Sunday, November 18, 2012

Obituary: Bal Thackray

It can be said with impunity that the greatest Maratha after Shivaji who upheld the Marathi pride was Balasaheb Thackray. If people lived by rule book so did he, only the rules were his own and the rule book was written by him. Balasaheb started his career as a cartoonist and was acclaimed for his witty display of uncanny humor through his cartoons. In 1960's he started his own journal Marmik that turned to be his entry point into the political arena. Then a major turning point came when his articles germinated the perduring idea of insider-outsider. It had been only thirteen years when modern India came out of external invasion to foray into the penumbra of internal division. Through his publication he planted weeds in the caste jungle of India targeting Gujaratis, Marwaris & South Indians for taking up supposedly local Marathi jobs and began to fertilize those weeds. He announced that people should boycott Hindi movies produced by south Indians till the protest against Hindi movies in Tamil Nadu continues. His jibes on south Indians were like a poison edged shard;the infamous slogan at one of his rallies -“Bajao Pungi, Hatao Lungi” (Remove South Indians by kicking them). This insider-outsider debate became the totem pole of his political ideologue which culminated in launching his own political party , Shiv Sena, infront of a massive crowd on Dussehra at Shivaji Park in 1966.

This fearless Maratha coined the term Marathi Manoos and soon gravitated huge Marathi support in Mumbai. The ratiocination behind the term being, the soil belongs to son-of-soils. His biggest strength was his unadulterated love for Marathi Manoos. Listening to his nuncupative speeches firing joule, thousands of Shiv Sainiks would rally behind him. His psychic oratory was all evident: his phrases offered hope and acted as a security blanket against the bitter winds of joblessness to the locals. As political oratory opens door to power, Shiv Sainiks wrested the control of several trade unions from the Communist Party of India across Mumbai. By 1980’s he consolidated his position by winning Bombay Municipal elections.

During the early 90’s, Balasaheb sensed where the political wind was blowing and being an astute politician he quickly transformed himself and became the apostle of Ram Janambhoomi movement along with the BJP. With the demolition of Babri Masjid the fortune for BJP changed and sailing on country’s pro Hindutva current, Balasaheb went on a image makeover and turned himself into a staunch Hindu. His new target were Muslims. The role of Shiv Sena in 1992-93 Mumbai riots gave him the tag of Hindu Hriday Samrat. He was non hypocritical and never minced his words in accepting the role of Shiv Sainiks in the riots. He even criticised BJP for shying away from owning up the responsibility for Babri Masjid demolition. He went one step ahead and said with chutzpah "If nobody was involved then my Sainiks were involved in the demolition of Babri. Do whatever you can. Garv se kaho hum Hindu hai(Be proud to be a Hindu)"

He soon started building Shiv Sena citadels all across Maharastra. His citadels were sprouting in rural Maharashtra and his travails from race to power came up when Sena-BJP alliance swept the 1995 Maharastra Assembly polls. The oath ceremony of the new government was not conducted in Raj Bhavan as per the custom. It was held at Shivaji Park in presence of a mammoth gathering. The photo op moment was when Manohar Joshi, the sworn-in Chief Minister, first bowed to touch Balasaheb’s feet and then took the oath.

Balasaheb had become a cult personality who transformed Maharastra politics by becoming the anodyne master of Marathis Manoos. He openly smoked pipe, drank beer and wore his trademark dark glasses. He became the colossal figure who without holding any public office was dominant and powerful. The fact of the matter was he had people’s support and that made him matter of fact. Every year Shiv Sainiks would line up for his infamous annual Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park and drink fearlessness from his disposition.

Whenever Balasaheb drew the line in Mumbai, he didn't doodle on the sand. He was straightforward and balked every law which he never believed. Whenever he roared, Mumbai halted and nobody had the audacity to touch him...not even the government. Bal Thackray ruled Mumbai. It is believed that Sunil Dutt, the then Congress MP, pleaded before Balasaheb for the release of his son Sanjay Dutt, found guilty of possessing arms & ammunition, even though Congress was in power during 1992-93. The most interesting story is when in 1995 the then chairperson of Enron International, Rebecca Mark, visited Balasaheb at his residence, "Matoshree", to overcome Sena’s opposition to the Enron project in the state. Another instance of his larger than life personality was when Michael Jackson went to "Matoshree" to get clearance for his sole concert in India.

Balasaheb’s view on India’s relationship with Pakistan is well known. He was vehemently against any engagement with Pakistan: be it diplomatic ties or sports. On one encounter the Shiv Sainiks dug up Ferozeshah Kotla pitch in Delhi before the start of the test match between India & Pakistan. We may not agree with his style of politics but he was a true nationalist. He was a rare combination of religious pride layered with multiple coating of patriotism. He launched an Ambulance Service for Mumbai and today Shiv Sena has fleets of Ambulance plying on the roads. As the story goes, after Amitabh Bachchan got severely injured while shooting for his film Coolie in Bangalore, he was brought to Mumbai to get admitted in Breach Candy Hospital. Balasaheb asked the party workers to send an ambulance to carry Bachchan to the hospital. It was the first ambulance of the party. Renowned author and nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul said Shiv Sena is the only party which cared about the health and hygiene of the city's poorest.

But as age took over him the elan that he possessed slowly started waning. First, the Sena-BJP combo lost the 1999 assembly election and never recovered followed by the big stalwarts of the party: Sanjay Nirupam, Chaghan Bhujbal, Narayan Rane quit Shiv Sena and joined Congress. The biggest jolt of his life came when his nephew, Raj Thackray, floated his own party Maharastra Navnirman Sena eating into the Sena-BJP vote bank. Before he kicked the bucket, his last solace was 2012 Mumbai Civic poll where Sena-BJP combo splendidly won. Today he made the city sleep which never slept.

To quote Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat: - Full of life, Balasaheb Thackeray was an epitome of courage & valour

Sunday, March 25, 2012


She scuffled past the queuing throngs
Amidst the hollering of music and gongs
Her eyes were hypnotic and intense
I traded my sleep with thoughts so dense

She had oodles of elegance and grace
With seraphic smile on her face
Wingless angel in shape of a girl
Her thoughts made my mind whirl

Sculpted in kitchen of beauty
Grinded in mixer of alacrity
Epitome of serenity
Venerate you like a deity

In a white salwar, black embroidered, suit
She had a feminine White Big Cat root
Walked straight and proud
Yawning at unworthy tribes opening her mouth

In the kaleidoscope of universe
Her name was only which I could rehearse
Her exotic presence sparkled the room
Like The Taj Mahal twinkling on a full moon

Rain of punishing blows
River of pain flows
Oh the unbearable ocean of spikes
Lord, how much her I like

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Road Trip : The Nandi Hills

"Time compels us to move into the future. But sometimes the past is so brilliant that it forces us back to reflect on the glorious times that have gone by"

She was whispering in my ear something in her soft luscious juicy voice, but a loud bell was ringing and I couldn’t hear it clearly. It was sound of my phone gyrating which fully awoke me at 3 am in the morning while Kareena Kapoor was still oscillating in the orchard of my dreams. I reluctantly opened my eyes, not wanting to let go my dream. It was my roommate, Duke, hyperventilating in his office; reminding that we had planned a trip to the hills just three hours back and thundered to come and pick him from his office. Angry at having my dream interrupted, I asked whether all of them had woken up. While I was about to employ one of the excusing juices from my cerebrum, he in his goaded voice asked me to check out myself. Unable to abate The King’s command, I mutedly said Thy will be done!

I went to Bubey’s room and not to my surprise found both Mehta and Bubey (with his mouth open) sleeping. Then I went to Farty’s room and found him rubbing his eyes in half laid back position while Dhanno was missing. It was Dhanno’s master-slave unplanned plan to go to the hills. He somehow persuaded Duke to cut short his night shift so that we can have altogether of three bikes. Farty had bought a second hand black Pulsar just a day before by selling his Activa and was as excited as any child getting two stars stick on his homework.

In a Schrödinger state, I went straight for the morning pilgrimage to the bathroom but found Dhanno neighing to relieve his morning pressure. I knocked at the bathroom door. A flurry "Oh F*** Bh***** " came out vibrating through the door as if he had verbal diarrhea. "Kaun hai be? dusre wale me ja"
Having a good head on my shoulder, I decided not to reciprocate the ‘Morning Pravachan’ and quietly went to the next one whose door latch doesn’t have frequent intercourses. Dhanno, a talented guy from amchi Mumbai, starts his normal day abusing Farty for waking him early and ends after he has abused Farty to sleep in the night. One more epaulette which he carries broadly on his shoulder is of rechristening Dubey to Bubey (spelling mistake is intentional ;-)

We picked up Duke from his office. All six characters were set to experience the unity between the abstraction of mind and reality of nature. There were two more characters that traveled with us to cover the Distance of 50 kms: Time & Speed. We have to reach before the sun rise to see the sun rise.

Our Cheetah Bikes, insatiated with fuel, burped into life, purred and leaped onto the smooth road as I preferred to ride as pillion to extract a little more sleep.
We calculated the speed to make sure distance is covered within time. We unanimously agreed at minimum of 90 km/hr. Never been things we learned in school were so helpful.

We started meandering the road and rendering the air speedily as I entrusted my life to the very able hands of Bubey. A wedge of dying moonlight was consorting us. A chilled zephyr of revelry was blowing through the streets. The larceny of the wind was convulsing; perhaps checking the tolerance level of my body. Celerity was the word of the night. The velvet of night was quickly fading with smoke of the morning as we speedily motored to the bottom of the hills.

If Rome sleeps on seven hills then Bangalore wakes up to Nandi hills. My pilot, the unhurried Bubey, was taking me on a breath taking journey. If riding is an art then negating a U turn every second is called prowess. We started circling the mountain by road and saw new dimensions of the landscape at every curve. The primary right of any bike rider is to give acceleration with as much force as he presses the brake in quick succession, everytime giving a mini heart attack to the pillion specially when negotiating myriads of steep U turns.
The hill was painted in every variation of brown color with greenery as extra toppings. Beyond the edge, at vertigo dip, were smorgasbords of alacritous trees perfumed by the environment, their leaves dancing to the tune of the winds.

Here I am delighted to present my favorite quote
"Is pleasure enhanced by environment?
Yes, it’s like love; Looks are not essential but they always help"

If Celerity was word of the night then Serenity was the word of the morning. After reaching the top, we were consumed by the experience. A sharp cold breeze welcomed us outside as we parked our vehicles. Silver cotton clouds of a pale winter morning sky appeared as we went to the fenced edge of the hill. The blue sky had fully absorbed the moonlight to pave way for the oncoming Sunrise. The Sun began to emerge symmetrically gloating in a kind of holy triumph, ripping apart the fabrics of the cloud. Divine Beauty!! The highest admiration I could express was a Wow!!
The sui generis natural sight would have allured painters and poets like a magnet to shower the paeans.

My eyes’ diaphragm adjusted to focus on another beautiful sight. A young girl stood leaning behind the railing. If Time has given her perfect dimensions then destiny has given her a formidable partner. Talking of dimensions, these days Girls have mastered the art of perfection in deflection with the ingenious wicked invention of Pushup Bra. If female pain is "I so want to have breasts like her" then male bewilderment is when Pushup Bras jumps up to greet howdy while men hypothalamus (main part of a brain) starts swimming in a sea of testosterone.

With minimal makeup, classy accessories, chunky metallic bracelet and a pair of high heels, she displayed enthusiasm with beaming smile while her paramour was wearing a jacket in more colors than a rainbow would dare to advertise. If you consider the world to be an oyster then she was a pearl in it and destiny had strewed that pearl before a porcupine haired wrestler. With caption of “don’t fool with me” in his eyes, motioning of his palm would have brought emotions on all the six pairs of eyes we had. The best service he could have provided her was lip service but instead he was holding her bags and cardigan. Pity!!

Mehta came running, bearing in hand his symbol of power and my weakness: Camera. Only self obsession can derail a world class mind from adoring beauty. We clicked and clicked till the mechanical device ran out of memory. We hollered, we jumped, and punched the air in exhilaration.

I stood on the summit, legs planted wide apart, shrieked in the sky, remembering the powerful past, injured present and extrapolating the future based on my dreams but the echo only came back spiking.

Alas time melts so quickly.