When Bal Thackeray’s throat ran dry



While on the subject of Bal Thackeray and drinks last week, I recalled an interesting incident that happened days after the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance came to power in Maharashtra in 1995. Readers of my column ‘Anandan on Wednesday’ in the Bombay edition of the Hindustan Times will remember this for I have written about it in a different context but I thought the story was too tickling pink not to share with a wider readership.

Hiranandani is a famous name in Bombay, associated with builders. But Niranjan Hiranandani’s father came to fame much earlier as a doctor. He was the city’s most renowned ENT specialist for years before the Hiranandanis ever became a big name in construction.

So when we heard that Dr Hiranandani was throwing an ‘invitees only’ party for Bal Thackeray, all his family and a few select ministers at the Taj Gateway, we knew something was afoot. The Sena had come to power on the promise of free housing to Mumbai slum dwellers (it won all but one of the 34 seats from the city for that reason) and it had to be too much of a coincidence (that the father of a builder was throwing a party for Thackeray) not to have something to do with this free housing – builders stood to benefit enormously out of the scheme.

We were right, as we eventually discovered – the party had a guest list of 225; all were builders. I knew I had to gatecrash but needed some support. So I asked a friend from the Marathi press (yes, the very same who almost got beaten up by Thackeray’s goons as mentioned in my previous blog  ‘Are you a red light reporter?’) to come along because our readership was different and we could both get exclusives. We then decided to change into our evening best – she into a silk saree and a smattering of diamonds; I into a heavily embroidered salwar-kameez, my pearls and all the accessories I could find, trying to look as little like journalists as was possible. And we made our way upstairs like two mems who had nothing better to do than drink and dance all night.

But we stopped short just before we hit the ballroom – the invites were being checked and we didn’t have any. Rather than get into a fight with the ushers and get exposed as journalists, we scurried downstairs to think up a new strategy. And then we saw two bureaucrats, invited to the party, getting out of their cars – minus their wives. The two of us pounced upon them, clinging to one arm each of the two men as we started upstairs again, pretending to be deep in conversation – the bureaucrats held out their invites, the ushers thought we were their companions. We were in.

The Taj had decorated the tables with saffron tablecloths with white bowls of saffron roses and tiny white daisies all around. Thackeray was yet to arrive but we found Chief Minister Manohar Joshi and his Culture Minister Pramod Navalkar mingling among the guests. They were too polite to ask how we had got in; the hosts thought we were asked by the ministers. We sipped at our drinks – which were a choice between tomato juice, orange juice and pineapple juice.

When it was time for Thackeray to make a speech, Dr Hiranandani requested that he speak in English because “a lot of foreign guests are present”. Thackeray graciously obliged. Gate-crashing had been worth it, I discovered, when Thackeray began to reprimand the Hiranandanis. Used to downing warm Indian beer each evening (he had lately taken to red wine), he was fed up of the orange juice and tomato juice on offer through the evening.

“Dr Hiranandani,” he began in imperious tones. “The great ENT specialist of Mumbai, himself. ‘E’ is for ear and I can hear the beautiful music. ‘N’ is for nose and I can smell the wonderful food. And ‘T’ is for throat — but my throat is running dry!”

There was a stir and a commotion as Dr Hiranandnai sheepishly admitted he had taken care not to serve alcohol “because some ministers and government people are present. They do not drink.”

“I do not agree,” said Thackeray. “Who says they do not drink?”

“That is our experience,” said Dr Hiranandani.

“Not any more,” replied Thackeray. Then looking straight at the Chief Minister, he called across the room in Marathi, “*Kai re*, M….(using a nick name)? *Tu peetos nahi kaa*? (What, M..,.? Don’t you drink?)’’

Joshi looked as though he wanted to get under the floorboards and disappear from sight. He could neither nod nor shake his head. He stood stiffly, with a frozen smile as no words would come to him. “See,” said Thackeray, brightly. “He drinks. So do all the other ministers. So bring on the champagne.’’

As the champagne popped and toasts were raised, one of the bureaucrats present there raised his glass in the direction of Thackeray and commented, “At least he has no hang-ups. He may have a hangover tomorrow, but he really has no hang-ups.’’

But apart from appreciation of the fact that Thackeray made no bones about his political incorrectness, that evening also brought home to me the fact that I had never seen any minister drink in public before – Joshi and his men had only been trying to keep up the tradition but Bal Thackeray soon put paid to that. (Some weeks later when Navalkar got caught (in a camera) holding a glass of champagne at an airline launch and that created a furor, he tried to pass it off as lemon juice!)

And for all that Thackeray had spoken about Sharad Pawar’s penchant for drinking Scotch each evening a few years earlier, I realised I had never seen the Maratha warlord with anything more than a glass of orange juice (or aam pana during summers) in all those years. When I did finally catch him downing glass after glass of whisky (double pegs) some years later, much water — or should I say alcohol? — had flowed under the bridge. But that is another story.

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  • subhash saini

    interesting,very interesting!

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    Ishmart Alec Reply:

    hee hee . interesting story. imagine how many more of such happen …. kep em coming

    http://mywriterkeeda.wordpress.com

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    Kaushik Chatterji Reply:

    This is the first time I agree with the old man.

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Well, he always believd in speaking his mind!

    Rupa Gulab Reply:

    This i can say with certainity – if Bal Thackeray had stuck to being a cartoonist and a satire writer, I’d probably have been one of his biggest fans. His nasty, divisive agenda has got in the way of my respect for his talent.

    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks. And my sentiments exactly — he has a great sense of humour which is greatly overshadowed by his evil ways.

    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks. Hope to..

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks, Kunal. After years of interaction with him, I can say if you take away the evil deeds (which you really can’t), he does have a sense of humour and could be quite entertaining.

    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Yes — this is among the best of my stories from Bal Thackeray!

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  • Shalini

    very insightful read……… but whats the big deal really about not drinking in public !! it really doesn’t matter after all the corruption they do and our money they down……this is just a minuscule trait.

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    Amitabh Varma Reply:

    Hey, that is a great story and a lovely presentation! I felt as if it were happening before my eyes!

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thank you

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Its a hangover (pun unintended) from the days of Gandhi, prohibition and socialism — khadi has all but disappeared from the political scene but some of these hangups still remain

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  • http://blogs.hindustantimes.com/expletive-deleted Kushal

    Hahahaha! Lovely story, Sujata.

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks, Bunny

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  • http://www.kunalpurohit.blogspot.com Kunal Purohit

    Nice one ma’am ! A very amusing story. Offers a great insight into the mind of the man. Even though i otherwise abhor him, the fact that he didnt care two hoots about politically correct behaviour is worth appreciating.

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks, Kunal. After years of interaction with him, I can say if you take away the evil deeds (which you really can’t), he does have a sense of humour and is quite entertaining.

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  • http://none me

    Dear Sujata

    Nice won ,thru ur writing we get to know the people behind the curtain

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thank you. That is what I am trying — to bring these people alive to the readers.

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  • Anil

    How I wish those moments were video taped for posterity. I simply fail to understand the hypocrsiy. They wine, dine and make orgy in private are ready to break pub and dance bars for the sake of public morality !!

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Yes, it was a moment worth recording on camera. But like my colleagues in television told me after my first report on this made the headlines, I could gatecrash only because I had a face that was not recognisable and I was not holding a camera!

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  • K

    I am eager to know what exclusive story you guys ran as a result of this gate-crashing.

    Regards,

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    The above story which startled most people present there who didnt know journalists had been wandering among them.

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  • Prem Goswami

    Terrific story indeed. Personally I feel Mr Thackeray is nowwhere being a “statesman” or even a decent politician (more of a rabble rouser, yet he displays extraordinay chutzpah often. Your story is eminently readable. Regards…….Prem

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks, Prem. Yes, he is mostly a rabble rouser but great copy nonetheless.

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  • http://satiricalcitizen.blogspot.com Rupa Gulab

    Lovely story! And hats off to you for the devious entry! I’ve ALWAYS enjoyed Bal Thackeray’s sense of humour – he’s fantastic at satire too. But such an evil man, tsk.

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  • indian boy

    bala sahab is right sharukh ko lahor chele jana chaheye

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  • anand mohan das

    Minority would not have voted for BJP anyway, with or without so-called “misdemeanor” of Varun. To this point, your otherwise fine essay sound like biased indian media.

    Election reform, that would include mandatory voting would go a long way in breaking this “en-block minority voting”. Untill then, BJP should stick to what it is doing at present. An all out assault on congress, and may be a more balanced media would change some hearts in India as well.

    Bottom line is – Like it or not, Modi is going to be defecto charismatic leader that India will eventually have as its PM. Against all odds, he has enough personality and glamour to seriously challange italian-gandhi family pop-image.

    Jaitely is very good, but he does not match this “X” factor that Modi has. A certain section of media, and mostly muslims are always going to whine and cry, no matter what. But then, experiments of Gujarat will be played out on national level, as we inch closer into the future.

    It is good thing for India, certainly a good thing for nationalism in this country !

    Twitter @amdas108

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  • Anonymous

    As you have correctly said, Modi has, if not brought the minorities rushing into the BJP camp, at least sown the seeds of doubt in their collective mind and soul. In the coming years, it would be logical to assume that he would do a lot to rid the minority psyche of the Hindu fear and abhorrence. And then his march to Delhi would be free of pot holes.

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  • mohnish Patel

    I totally agree wth ur views, allies can be a prblm..Shiv sena,,wl go BJP’s way…yes JD(U)..wl mke sme ruckus..bt..no one wnts to leave th side of a wnning team..its jst tht Nitish kumar, dosnt wnt to gve Lalu any chance fr whch he is waiting to grab..An inside pact mst hve been made..tht thy wl criticize Modi..jst to appeal minorities..bt by th end of day, whn required ground is coverd thy wl go fr a kill..

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mohd-Anas-Khan/100002797725356 Mohd Anas Khan

    Now Modi’s future is same as Advani. waiting for PM seat whole life

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  • Anita

    More myth making. The primary concern for Muslims, just like all Indians is Security followed by development. Why would muslims support a party like BJP which keeps harping on mulims as anti-nationalists and supports progroms against it like the 2002 riots. Just think about it?

    What is needed is a mentality change in people like you to realise that the real problem is communal mentality of people like you. That is what gives rise to people like Mulayam Singh and Digvijay Singh

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  • Ahmed

    FYI, Saudi Arabia was never under British rule. And slavery was systematically abolised under the Prophet himself were he declared it illegal to make a free person a slave but also mandated food and shelter to be on par of free people for them. By the 1800s, a decree by the Ottoman empire had already declared slavery as abolished. Don’t lie so blatantaly

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  • Human Above All

    Sam, you’re cantankerous.
    Better stop posting fundamentalist shit or you’d be knocked down soon.

    [Reply]

  • Human Above All

    Sam, you’re cantankerous.
    Better stop posting fundamentalist shit or you’d be knocked down soon.

    [Reply]

  • moyeen

    If your assumption on Islam are negative, we can’t help it. One must ask querries to get benefitted. You don’t like Islam and its views. That is Okay. It’s your freedom of Choice.

    [Reply]

  • moyeen

    How much do you like 50 shades of grey

    [Reply]

  • qwe123kids

    ///***
    Muslims will not let religion decide politics. We as Indian Muslims are very much rooted to party-based, secular, democratic traditions of our great country.
    */

    I Know This Blog is Old but The above Muslim cannot be and won’t Be secualr ..

    Better Use Ticket for Samjuta express and Go to pakistan

    Look At the History..

    Some Book Which Help you Understand Real Islam Why It is Terroist and Hyprocite religion

    1) Understanding Islam Through Hadis: Religious faith or Fanaticism? by Sri Ram Swarup

    2) The Calcutta Quran Petition (Sita Ram Goel )
    3) Heroic Hindu Resistance to Muslim Invaders
    4) Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them Vol. 1 ,2
    5) Muslim Separatism: Causes and Consequences by Sita Ram Goel
    6) The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India
    7) TIPU SULTAN – Villain Or Hero

    8 ) Jihad : The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War by Suhas Majumdar
    9) Jizyah and the spread of Islam by Harsh Narain

    10) The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India Ks Lal
    11) Muslim Slave System in Medieval India Ks lal
    12) Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India

    13) Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947
    14) Nationalism And Distortions In Indian History by Dr. N.S. Rajaram

    15) Negationaism in India – Concealing the Record of Islam by Koenraad Elst

    The above books are availbale on Voice of Dharama website in book section for free

    Robert spencer , 16) The Mhummad ,
    17) The Complete Quide to Koran for Infidel
    18) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades

    un can donwload Audiobook from any soure fro freedomwlod

    19) Jhiad M.A. Khan

    20) The Syro-Aramaic Reading Of The Koran Christoph Luxenberg (Many version of koran )

    21) The Tragic Story of Partition H.S Saredeasi.

    22) Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947 by S. Gurbachan Singh Talib

    23) The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book : IBN warrq

    24) savkar Samgra :- Volume 1 – 10

    25) Dr K. Ajram’s Setting the Record Straight: The Miracle of Islamic Science

    26) Why_I_Killed_Gandhi_Nathuram_Godse_s_Last_Speech_in_Court_medium :- Naturam Godse

    I Think 36 books are more then enough…

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