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The great drama that is Bal Thackeray finally came to an end in a fiery blaze in Shivaji Park.
Many called Thackeray a brave man who spoke his mind like no other in politics.
I would like to take a moment to ponder on this bravery.
We admire bravery because at the simplest level it is when someone stands tall despite being in a weaker position – a time when most of us would cower.
In that context, yes indeed Thackeray was very brave to say whatever he used to say from within the fortress that is Matoshree, surrounded by his private security, his state police detail, his metal detectors and his hundreds of crazy Shiv Sainiks.
He bravely preferred easy division to the harder path of unification. And where division would not come naturally – people never did stop celebrating Valentine’s Day I notice – he bravely chose to enforce it with brutal and mindless violence.
But since I do not have a Sena and therefore am not ‘brave’, I can only point out his bravery via this article far, FAR away from Mumbai.
I found Thackeray’s admiration of Hitler and dictatorships amusing. Since pretty much exactly like Hitler, Thackeray was never able to capture more than 30% of the votes and managed to come to power only once via a coalition.
Luckily our democracy was stronger than the German Weimar Republic.
While Thackeray’s impact in Mumbai is undeniable, for me personally, the vast effect Thackeray can have was really driven home to me when Times Now’s Arnab Goswami, during his coverage of the funeral, uttered these eternal words – “I am going to be silent now so you can soak up the moment”.
The man most famous for his ability to scream non-stop at up to six panelists for an hour every day without stopping for breath was going to keep quiet voluntarily?
Wow! Just wow!
(Side note: Why is the Indian tricolour – which represents all religions, democracy and all people – draped over the body of a man who openly called for the end of democracy, an admiration of dictatorship, violent attacks on ‘other people’, a hatred for other religions and the supremacy of Hinduism? Or if you want it simpler, why is the flag of India draped over a man who worked all his life to try and drive other Indians out of ‘his’ city?)
If we cannot be as ‘brave’ as Thackeray, let us at least face the truth – Thackeray was Mumbai’s most feared leader. He was undoubtedly loved by a few, since he used to riot in their name and who doesn’t like that after all? But he was mostly feared.
The Shiv Sena demanded a state funeral for a man who never served the secular, democratic state. It was granted because we were all walking on egg shells and didn’t want to give the barely repressed psychopathic tendencies inherent in the Shiv Sena a reason to explode.
I am sure he was a good father, uncle, friend and cartoonist. But let us not ignore that section of us who did not feel, as many claimed, “forced to acknowledge his greatness”.
While those who fought him politically might have “respect” for him, those whom his Shiv Sena literally fought – beaten within an inch of their life or mass-murdered – probably do not feel any great “respect” or “friendship” for this “brave” man. Mostly what they feel is fear.
But I am not trying to downplay the reaction shown by city of Mumbai over the death of Bal Thackerkay.
They were naturally devastated since many in the city profited immensely from him. Although it seems to me it was little more than war profiteering.
Because that is what Thackeray did – He waged war on Bombay, a war that the city, now called Mumbai, unfortunately lost.
He and his manoos can claim all they want. But the truth, which only the bravest of the brave may actually speak in Mumbai, is that they used arm-twisting and violence to steal a city that was never theirs to begin with.
Bal Thackeray was a bold man. He was a brilliant orator. He was good cartoonist.
While the locals were busy painting themselves as great martyrs somehow cheated out of their ‘legitimate’ share from ‘their’ city, he knew how to give them a bigger brush, all the better to paint themselves faster.
A people who just wanted to grab, not compete, propped him up.
Like all dictators, he was a violent man who ran a petty fiefdom through fear while those around him used him for their own petty gains.
And exactly like all dictators, in the end he planted the seeds of his own dissolution by placing himself above the ideals that originally propped him up in the first place.
If serving the Marathi manoos was the point and if their interests were best served by a Bal Thackeray-type person, then even an imbecile can see that the angry, disturbed and violent nephew – Raj Thackeray – is the perfect successor.
But Bal Thackeray, till the very end, insisted that his own feeble, simple and uncharismatic son – Uddhav Thackeray – be considered his heir.
It broke his party while he was living. One can only wonder where this insistence would take the Shiv Sena from henceforth.
I guess Thackeray had fans because, in the short term, they profited off him. I guess they mourned him because they fear that now no one will oppress for them. I guess they sob because perhaps they realize that after 30 years of being pushed ahead in the line, now they might have to actually come up on ability alone.
Although If I had given 40 years, essentially a lifetime, of support to this movement and only had one name change, slight improvement and one riot to show for it, perhaps I would have sobbed as well.
Surrounded and buffeted by such admirers and crazed devotees who would extract a horrible price if you didn’t agree with what he said – Thackeray, the brave man, died.
In a nation filled with politicians ruling with fear and intimidation – Thackeray, the tallest of them, died.
But his weeping followers should console themselves. I am sure Raj Thackeray will continue Bal Thackeray’s black legacy in no time.
The rest of us can move on.
Fun fact: The largest funeral in history was the one held for the then Tamil Nadu CM C.N Annadurai in 1969. An estimated 15 million showed up for that one in Chennai. Check it out
(Dear Times Now news channel who keeps saying Thackeray’s funeral was “unprecedented” with crowds “never seen before”. It’s called South India. Why don’t you Google it?)
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