Anbuarasu moved to Apollo Hospital in Chennai last week, soon after Jayalalithaa was admitted on the night of 22 September, reportedly with fever and dehydration. Except, that while the Tamil Nadu chief minister recuperates inside the hospital, the footpath outside the complex has been Anbuarasu's resting place for the night.
"I left my tea shop in my father's care and have been camping here, because I am very worried about Amma. I will be here till Amma is discharged. I have to see her hale and hearty,'' says Anbuarasu. The 30-year-old keeps a tab on every bit of information that trickles out of Apollo's gate, including the medical press releases and eats at the Amma canteen nearby.
Anbuarasu is the typical Amma bhakt and the AIADMK cadre for you. One who displays unflinching loyalty, despite not given any access to the supreme leader, pushed around by security men — a mere face in the crowd that adds to the Amma aura. It is difficult to explain this bent of mind. Or mindlessness.
Another regular fixture at the hospital is Ezhumalai, who runs a souvenir shop outside the AIADMK office in Chennai. The 55-year-old swears by MGR and Jayalalithaa and says all those who say she is critical are lying. "I report to the Chennai police about rumours floating on Whatsapp,'' says Ezhumalai. He comes to the hospital twice every day to find out, taking time off his shop.
It is 10 days since Jayalalithaa has been in hospital. And a sense of unease is prevailing in Chennai. With very little information put out in the public domain about the actual state of the CM's health, no one knows if there is more than what meets the eye. It is common sense that fever and dehydration does not call for 10 days of hospitalisation, but reluctance to part with details has only led to rumour mongering.
The decision of Apollo Hospital to fly in Dr Richard John Beale, an intensivist at the London Bridge Hospital, on Friday, has given the first real indication to Jayalalithaa's condition. An intensivist, by definition, is a doctor trained to treat critically ill patients.
On Friday, a Supreme court lawyer Reegan S Bell sought the intervention by the President of India. In a three-page letter to Rashtrapathi Bhavan, Bell asked him to seek a report from the Governor on the actual situation. "I request you to invoke Article 356 of the Constitution and call for a report from the Governor of the state on the prevailing situation pertaining to the chief minister's health and her ability or otherwise to discharge her constitutional obligations,'' he wrote. The plea also asked for Jayalalithaa to be examined by an independent doctor or a panel of physicians from AIIMS.
The question that arises is how justified is the world in demanding to know what ails Jaya. After all, like anyone else, she is entitled to her privacy. But then the big difference is that Jayalalithaa is the elected chief minister of Tamil Nadu, expected to discharge her duty as per the Constitution of India. With secrecy of an unprecedented nature that has been the hallmark of her personality and her administration, many in Tamil Nadu now wonder if the CM is indeed in charge. The government and the party have been trying to send out the message that she indeed is, by stating that Jayalalithaa chaired a meeting on Cauvery and also announced Rs 476 crore bonus for PSU employees this week. Apart from that, the party has released lists of candidates for the local bodies elections.
The man on the street is, however, confused when messages forwarded to his smartphone suggest that all is not well. Most believe the truth may well be somewhere between what the hospital is saying and what the Whatsapp forwards suggest.
Which is why DMK leader Karunanidhi has demanded that a photograph of the CM be put out to scotch all rumours effectively. Expelled AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa who has a score to settle with her former leader and the coterie around her says she plans to file a habeas corpus on Jayalalithaa's health.
The AIADMK cadre does not take kindly to this kind of "outside interference". Since Friday, party functionaries, especially those from its IT wing have been tweeting pictures of Jayalalithaa with the hashtag #MyCMisfine. This is to counter the "mischief" doing the rounds on social media.
Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao who is holding additional charge of Tamil Nadu will visit Chennai on Saturday. That may give some clarity on what really is happening behind the heavy security cordon that has been thrown around the hospital complex.
AIADMK is in prayer mode. All its leaders are busy organising pujas at places of worship all over Tamil Nadu and even outside the hospital. With most of them also devoid of access to credible information beyond the hospital's two-line press release, no one really knows.