Padmanabha Srinivasan, the 66- year-old chartered account who has worked and travelled around the globe — and now lives a peaceful retired life in pursuit of spiritual attainment in the temple town of Srirangam — is bemused at rumours that AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa would be spending time with him and his wife.
The house he bought about five years ago, “for a song” as he put it, is situated on East Chitra Street a few lanes away from the Ranganathan temple where the presiding deity is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Srinivasan is perhaps the only person related to Jayalalithaa, albeit distantly, who lives in the same street that houses what once was the ancestral home of Jayalalithaa, where her mother spent part of her childhood.
“I am sure she does not even know of my existence,” says a surprised Srinivasan, in response to rumours that Jayalalithaa was to spend time with him and his wife when campaigning in the constituency.
“I am glad to be a branch of the same family tree to which Jayalalithaa belongs, and for this reason as also as a voter, I would wish she wins,” says Srinivasan who is tenuously related to her. Srinivasan’s paternal grandmother and Jayalalithaa’s paternal grandmother were sisters. But he himself never lived in Tamil Nadu before he settled down in Srirangam five years ago.
Educated at Nagpur and Bombay (now Mumbai) and having worked in different cities before going abroad, Srinivasan said he had personally not known Jayalalithaa or had tried to reach out using his family link. But he sure did think she was a good leader.
His neighbours in the East Chitra street were excited and basking in reflected glory of living in the same street where Jayalalithaa’s ancestors lived. The closest anyone came to claim remembrance of the AIADMK supremo’s family was Kamala Patti, now pushing 93.
“I remember playing with Veda (Jayalalithaa’s mother, also an actress with screen name Sandhya) and her sister,” she said digging into her past. Other neighbours talk about two houses on the same street as those belonging to Jayalalithaa’s ancestors — one in which they lived as tenants and the other they owned before Jayalalithaa’s maternal grandfather.
For the residents of East Chitra street, Jayalalithaa is a winner for sure. And they hope she will come back as chief minister, not because of the newfound fondness for “their neighbour” but due to real issues on the ground. They might be worried over price rise, severe power outages, and even corruption — from petty corruption to 2G spectrum scam — but they are also hoping that Amma would sort out their property issues stuck in bureaucratic quagmire. At present, the people living in 1,000-odd houses constructed on the property of the temple, do not have the properties registered in their name. They are descendents of people given the plots by the temple administration as they were its employees.
Today, many of the descendents have moved onto different professions and want the freedom to sell their properties. One of the promises Jayalalithaa made on Thursday when she passed through Srirangam town was to sort out their property issues if she came back to power.