She named me Deepa, which meant light, yet I have always been kept in the dark about her health. As a blood relative, I wanted to be with her in her most trying times as she was the person I loved the most and I always wanted to be with. I was even looked upon by many as heir apparent to my aunt. But journalism was my greatest passion from a very young age.
Right from my school days, I was groomed by my aunt to be active in social work, which awakened a deep social concern in me. She was my role model for her determination, courage, hard work and selfless sacrifices.
Things changed after we moved out of her Poes Garden residence. Suddenly, the house was full of strangers. They were new to me and I had trouble getting along with them.
But life was not a bed of roses. I lost my father and then came a point when the relationship between my aunt and my family became strained. It was caused by a combination of so many factors and was also influenced by those around her.
All on a sudden, a foster son was introduced. It was one of the incidents that we did not agree on and I felt a pang of misery. The wedding affair cost me the growing intimacy with my aunt. And, it cost her a lot more.
In 1997, when she was imprisoned in Chennai, I went to see her. She was visibly touched by the fact that I had ventured into the area. She gently reprimanded me and said, "Go home. You are a kid. I will see you when I am back."
She connected with me instantly and we could feel it in our hearts. We both exchanged views and even had a heated argument on why things were not conveyed to her. Eventually, when we spoke about my father, I cried. She spent five or six hours with me and then she consoled me and said, "I have several meetings to attend. Now you go home and I will see you later."
That was the last time I saw her.
(Deepa is Jayalalithaa's niece. A journalist, she is doing a research project on war crimes and humanitarian crises in South Asia.)
Republished with permission from The Week
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