Turmoil in Town


Turmoil in town is an ubiquitous state during daylight hours and evenings, however this is especially true on occasions when truckloads of men are brought into town behind carrots of free-food and alcohol.  These are political occasions, one of which has been on the boil since the recent verdict on the corruption of our (now previous) Chief Minister Jayalalitha, resulted in her being sentenced to jail for quite some time and prohibited from returning to the Office of the CM for at least a decade; coincidentally this verdict was handed down and sent out the day this blog was initiated.  Also coincidentally – ignorant of the upcoming import of the day, walking in to ashram that morning I photographed a photograph of Jayalalitha lying unceremoniously on the side of the road.


Minutes later the alarmed bangbangs of shops hurriedly closing ricocheted down the road near ashram and I learned that buses were being burned in town so I’d better go back home.

Since then we’ve had total strikes – anybody who dares open their shop is given trouble, and more burning buses, also schools and colleges closed, auto-rickshaws circulated with loudspeakers raging etc.  All over TamilNadu I’m told.  And tomorrow judgement will be given on her application for bail, so depending on that the town will erupt again in one direction or the other – triumphant or outraged.

Jayalalitha stepped into politics straight from the SilverScreen after playing MaidMarion parts beside the extremely popular M.G. RobinHood Ramachandran; thirteen young Tamil men committed suicide when he died about twenty years ago. The most successful Tamilians politicians seem to burst from the Bollywood Cake.

Jayalalitha in her heady heyday.
Jayalalitha in her heady heyday. An Emerites newspaper reported today that her jail time contains “no cosmetics, only brown bread and milk”.  How vindictive!

Since I had heard that the corruption charge rested on a huge pile of money stolen from the masses, I was surprised to learn that the burning buses were signs of strident objections to her incarceration and prohibition from continuing in the Office of the CM . . . with hindsight I can see that my surprise was due to my Occidental conditioning.  In the Printery on Verdict Day I asked Ramesh whether he was pleased or displeased with the verdict and the response was a very determined No!  So I asked why, being curious, and his eyes bulged with the retort: she only stole sixty-five crores rupees!! (One crore amounts to One hundred thousand thousands. A rupee is an Indian Dollar.)


Only sixty-five hundred thousand thousands of public money, that’s all!

Nevertheless the relevant point is that she issued heaps of stuff to families: she gave laptops to students at government Higher Secondary Schools and Government Tertiary Colleges, mixie-machines went to poor families via the Ration Shops, she set up Government Hotels with iddlies for one rupee each, and free electricity for farmers and low-interest rates for pump-sets; she did heaps of MaidMarion stuff.

She’s a woman, right?

They are fasting evidently, in protest, very conspicuously right opposite the Big Temple entrance in Car Street, the Main Street in town.

At three fifteen on the day before the second Lunar exlipse in 2014 – the anticipated time the judgement would be released, I rang Deva who knows and he gave me the good news that bail had been granted.  Millions of crackers were let off throughout the town particularly in Car Street. But the excitement had hardly died down before the bad news came through – confirmed by me in the Hindu PressRelease: that Jayalalita and her associates were refused bail.  The tone of town changed dramatically.  AllahuAkbar!

Public announcements of upcoming marriages on gigantic boards like this show the intimate significance of a family's political orientation for its sense of identity in this  culture where personal identity is not individuated..
Public announcements of upcoming marriages on gigantic boards like this show the intimate significance of a family’s political orientation for its sense of identity in this culture where personal identity is not individuated..

I don’t know how much MaidMarion has to do with all this – I am an outsider even if I don’t feel like one, so I can never truly understand, but I do know that even among those Tamilians who would prefer her opponents rise to power, everyone admires and respects this wonderful – perhaps excessively spunky, woman.

Everyone seems to anticipate she will get out of jail soon, lipstick or no lipstick.


And everyone was dead right, she did it: it’s now a week later and she’s out of jail and will be back sitting in the Chief’s chair surrounding by admirers within three months.

KaliYuga is taken to have begun back in MahaBharata times – thought to be at least five thousand years ago, during the lifetime of Krishna.  The Corruption syndrome and the burning-buses syndrome are icons of the Age of Iron, as is the selfishness of the Israeli and Australian governments, for instance, and the elderly beggars in the streets here abandoned by their families;  looks like KaliYuga is middle-aged now, in full swing.


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