Chennai: The relentless warrior of many battles breathed his last on Tuesday, laying down finally his sabre of many social revolutions and political battles; allowing age and its accompanying ailments to tear him apart from his people. For 11 long days Muthuvel Karunanidhi put up a brave a fight from his hospital bed only to discover that his flesh had become weak and could not keep pace with his never say die spirit.
Tamil Nadu’s long distance runner, who had seen podiums and pits, finally disappeared into the sunset, bringing to an end a glorious era in public life. Author, script writer, orator, political leader, social activist, Chief Minister — Karunanidhi had donned many hats with ease. But the Tamils fondly knew him by just one name — Kalaignar, which probably encompassed all his other roles.
When the Kauvery Hospital announced — reluctantly and sadly — that Kalaignar Karunanidhi passed away at its ICU at 6.10 pm, it marked the end of an era of unmatched grit, sagacity and variety in not just the Dravidian Tamil Nadu but also the politics of the entire country.
The final bulletin from the hospital’s anguished executive director Dr Aravindan Selvaraj said despite the best efforts of his institution and its medical fraternity to resuscitate him, Kalaignar failed to respond. “We profoundly mourn the loss of one of the tallest leaders of India and we share the grief of family members and fellow Tamilians worldwide,” said the Kauvery MD. The entire Karunanidhi family was by the bedside when the end came, except his wife Dayalu Ammal who had been brought in a wheelchair on Monday to Kauvery to say her final goodbye.
The 83-year-old frail woman might not have understood the heaviness in the ICU air, herself being down with Alzheimer’s.
DMK working president M.K. Stalin, an epitome of the doting son that he has been all these years, was spending most of his time in the hospital — discussing treatment with the doctors and briefing the visiting dignitaries who included President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Union Ministers Nitish Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman, Suresh Prabhu and Pon Radhakrishnan, Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu and State ministers led by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and deputy CM Panneerselvam. Sister Kanimozhi, Rajya Sabha MP, lent ample support to Stalin in the hospital. So did the rest of the family and the DMK seniors.
Outside, the crowd of DMK cadres and Kalaignar fans kept swelling through the day. They had known from the morning that this could be their last day of waiting outside Kauvery and their Son would soon set; yet they kept chanting, with tears flowing down the cheeks: “Ezhunthu Vaa Thalaivaa” (Leader, Get Up, Come). The chanting grew louder and an occasional wailing erupted from the milling crowd behind the barricades from among the many women cadres who had camped on the pavement outside the hospital for hours, through the night. And when the sad news trickled out of the hospital shortly after 6.20 pm, the crowds erupted into loud wailing as men and women screamed in shock and sorrow, despite knowing the moment was coming even days earlier.
“Appa”, screamed a shattered woman in soiled clothes trying to push her way through the barricade. “You gave this poor slum woman her Housing Board tenement”. Karunanidhi was admitted to the hospital late night on July 28 following a dip in his blood pressure, which stabilised within a few hours following medical intervention. Doctors of different specialties combined their expertise with the best of medical technology, but the biggest help came from the stout patient himself as he refused to give up despite the heavy odds of failing organs, fever due infection and his advanced years. Amid such seesawing fortunes in his health, the hospital came out with a statement on July 31 saying an “extended period of hospitalisation” would be necessary due to “age-related overall decline in his general health, altered liver function and haematological parameters”. That was the first indication that the end was drawing close....