Monday, November 19, 2012

Late Bal Thackeray, man of peace?

In his lifetime, Balasaheb Thackeray was a divisive figure, known for his vitriolic remarks against South Indians, North Indians, Biharis, Muslims ... pretty much anyone who was not his beloved Marathi manoos. In death, remarkably, he became, at least for a day, a unifying figure, a man of peace.
Thackeray’s funeral procession started from his home in Bandra East and surged into the adjoining neighbourhood of Mahim, an area dominated by Muslims with a smattering of Christians, Parsis and others. People lined the roads. There were men in skullcaps and women in burqas. All shops were shut, and even water was hard to come by. Some among the Muslims provided drinking water for the masses in the funeral procession.
Further down the road, a small church, the Victoria Church, was having Sunday service. They wanted to hold a small prayer for Thackeray; the procession halted briefly for this, and a quick service was held on the pavement near the vehicle carrying the body.
At Matunga, a predominantly South Indian neighbourhood, similar scenes repeated themselves. Sikhs, who had kept their gurdwaras open to all for food and shelter, joined the procession at some places. There were slogans in Hindi of “Balasaheb amar rahe”. North Indians and Biharis were there in that crowd too.
It wasn’t just the Marathi manoos who turned out for Thackeray’s funeral. That crowd of a million was also a crowd of Mumbaikars.
The entire procession was peaceful. It was Mumbai’s syncretic culture that shone through in the end.

1 comment:

Hope Anarchy said...

On a side note - I was intrigued by some obituary remarks like those from politicians - almost none were insightful or in praise of the man. Just statements of fact.