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30-45 Sec Of Eye Contact With JJ

December 6, 2016

In 2001, I returned home from Malaysia.  Soon there was TN Assembly elections. For the first time in my life, I used an EVM for voting. Ofcourse I voted for Jayalalitha’s party AIADMK. She went on to win the state elections and become our Chief Minister for a second term.

I soon started my car driving lessons. I started to drive our little Maruthi 800 but I needed my driver-tutor (master) to sit with me as I still lacked confidence. There was an ‘L’ board affixed to the car, front and back.

One day I decided to drive to Mylapore. Master was in the passenger seat. Could be the year 2002. I drove well but Mylapore is a crowded locality. I wanted his company. We started around 11.30 am from home. I decided to surprise my aunt. Around may be 11.50 or so, I was in the wheels behind the car in Cathedral Road, close to Jayalalitha’s home. I was precisely on the (then) new flyover put up in DMK’s period. I was driving extremely slow. My master would insist, it is slow driving which is toughest and would let you stay in control.

On the opposite side of the flyover came a convoy of 3 cars, not more than that. First one was flashing a beacon of light. It was moving slow. The center one was a white Tata Sierra. To my surprise I saw that our CM Jayalalitha Jayaram was in the passenger seat directly looking ahead. The rear was brought up by another police SUV. I expected the cars to move fast but they cruised slowly matching my speed. I never expected to bump into my CM on highway. I would have anticipated a cordon of security and paraphernalia. But it wasn’t to be. She was simply right before me. I knew from the police van in the front that someone important was travelling – but did not expect it to be Amma.

In a previous regime of JJ, she had had the Z category security because she was vociferous about her anti-LTTE stand which earned her death-threats. She had lost the subsequent elections. The second time she was re-elected, she did away with all that was superfluous and had decided to become a people’s CM. She trusted the masses and became least fussy, less disrupting the traffic flow. This could have been the time she was starting to enforce law and order strictly in the state.

So on that day, I got to see JJ up close from my car for about a minute almost. The L board must have caught her attention. My master who was with me said, the L board plus the fact that I, a woman was at the wheel driving the car perhaps caught Jayalalitha’s fancy. May be I turned into a dot in her horizons within a minute but for me she became an image not to be forgotten for life.

Our eyes locked for not more than 30 to 45 seconds. It was broad day light. JJ had previously ruled that tinted glasses in cars were illegal, for security reasons. Which made it possible for me as well as her to make out clearly who was behind the wheel/in the car.

It never dawned on me to wave my hand at her. Master would have taken hold of the steering.

She came in the opposite direction on the flyover – and was probably going to ADMK office or Fort (Secretariat) for assembly session. I never knew she took this route. One would have thought, the beach road was easier approach to Fort.

And from Poes Garden, her home, JJ needn’t have used the flyover. Or perhaps her convoy did a detour avoiding the colony streets and took the flyover straight.

Whatever it was, those precious 30-45 seconds to me seemed like a magnetic pull. I could not tear away my glance from her car. Hers was SUV, mine was a small hatchback. So she could look down upon me and I had to look up at her. Not more than a few feet between us. As a woman, to the most successful woman in my state I gave my heartfelt salute in my mind.

Even my master was excited. Had it been a male driver, Amma wouldn’t have bothered to stare, he confessed. He noticed that we looked at each other for what looked like an eternity to me. ‘She likes women driving, women being in charge and that made her perk up when she saw you’ he said, ‘she must have been happy!’

After reaching Mylapore, for a long time I was telling my aunt about my chance encounter with JJ. I needn’t have spoken one word to Amma, there was no need to personally go greet her or shake her hands; that one long moment locking eyes with JJ did wonders to my morale, was more than enough for me.

The traffic was thinnest, the day was bright but lull, the road clear…. and Jayalalitha looked radiant, almost golden hued, with jet black hair, with an expression that could have been a suppressed smile. She oozed health and confidence and a cheer I cannot explain by words. I thought Tamil Nadu was in good hands.

I quit driving after an year or two but locking eyes with JJ even for a mere 30-45 seconds driving my car remains one of my most cherished memories. It was to me like telling her, ‘look you are my inspiration! look this is what we women are! look we are now like you!’ and I guess she somehow understood.

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From → Bharatiya Naari

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