Marathi is not my mother tongue but I love the language. I was born and raised in the state of Maharashtra. Does that make me a Marathi manoos? I don’t know. However, when asked that question, I say I am one. I wonder what would it take to become a Marathi manoos or a Maharashtrian?
Maharashtra is not all about metropolitan cities and urban settlements. It is also about the rural area where majority of the people reside. Most of them are farmers, many of which are surviving below poverty line. Over the years while growing up here I’ve seen most of the people struggle miserably even to acquire the basic needs in life - food, shelter and clothing. And there was only one person in recent time who actually fought furiously for them so that they don’t have to suffer so much to obtain their basic rights. His name was Bala Saheb Thackeray or Bal Thackeray as most call him.
Bal Thackeray died last week and it marked the end of the some of the most remarkable time in the history of the state of Maharashtra. Not lakhs but crores of people mourned his death. Along with grief and shock, there was also surprise and criticism expressed about his life and death. I couldn’t help but notice that Bal Thackeray and his ideologies appealed to majority of the Maharashtrians but very few non- Maharashtrian. Why is that?
To know Bal Thackeray you should first live the life of a Marathi manoos. You should go through all the hardship and face all the calamities that every Maharashtrian faced.*
This was the man who rattled the foundation of an ugly society which caused so much injustice to the common man in the state and he did it with aggression. This ultimately touched the souls of lakhs of youth from Maharashtra. Indian society was divided into two kinds of protests against the system since pre-independence era. They were Moderates and Extremists. Bal Thackeray’s methodologies were supremely extremist. And that’s the reason when he died; it invoked such huge response from the masses that people were either too surprised or too scared. Scared because of the ignorance to the truth here or just too surprised that one man can be given so much importance, so much respect and feared so much. Yes we sometimes fear the person when we respect him so much.
Bal Thackeray’s actions were controversial. He was brutal on some issues. To fight the corrupt and faulty system you had to take stringent stands. To fight those ugly politicians who had abused democracy he had to get his hands dirty. To benefit his own people he accepted enmity with the rest of the World. Some of his words were - ”You come to my home and spread the mess; I have to take steps to clean them up.” And that’s what he tried to do. This might have angered the people coming from outside the state.
The debate of an “outsider” and an “insider” is never ending. When I asked about it to a friend he stoutly said - ”What makes you an outsider is when you come here and point fingers at us without knowing the basics, without having lived the life of the people who have suffered here since years, without knowing about the man who could realize these sufferings and fought for it.” May be, what makes one an outsider is simply the inability to understand the common sentiments of the masses of that region/province. He continued - “If you don’t like it here, you can always go back home but quit criticizing my people in my home. I am sure you got a nice home but it’s not perfect enough otherwise why would you be here?” (Clearly, he was offended by the criticism of the people who did not understand the sentiments of the local masses).
Why did the life in entire state of Maharashtra come to a stand-still on that day? While to most of them shut their shops to pay him tribute, some of them simply followed the lead while rest were too scared. How can people be so aggressively crazy about someone? My friends from south should be able to understand this kind of sentiment since they experience if often. I’ve seen how Bangalore came to a stand-still when Karnataka lost Dr Rajkumar. How there was chaos in the entire state of Tamil Nadu and the neighboring states when dear Rajnikanth was hospitalized. Crazy fan-following is not a thing in India alone. Remember the riots in Football stadiums where thousands of fans clashed with each other in Europe. Even West has crazy followers to someone like Lady Gaga. Not to forget the drug abusing Rappers also have got the highest number of fan following.
Bala Saheb Thackeray’s party Shiv Sena had some of the unacceptable agendas. For instance, I hated the fact that I was not allowed to celebrate Valentine’s Day. What must have provoked such a campaign? Filthy, vulgar and obscene parties in the name of St. Valentine, where rich spilled money? But, why not ban those parties? Why was my sober celebration opposed? May be it was necessary to uproot the problem from its foundation. Moreover, its mean to express one’s mirth in such fashion when your fellow human beings are suffering to such great extends. Alright, if I have to give up my celebrations until my poor brothers and sisters are out of the misery and suffering of life. I think I should be fine with it. It was like swallowing a bitter pill.
Shiv sena wasn’t all about imposing and opposing. I’ve seen the poor and hungry manoos in those remotest villages in Maharashtra being fed at ‘Zunka-Bhaka Kendra’, an initiative by Bal Thackeray. Some of the facts the tweeting and blogging world has remained aloof from. Enough is being said about Bala Saheb & Shiv Sena. What annoyed me is the senseless exaggeration on the topic mostly over the Internet. They called him a Politician, while he never contested elections in his life. They called Shivsainiks Killer. Shivesainiks never killed a common man. They would beat you up to teach you a lesson but not without a reason. If they killed people then the Constitution of India would have declared them a terrorist group and banned them forever.
My upset friend had more to add to it - ”It pains me deeply when you call him a gunda or a dictator. If people can come out of their misery with this so called “Dictatorship” then I am OK with it. And before you pelt more stones at the life of this Person, you should learn Marathi, you have to listen to what he has to say, you have to understand his ideology & you have to know why for most of us back home here he was our God father.”
*(Then and then only one would earn the right to criticize him, or else he will be dismissed as a just another stone pelting tramp).