Ambulance driver shares memories of Jaya, Karunanidhi

Santhakumar who was behind the wheel during the last journey of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa.

Chennai: The mortal remains of the Dravidian leader, M Karunanidhi were being transported to Rajaji Hall from Kauvery Hospital via his residences at Gopalapuram and CIT Nagar from Tuesday night to the wee hours of Wednesday.

Multitudes of supporters from all over the State were walking all the way to Rajaji Hall with cortège to bid a final adieu to the veteran scriptwriter-turned-politician. With the vehicle moving at a snail’s pace, Santhakumar, who drove the hearse, tells that it took two hours to reach Gopalapuram from the hospital.

Santhakumar, with teary eyes, heavy heart and an agonised state of mind, lifted the gold-plated coffin. He tells News Today he feels blessed to get the opportunity to do the final rites for his ‘Thalaivar’.

“Kalaignar is truly a leader. He fought till his last breath and won to get a place next to his mentor, Anna,” says the crestfallen Santhakumar.

It was Santhakumar who fulfilled Karunanidhi’s last wish of etching “A person who worked without taking rest now takes rest” on his casket. “Being the leader who was close to my heart, I wanted to give the best possible design and inscribed thrice which took more than eight hours”, he says while his tone goes down.

Adding about how much Kalaignar means to him, he continues, “We have lost a great leader. He is one of the reasons behind Tamilnadu’s development. I wish he had stayed a little longer and served the State as the Chief Minister for sixth time.”

This is not the first time that he drove the vehicle to perform the final rites of a leader. For, it is the same Santhakumar who transported the mortal remains of former Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa.

He considers the opportunity to serve both the leaders as a fortune. “When leaders are alive, they are always surrounded by people. I truly am honoured to be with such tall leaders after their demise and make arrangements for their rites like their own son. I consider this as a blessing in disguise.'”

The 58-year-old man has been offering the service of doing the last rites through ‘Homage,’ since 1977.

G K Moopanar, actor Sivaji Ganesan, former Lok Sabha Speaker Bala Yogi and actress Padmini were few of the prominent persns to whom he offered the funeral procession.

“It was in the newly-purchased Flying Squad ambulance did Kalaignar complete his last journey,” says the resident of Kilpauk as sadness engulfs his face.