A middle class muse on Bal Thackeray

I know Aditya Datey (who blogs at Ghaat Spaat)  from our days of proxies, lab assignments and typical college fun. He came off as a positive, confident guy, very clear about his views and opinions – no two ways about it, just as he is today. Which is why, even though I have stayed away from politics on my blog, I have no qualms about hosting his post as the first guest post on my blog. 

A lot has been said about Bal Thackeray depending on whose side you’re on. This post does not look to favour or disapprove of Bala Saheb in any way. Triggered by his demise, it is in essence, a common man’s musing on having grown up in the midst of Indian politics, bureaucracy and the big religion divide and what it means to him today. So without any further ado, here it is. 


I am very late to all the opinion floatsam on Bal Thackeray, but the ocean is big and palghar cops have by now discovered that the internet has much more interesting stuff to offer.

So here are some points I ponder.

Godwin’s Law states ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving hitler approaches one.’ Bal Thackeray didn’t spend all his waking hours making 
comments on Hitler. But he did make comments professing his love for hitler’s oratory, organization skills, artistry and about how india needs a benevolent dictator. Most have heard similar statements by at least one of our friends or family. But Thackeray is who’s under discussion and uncle drinks anyway. So it dosent matter that politically, India has always been driven by personality cults pre and post independence. It dosen’t matter that Thackeray’s influence never extended beyond Mumbai. We can still ring the fascist alarm bells and let reductio ad hitlerum begin.

Do you remember reading The Godfather? What was your dominant feeling after? Awe and respect for the godfather or disgust at the mafias crimes? Compare that to your feelings about Thackeray. Vito Corleone is a much better analogy to Bal Thackeray.

Were you in Mumbai in 1993? If you are reading this, you were either in a muslim stronghold or a hindu stronghold or are incredibly lucky. Who started the riot is a chicken and egg question. Who attacked or protected your neighbourhood is not. If you haven’t seen a truck full of sword bearing men trying to make inroads into your locality and get beaten back by acid bulbs and tubelights, you don’t know what I’m talking about. Yes, it was all terrible and wrong. But who watched your back?

Shiv Sena started out as a Congress pawn in the 60s. A hired gun that the Congress used to break the communist party’s hold on the trade unions. Some pawns survive to reach the last square and become queens. Unlike chess, they also change colors. Like a Congress backed Bhindranwale who later changed colours. Like the US fed Taliban that turned against their former allies.

It must be an exaggeration if someone says there are regional and caste based blocs influencing all government job appointments. Meritocracy is right. Parochialism is wrong. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Or so I believe until I’m wronged. Or righted.

The bandh didn’t really matter to me. Neither do the elections. They have never. I am not the slumdweller whose home stands or gets bulldozed if this corporator wins or that. I am not the impoverished immigrant escaping the lawlessness of his hometown. I am not a daily wage worker.

My problems are of the urban rich. My activism is air conditioned. My indignance is well fed. My empathy is an ego massage. And my vote really just dilutes the votes of people whose lives depend on an election outcome.

Oo look..India won the test match….

I would love to hear your views!