Diehard Amma supporters camp, pray outside Chennai hospital
The crowd has shrunk in size, but the spirit of those who turn up daily outside the city’s Apollo hospital has not sagged.
Ever since an ailing J Jayalalithaa was admitted here last week for treatment, a motley crowd of the chief minister’s diehard supporters continues to gather outside to keep a silent vigil. P Annamalai from Tiruchy is one of them.
Shocked by the news of his leader’s ill-health, he came rushing to Chennai and is refusing to leave until she fully recovers.
“I was devastated when I heard that she had fallen ill and been hospitalised,” he says.
Annamalai is putting up with some relatives in the city. But as dawn breaks, he ritualistically comes to the hospital for what turns out to be a patient wait.
“She has given her life for the people of Tamil Nadu. The least I can do is come and be here for her in her time of need,” he says.
Annamalai spends about 10 hours every day, lurking around the hospital gate.
He has company in a dozen others who make it daily to the hospital gate.
Most of them sit on the road or lean against police barricades that were swiftly set up after news of the chief minister being brought to the hospital broke.
The rush during the first few days of Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation was huge with the entire stretch of Greams Lane being packed with her supporters.
Tight security is still in place with police barricades forcing visitors, patients and doctors to alight and walk some distance to the hospital.
But Jayalalithaa’s supporters remain undeterred by inconveniences, including those such as the absence of a roof to shelter from sun or rain.
Over the weekend, they broke out in hysteric cheers and party songs after doctors announced the health of the chief minister was on the mend.
Many also made a beeline for a nearby Amma canteen — government-run subsidised restaurant — for an impromptu feast.
“Our prayers are being answered,” points out R Venkat, who makes it a point to visit the hospital at least for an hour daily. Jayalalithaa’s supporters have held pujas and prayers across the state, including outside the hospital, praying for her speedy recovery. Muslim party cadres held prayer meetings across Chennai mosques on Saturday.
The chief minister reportedly suffers from diabetes, hypertension, and cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection.
C Saraswathy, a spokesperson of her AIADMK party, says she has recovered. “We expect that she will be released in a few days — doctors are just observing her to ensure there aren’t any further infections.”
Squatting outside the hospital, Anjali D, a party worker, is enthused, but unrelenting.
“We are extremely happy that she is out of danger. But we will not leave until she is discharged. I will stay here until Amma goes home,” she says.