Mourning at 4S #Amma

(Or why this dingy, tiny pub is where some of us tamilians-ish went in search of solace) 

Yesterday evening, as it became clear that Jayalalithaa, the successful and spirited Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was likely to die, a group of Madras-Tamilian-South Indian-ish expats in Delhi decided we needed to meet. Our whatsapp group was aptly named “Amma Feelings”. And as it increasingly became clear that she wouldn’t survive this bout of ill-health, everyone in need of a drink knew there was really only one place that was appropriate (and close by).


For those unaware, 4s, a bar in Defence Colony Market in New Delhi, inspires apathy and fervour. It has rabid supporters who refuse to meet anywhere else on Friday night, a subculture of its own on Twitter, and a sense of urbanpoor-ness that is comforting to retreat into when all you want to do is go back to a time when you were young, stupid, and Donald Trump was just a TV star. More importantly, it has that elusive quality that all bars crave – network effect. My friends go to 4S. The people I can discuss politics with, sensibly, sans outrage, go to 4S. The people who recommend good reading, and essays, and tell me about the best journalism that is happening, and the best legal arguments, and the most interesting policy interventions, and the most interesting Delhi gossip and brunch recommendations (ok because it is Delhi come on yaar) – they all go to 4S. So do I. We’ve safely discussed Dreze, and PDS, and maternal mortality rates over the years, smug in TN’s infrastructure, and its impeccable administration of welfare, and the impact of a well-fed, socially secure population on the economy – and really what was the Gujarat model when compared to the TN model  (and also a ton of the bad stuff from TN but now’s not the time).

Yesterday however, we went there in search of solace and kindred spirits. Each a little shaken, and relieved, to know that our cynical self could still be affected. That out there in this world, was one politician, who made that role desirable, and not dirty. Someone, whom everyone at the table wanted to meet, and someone whose success most of the women (and some men) wanted to emulate. Political roadmaps for the future were drawn at the table in 4S – and nowhere else would have seemed appropriate. In the safe spaces where discussion of RCTs and digital media and fake news and consent layers flourished, so too did clandestine confessions of political ambitions.

The evening ended around 12, with the official announcement giving us the closure we were listlessly hanging around for. Beers were raised, to a life well lived, and a rousing rendition of “Adho Andha Paravai Pola Vazha Vendum”.  None of the staff batted an eyelid. Neither did the patrons.

To Jayalalithaa – because what else can you want out of life, except to know that it inspired otherwise armoured folks to wear their hearts on their sleeve and turn out to drink to your honour and pledge to be inspired by the best in you.  #urimaigeetham


  1. Ishan

    Hi Sowmya,

    Have to get something off my chest ever since Ive read all these editorials and Twitter threads on Amma’s life.

    As all of the coverage in the MSM is pointing out, Amma has done some great work which is reflected in TN’s standings in healthcare and abuse against women. As also pointed out by a lot of feminists on my timelines, she has been a great inspiration tom women all over India.

    Then there are editorials citing how good she was with English and how she could quote English or Tamil literature.

    Of course, there is that interview with Karan Thappar floating around as well.

    The list is too long,but you get the point, right? All these are valid and legitimate qualities which must be admired.


    Are we not normalizing corruption, ridiculous display of wealth (her foster son’s wedding which brought the city to a halt), narcissism (who puts their own photo on all welfare items), and the biggest one which has influenced me in a negative way – her acceptance of sycophancy. I cannot get the image of an MLA prostrating in front of her, while she sits on a chair.

    What would a child watching all of this think? All this is normal if you become a powerful politician in a country like India. After you die, none of this will matter. All the MSM will talk about is your achievements.

    I guess this reality is that History will always be kind to politicians. I saw something similar when Bal Thackery died and I won;t be surprised id we will be talking about Lalu’s raliway ministerial stint and Harvard lecture when he dies.


    • Ishan

      This rant was not against you in particular but I don’t know why I took it all here 🙂

      I know that you are mourning so didn’t want to offend you in anyway. Hope you see this as a healthy discussion.


      • Ishan

        To add, I just read an IE piece on why she us being buried –

        From the article:

        “Leaders of the Dravidian movement are atheists, who in principle denounce god and similar symbols. But it is interesting to note that the vacuum left by a disbelief in God is replaced by statues and memorials in the rational thoughts of Dravidians too. Fans and followers believe they can still hear the sound of MGR’s watch ticking at the leader’s memorial on Marina Beach”

        Great, we havent learned anything from the past.

        Will we ever have politicians like in Cananda or Denmark who behave just like a common person, who you can spot riding a bicycle? No, as we as a nation do not want that.


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