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25 Oct 2021, Edition - 2295, Monday

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Coimbatore

The queen of hearts and the queen of hill stations

D.Radhakrishnan

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Udhagamandalam: More familiar to Ooty than any other part of Tamil Nadu barring Chennai, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her long association with the hill station has been occupying centre stage in conversations and discussions ever since her battle for recovery from multiple health problems suffered a set back on Sunday.

One of the most striking personalities at shooting spots in and around Ooty particularly in the 1960s and 70s,her powerful presence was recalled by senior citizens who had witnessed the making of films like Vennira Aadai at various scenic spots.

Others like Krishnamurthy the former manager of Higginbothams on the Commissioner’s Road recounted her frequent visits during her film shooting days to the popular book store to purchase a variety of books particularly novels.

Since the Nilgiris had become her ‘second home’ after the Kodanad Tea Estate near Kotagiri became part of her life about a couple of decades ago,her periodical visits to the place became much looked forward to occasions especially among many in the Badaga community,the largest single ethnic group in the hills.Everytime she landed or left after a sojourn she was welcomed or bid adieu with the traditional dances and music and songs of the Badagas and tribals likes Todas and Kotas.

By way of returning their affection Ms.Jayalalithaa had sanctioned a subsidy scheme for small tea growers which benefitted thousands of Badaga planters.She also declared a local holiday for ‘Hethai Habba’,the main festival of the Badagas.

Officials recall that but for her the Government Rose Garden (GRG) in Ooty which has been recognized as a Garden of Excellence by the International Rose Federation would not have come into being in 1995.The Rose garden which was initially called the Jayalalithaa Rose Garden was formed to mark the centenary of Annual Floral Carnival at the Government Botanical Garden here.A pillar in the shape of a double ‘J’ was erected at the head of the main lawn to mark the occasion. Over the years it has become a popular backdrop for photographs and videos.

Since the famed Ooty Lake was getting too crowded and pollution of its water spread was rising,Ms.Jayalalithaa converted the Pykara Lake about 20 kilometres from here into a tourist spot.It has to a significant extent reduced pressure on the Ooty Lake.

She also chose the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve near here to introduce a rest and rejuvenation camp for captive elephants.

Known for her support to green issues,she helped check a few environmentally hazardous projects here.

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