Maharashtra Prays For Balasaheb Thackeray!

The night bus arrived almost two hours in advance and deposited us at a particular junction of Mumbai at 2.30am today. The moment we alighted with our baggage two auto-rickshaw drivers approached us hoping for long distance passengers. Since we lived at a nearby locality they promptly informed us that there was no chance of getting a taxi for the night or even later. I asked why.  

Balasaheb off ho gaya! (Balasaheb has passed away).” We were rudely shocked and dumbfounded, though we knew that he had not been keeping well since the last few days was in very serious condition last week. But it was hard to believe anyway. “When?”  “Just a little while ago. All taxis and autos have gone home fearing problems.”

Feeling sad and heavy we trudged along and suddenly a taxi preparing to wind up for the night came up alongside and offered to take us home. As we were proceeding with the ride gratefully the taxi driver informed us that tomorrow was going to be a total closure in the city. He did not know till what time or date. We already felt an eerie quiet descending on a city that normally never goes to sleep.

I switched on the news channels as soon as we reached our home. It came as a huge relief that Balasaheb was still not giving up the fight and he continued to be in a critical condition. Even before the huge catastrophe of his possible passing away the city and probably the whole state of Maharashtra were close to being paralyzed.

Such is the profound impact at only the hint of him passing away. Such is the influence he commands on people of all walks of life. Because, Bal Thackeray is not just a politician, he has been a leader of immense quality who lives in almost every home of Maharashtra. For a plethora of compulsive reasons like absolute worshiping, spellbound admiration and inspiration, abject fascination, unquestioned following and even fear.

Bal or respectfully called Balasaheb Thackeray is the founding Chief of Maharashtra’s main regional political party, Shiv Sena. His early stint as a cartoonist and later as a journalist-writer helped him find out the hard realities of his state. He founded this party in 1966 to fight for the interests of the local Marathi people who felt threatened by proliferating outside Indian communities settling down in Mumbai and other parts of the state. He also founded this party on the ideology of Hinduism and thus Bal Thackeray became the most controversial leader of Maharashtra as he began to be criticized for following an allegedly communalist line. His outbursts against terrorism and allegedly Pakistan sponsored terrorist attacks have been as ferocious as being consistent. But the people he fought for started loving and adoring him and the communities he allegedly fought against started fearing him almost to a point of surrender. He also earned the tag of a Godfather due to his Robin Hood tactics and measures.

His perfect command over his mother tongue Marathi and also in Hindi and English, and his tremendous power of articulation laced with customary humor and satire won instant admirers all over.    People craved to sit long hours just to hear him speak. He has been a hard, straight and no-holds-barred speaker. He spells it out in hard hitting words—let it be about anything. Thoughts or doubts or unpleasant facts of life that linger in most minds but nobody wanting to mouth these into words get delivered unambiguously and effortlessly by Balasaheb Thackeray. He would not care a dime how somebody or other would feel about it. 
Thousands of Shiv Sena workers have been camping in front of his house Matoshree in Mumbai since last night praying and chanting for the speedy recovery their beloved leader. His son Uddhav Thackeray addressed the workers last night saying that his father has tremendous willpower and a miracle is always possible. His nephew Raj Thackeray who formed a separate political party out of family friction never lost his respect and devotion for his mentor and has been visiting Matoshree for weeks. Prominent Shiv Sena leaders have been insisting since morning today that Balasaheb is taken off from life support system and is responding positively to treatment. No medical bulletin has been released with the team of doctors saying that oxygen is still being administered to the 86 year old cult figure of Maharashtra. 

The stream of visitors to his home is continuing unabated. Top regional and national political leaders irrespective of party affiliations, Bollywood superstars including Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan, top industrialists, and common people are calling on him endlessly. The city of Mumbai today wore a deserted look with most shops and businesses downing shutters and traffic at an unnatural low.A high alert in Mumbai is also sounded and all leave to policemen cancelled despite the Diwali festival. All precautions taken for possibly the biggest news of Maharashtra in recent times.

At the moment people of Maharashtra are praying for a miracle. Maybe hoping against hope. They just cannot afford to be without Balasaheb Thackeray.


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