How Didi’s life has changed

Mamata being wheeled onto a dais during her election campaign

The BJP has called it a “drama” and many cheap jibes have been made about Mamata Banerjee’s bandaged left foot but there is little doubt that it has changed her life for now.

Some changes are discernible: Mamata’s red pouch — her constant companion from which she offers medicines along with medical advice to those she feels need them — shows a larger-than-usual bulge.

“I have to take extra medicines to take care of the pain, else it will be difficult to carry on,” Mamata says, popping a pill while sitting in her wheelchair.


Some changes are lost in the heat and dust of politics: at 66, Mamata is again having to cope with something that once defined her political rise: physical pain.

“Suddenly there is this excruciating pain in my leg since morning,” the chief minister says before setting out from a Durgapur hotel for three rallies in Bankura on Tuesday. 

With Mamata wincing in pain but determined not to let it affect her campaign schedule, her aides wonder what may have intensified the ache. Two of them discuss whether extra stress on the injured leg was behind the stab of pain.

If so, the root of the stress lies in another unfamiliar feature that has not drawn much attention among the rank and file: one of the most tireless public figures in the country cannot make a single move without assistance.

She was hauled up from the wheelchair and helped back onto it multiple times on Monday.

Mamata has had to use a crutch while indoors, which is a hazard as the sari occasionally gets entangled with the prop, and she has to take the help of two aides as doctors have advised her not to strain her injured foot, sources said.

Such restrictions are not easy to come to terms with, especially for someone like Mamata who is known for her brisk morning and evening walks and the punishing regime she subjects herself to — she does not rest until she meets her 20km daily target.

Mamata cannot afford the comfort of recuperating at home as she is facing the battle of her life. The fight is lopsided too, with the BJP deploying its full might to take her on.

“I have three meetings today in Bankura and then will have to return to Kharagpur. My movements are taking a lot of time.… Let’s leave,” says Mamata, prodding her aides to prepare to set out for the helipad from where she is to fly to Bankura for her first meeting scheduled at 1.30pm. 

The flying time is barely 15 minutes, but Mamata is ready by 11am. Finally, she leaves the hotel at 12.15pm as an aide pushes her wheelchair towards the elevator. 

“Didi, Didi,” erupts the crowd outside. “Bhanga paye khela hawbe (The game will still be played with a broken leg),” they shout.

The helipad near Durgapur City Centre is less than 1km away, so she is taken there in the wheelchair itself. The ride to the chopper is bumpy as the road is uneven and dusty.

At the door of the helicopter, two aides push her wheelchair up the ramp while two others help her climb up. Mamata takes a small step and laboriously plonks herself onto the helicopter seat. She wipes sweat off her face with her sari and exclaims: “Uff!”

The BJP has called it a “drama” and many cheap jibes have been made about Mamata Banerjee’s bandaged left foot but there is little doubt that it has c

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