednesday morning as shops and restaurants opened and people started trickling back into offices.
“No doubt, it was a tragedy for all of us and we had observed mourning yesterday. But we need to move on,” said Krishna, an auto driver, parked in front of a hotel in the heart of the city.
Many shops and establishments had quickly downed shutters on Tuesday as news spread of Jayalalithaa’s passing, fearing riots and violence by her legions of followers who trooped into Chennai from all over the state.
But there was little disorder as thousands of teary-eyed followers climbed trees and statues and thronged a British-era hall to catch one glimpse of their “amma”.
Educational institutions remained closed for the second consecutive day, as the Tamil Nadu government announced holidays for three days. But it was business as usual in the government offices, though attendance was said to be very thin.
Many restaurants, including that of the famed Saravana Bhavan chain, were unusually deserted. Hospitals and medical shops were the only places with some crowds.
Educational institutions remained closed for the second consecutive day, as the Tamil Nadu government announced holidays for three days. But, it was business as usual in the government offices, though attendance was said to be very thin.
Ripples of grief surged continued to surge through the city, however, as people cutting across class and gender lines term the six-time chief minister’s death a tragedy.
“I feel sad that a strong leader like her [Jaya] has passed away. She spoke for our needs. We have lost that voice,” says Thangam, an elderly woman in Anna Salai.
“I don’t believe in any political party but Jayalalithaa was there for the poor,” added Selvam, who runs a tea stall near the Eldams Road-Anna Salai junction.
The politician was laid to rest with full state honours just after sunset on Tuesday, next to her long-time costar and political mentor MG Ramachandran as hundreds of dignitaries and politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, looked on.
Many said they were forced to go out because of a cash crunch following the Centre’s recall of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes a month ago, with long queues in front of the few ATMs that were open.
“For the last two days, we survived without a penny. I have been waiting for the last 45 minutes in the queue to get some money today at least,” said Srinivasan, an engineering student, standing in front of a Bank of Baroda ATM at Pondy Bazar.
Others said the city returned to normal as many had mentally prepared for Jayalalithaa’s death. “That is precisely why her death did not come as a shock and hence, it did not affect the normal life,” observed a police official at Theyagaraja Road.
Ramesh and his taxi driver friends said will not be working for three days, despite the financial loss. “That is there. But look how great a leader Amma was. This is the little we can do,” he said.