Rest in peace. Being a father to a state like Maharashtra for more than 4 decades must be very tiring. Standing up for the weak, helping the lost find their self esteem, taking up issues every one else was shit scared of even talking about and above all, being relentless in the pursuit of establishing, nourishing and propagating your ideology must be a hell of a job to be accomplished by a single man. Just imagining all this makes me want to quit and leave town. And yet, you did all that, and did it in a way that made you larger than life for us, a Demi God of sorts.
The reactions to your death were polarizing, to say the least. People are saying that we are being ‘forced’ to mourn. How can you ‘force’ a son to mourn for his father? How is it possible for us NOT to feel it’s the end of the world when one of the pillars of our identity crashes? How naive can people get in their assumptions of others? As I’m typing these very words, there are an estimated 2 million people on the streets in Mumbai, just to pay their last respects to you. Are they being ‘forced’ to do that? Is it ‘fear’ that is driving them? Did someone stuff their pockets with a wad of notes and the promise of alcohol? Can people be this fuckwitted to question our emotions for you? I guess I can only answer the last question today – Yes.
The apathy today has reached a point where a person who’s just been in Mumbai for 2 odd years thinks he understands enough about you and the Shiv Sena’s ideology and Mumbai’s fabric to comment on your influence on us. For him the Shiv Sena is all about V-Day hooliganism and vandalism of controversial arts. Shiv Sena starts and ends there. He derides your politics because having a cultural identity is bad according to his highly developed, cultured, ‘liberal’ intellect. I don’t even pity him. He has ignored the most important fact of your life – fighting for those who couldn’t. He has ignored your fight to help regain the self-esteem of the ‘marathi manoos‘, who was being ridiculed in his own home as a ‘ghaati‘. He has ignored the fact that right at this moment, Kashmiri Pandits are mourning your death as much as we Maharashtrians because they revere what you did for them. He has ignored that had it not been for you, Mumbai would be run over by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and he wouldn’t have a place to dry his underwear. I bet he was shit scared when Mumbai was attacked on 26/11. I bet his dimwitted, warped intelligence and pathetic grasp of the situation won’t allow him to understand the havoc those illegal immigrants could have caused. For him, all these issues are irrelevant because they don’t affect people like him living in high rises. For him it’s just a matter of opposing anything anyone does which is outside the established and approved thinking and actions, benchmarks of which have been decided by a handful of elitist socialite columnists and ‘intellectuals’. Like these people, he doesn’t understand nor care about the common Mumbaikar who actually goes through this. And when the time comes to right the wrongs, these elitists are nowhere to be found, even when people bang on their doors and beg them to come out and do something as simple as cast their votes. He, like the people he draws his twisted view of the world from, are willing to defend defamation of my Gods being passed as ‘art’, but is cold blooded enough not to feel anger that my Gods were made the subjects of said ‘art’. Little does he realize that had that artist used his own religion’s prophet as a subject of his paintings, the backlash would’ve been near fatal. He prides himself in Hinduism’s freedom, and yet does nothing when that very freedom is abused and humiliated.
I too have demons of my own to slay. I didn’t agree with your protests and vandalism of V-Day. What Marathi youngsters today lack are a proper education about our culture and it’s strength, virtues and values. That is just bad parenting, more than anything else. That coupled with how V-Day is marketed (a way to express your love for your girlfriend / boyfriend, rather than a universal expression of love) is why that day is eagerly waited upon by youngsters. To target them physically won’t solve problems. And yet, more than that, I’m eternally grateful to you for often doing what I was too much of a coward to do. Like when I wanted to but couldn’t defend my religion, or when I wanted Mumbai to breathe again and not be subjected to the hordes of illegal immigrants. That is my solace. That is my redemption. Knowing and understanding what you did, and being able to see what it meant for the average Maharashtrian. Perhaps that’s the reason why today out of the 2 million grown ass, hardened people on the roads that are crying their hearts out for you, none are the typical page 3 mourners. On your last journey, you’re surrounded by the people you loved and fought for, and who loved you back. For all of us, you are the hero we needed and the hero we deserved.
I have a sneeky feeling that people hate you just because all your life you said and did what they could say in the comforts and anonymity of their living rooms and the internet. They too wanted to use cuss words in public, berate the corruption riddled, blood sucking government, but couldn’t find an ounce of courage to do it. And when you did it, their coached civility and the shepherds who herded them forbade them from applauding you, and their instructions manual asked them to condemn you. Such is the inbred hypocrisy around here that while you were targetted as being communal, MPs in Hyderabad walked, and continue to walk scott free after giving hate speeches on a daily basis. Such is the sycophancy today that while people worship the feet of the family that was forced down their throats, your’s is called a Mafia family and we, your followers are labelled blind whose ‘intelligence is hijacked by hormones’ (sic).
A hypnotist who ruled the subconsciousness of an entire state, a strategist who fought in the trenches and checkmated kings in their own courts, an orator who mesmerized millions, a leader who was as relentless as he was astute, Maharashtra’s Tiger who when sprang his claws drew blood, without the slightest care for opinion or votes. Words fail me to describe what you meant to this state, how burdened we are by your debt to us, and how disturbed at the thought that try as we might we won’t be able to fully repay you for what you’ve done for us. To quote Walt Whitman -
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.