In pursuit of Amma when i decided to follow the news to apollo during her last night

All of Tamil Nadu was glued to their television sets. The news flashed – “Hon. Chief Minister suffered a cardiac arrest. The next 15 hours critical”. Although not many understood what exactly this meant, the reality of her death seemed to inch closer. Many prayed for a miracle and most were just interested in what this would mean for TN. The fear of a riot breaking out seemed inevitable. Almost all of Chennai’s police were deployed at Apollo Hospitals, where she has been recuperating for over two months. The crowds were growing by the hour and the whole situation seemed uncontrollable.

Fanaticism and hero-worship over our leaders have become a kind of norm in Tamil Nadu.

We were not looking away from the TV, in case we missed the official announcement of her death. Already her death was announced in the regional channels which caused the party office to lower its flag on half mast to "mourn their leader's death. And, another press release from Apollo saying that “she is stable” put all these rumours to rest. There was a brief celebration and then the morbid air that surrounded Chennai took over.

the official press release of Apollo that put rumours to rest.

Looking at all the confusion outside Apollo through a television screen, I felt like I was missing something. After all, I am a journalism graduate who is undergoing further training in the same field. In an impulsive moment, I picked my bag up with 20 rupess inside (no thanks to demonitisation) and left. I only understood the gravity of the situation after I left the protective walls of my hostel. It seemed like a curfew was imposed. There were no public transport vehicles in sight and all the private vehicles looked like they were in a hurry to reach home.

Catching the MRTS, I went to Egmore station and was surprised at the number of police personnel standing there. The streets were deserted and all my hopes of getting a bus till Pantheon road fell flat. I knew I just had to walk. Starting my 4 km walk on the deserted streets of Egmore, going towards Greams road where Apollo Hospital is situated, I couldn’t help but feel eerily scared at the desolation but the same time, there was also a sense of security because you couldn’t miss police here. They were everywhere. Are they expecting things to go this bad? I wondered.

Police swarmed outside Apollo.

“My mother is dead”, I heard a transgender woman wailing on the road. This was an indication that I was close. As I was walking, now closer to my destination, the crowds just multiplied in number. It seemed like half of the city was here. All praying and screaming in desperation for their beloved Amma. On the streets of Apollo itself, the police protection was massive. They had made a human barricade that ensured that nobody was able to disturb the hospital. As I showed my ID card and said I am a ‘student journalist’, one of the constables let me in. I was closer than I ever hoped to be. I saw TV crews; including bigweights like NDTV and CNN. They have been their waiting all day for any news, any update. I asked Srinivas Jain, a reported of NDTV if he thought Amma was really dead. He smiling tiredly and said, “I wish I knew, darling”. I stood there thinking how this was actually the mindset of the state now. The uncertainty and the desperation for some news. I continued waiting for another hour and left around 10pm. Reaching my hostel, I was again following the news. Although sad, I was not surprised when the official announcement came at 11.50pm stating that an enigma is now no more.

President Pranab Mukherjee.
Amma has officially been declared dead.
Created By
Antara Chakraborthy
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