Chennai: While three months is a long time to spend in the hospital, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa seems to have tried her best to make the ordeal as pleasant as possible with her famous wit and endearing authority.
According to a report in a national daily, the ailing chief minister was ‘sometimes funny, usually cooperative, and occasionally difficult’ during her stay in the Apollo Hospital.
Out of the entourage of 16 nurses who cared for her, working in three shifts, ‘Amma’ seems to have had three favourites to look forward to – nurses CV Sheela, M V Renuka and Samundeeswari – whom she fondly referred to as the ‘King Kong’.
Describing how co-operative Jaya was, Sheila said, “several times, she would say, ‘you tell me what to do. I will do it’. She smiled at us when we walked in, chatted with us, and, on most occasions, cooperated. When we were around, she made an effort to eat despite difficulties.”
Sheila fondly remembered how the AIADMK supremo had her favourite meals prepared by her cook from Poes Garden, including upma, pongal or curd rice and potato curry. She recalled how, despite difficulties, she would try and eat her meals when the three were around, one for each of them and one for herself.
But it is not to be thought that the proud stateswoman yielded her authority and submitted meekly to the hospital staff. The report recounted out an incident, where British specialist Richard Beale tried to talk her down, pointing out that he was the boss in the hospital, when she weakly gestured that she was still the boss of the state.
Jayalalithaa was also quite candid at times, handing out skin care tips to the nurses, and ‘ordering’ them to change their hair-style.
“She always advised women to give themselves some time however busy they were,” said medical director Dr Sathya Bhama.
But perhaps the most memorable story would be when she suggested the entire medical team to ‘move the party’ over to her home, because she did not like the coffee at Apollo. “Come, let’s go home. I will serve you the best tea from Kodainadu,” she would say, recounted critical care expert Dr Ramesh Venkataraman.