A love-hate relationship

“You used to be such a good girl! What’s happened to you in the last month or so?” Bal Thackeray once asked me sometime in the mid-1990s.

But if I had to be a ‘good girl’ of his definition, it would mean I was supporting all his fascist and impossible policies against Muslims, South Indians, North Indians, et al. Now Thackeray had discovered that that was not so. I was going for his jugular and exposing his various duplicities. For example, during the riots of 1992-93, after the Babri Masjid was demolished, he caused the deaths of many Muslims and then called for a secular monument in Ayodhya in its place rather than a temple that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the BJP had wanted. That was because he discovered that despite massacring the minorities, Muslims who were angrier with the Congress for having used them but not protected them against enemies like the Shiv Sena thought it prudent to make friends with the enemy of their new-found enemy and bring the Sena to power just that once in Maharashtra.

There were other examples. While Thackeray always said he was afraid of no one or nothing, and never went back on his word, in fact he did. He claimed credit, wrongly, for the demolition of the Babri Masjid when he knew Shiv Sena leaders had walked out of Ayodhya a day before December 5, 1992 after a petty quarrel with the BJP over lack of appropriate accommodation facilities on par with the BJP and the VHP’s own leaders. They were not present in the temple town when the Babri Masjid domes were brought down by Bajrang Dal and VHP workers. And while he stated he was proud of those Shiv Sainiks who had destroyed the mosque, he quickly backtracked when the designated court in Allahabad probing the demolition summoned him to give evidence. He then placed the blame squarely on ‘cowardly’ leaders of the BJP who “did not have the courage to own up to their deeds” and said, he had only said, ‘lf’. That is, ‘if’ his sainiks had indeed brought down the mosque then he could only be proud of them. “That does not mean they brought it down,” he said to escape the consequences of his own boastful claims.

Now Thackeray, unlike his son and nephew, Uddhav and Raj, had some English, educated as he was by his father, Prabodhankar Thackeray, who was a great admirer of William Makepeace Thackeray, the India-born British writer of novels like Vanity Fair. Prabodhankar even changed the spelling of his name from the original ‘Thakre’ to imitate the British writer’s and Thackeray could follow basic English. But he missed all the nuances and that gave him the impression that sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek references were actually an exhibition of support for his policies. Then his lawyers got into the act to tell him how much damage the English language media was doing him while he let the reporters go unchallenged.

When he called me over to Matoshree, his residence, to express that bewilderment, he had my then newspaper, The Indian Express, folded to the page where my story had appeared. It was underlined in green and red and he was reading my own words back to me to express how disappointed he was that I had turned into a ‘bad girl’!

“I am what I always was,” I told him. “You are just looking at me with different eyes today.”

Things were never the same between us again and ever since I have had a love-hate relationship because even through his hatred for journalists like me, he did acknowledge that he continued to speak with me and give me interviews because I quoted him correctly and never out of context. He much preferred to speak to a hostile journalist who quoted him correctly than a friendly one who did not get his context, he said. For my part, I bitterly disagreed with him when he called for the disenfranchisement of Muslims so that they could not influence the results of various elections and tore the Sena tiger apart for bringing personal issues into the nation politic: he was disappointed that Muslims had swung back to the Congress by 1999 and had also fought with some Bollywood personalities from the community who refused to pay obeisance to him before the release of each film they might have made.

I had also pointed out how he could rage against criminality by attacking notorious don Dawood Ibrahim and then hold up Arun Gawli as “our don” against “their don”, bringing a Hindu-Muslim angle into sheer crime. Then while he raged against Dawood, he could still host Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad whose son had married the don’s daughter and see no contradiction in terms in that act.

But, of course, when he avowed that Muslims loyal to Pakistan should pack their bags and seek Pakistani citizenship, I could not fault him for calling for the loyalty of all Indian citizens to India!

The list could go on forever. But as Balasaheb lies fighting for his life today, I cannot but help recall the fond times when he served me coffee and bhajias after a particular interview and I am trying to forget the hateful ones when he abused me personally in bathroom terms with the kind of words that no one could have tolerated.

So I will be the so-called ‘good girl’ of his imagination today and wish him a speedy recovery. Though his body may be weakened by a debilitating illness, I can see his spirit is as fine as ever. Without the kind of hype and farce being played out over his illness today, just last week he had had a similar crisis of health. He recovered quickly to snap back at his doomsayers, “Those who say I am under ventilator should know I am still capable of putting hundreds like them under their own ventilators!’’

Yes, he could still prove to be the proverbial cat with nine lives!

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  • Abu Ahmed

    He is gone now – out of 3 doctors attending on him, 2 are Muslim who are treating him since long. That goes to prove that his communalism was pure business – electoral business – nothing more than that. He allowed Shiv sainiks to kill Muslims, injure, rape and dishonor them in order to have their votes. Killing for winning elections is the most heinous crime – anyway nobody could dare punish him in life – may be the Lord above would take care of that.


    rohan Reply:

    may d lord also take care of jehadi bombers n mujhaaedin who took away many innocent lives


    Mitra Reply:

    We are not talking about jehadi bombers now – we are talking about the Hindu Taliban like Thackerey – he is the one he died and left the world a much better place- wish he took all the thugs of his party with him to hell.


  • http://www.christmasloanss.co.uk/ christina christine

    our wishes for hum for ever.. Rip sir… very very sad news.. Big loss for hindu


    Disqus Reply:

    RIP applies only to humans not tigers so RIZ (Rest In Zoo)


  • just curious

    Dear Ms Anandan,

    I am from Bombay, but currently live far from the place.Please write more often about local politics and also that of Maharashtra.Thanks.


  • Uma

    What a stupid argument! If someone kills your family member but gives you a car to make up for it. would you just go,” eh, I can atleast go to the funeral by car” and get over the murder?


    Uma Reply:

    Any other developed country would have termed him as “human rights criminal”. Only in India, he is able to progress politically so much and i am appalled at people like you who choose to forget mass killings just because he is a Hindu.


    kanishka Reply:

    If this is your standard, history is replete with mass and MAHAMASS murderers and many are alive in India.

    in 1984, more than 30,000 Sikhs were burnt or chopped to death byKhangracy goonda in just 3 days, most of them in the capital India.

    During 2002 Gujarat communal riots, around 1350 people got killed and it was unfortunate. Out of 1350, almost 850 were Muslims and 500 were Hindus.

    In 1984 Sikh genocide after the murder of Indera Gandhi, not even one NON-SIKH was killed.

    Khangrace ruled with 2/3 majority in 1984 under Rajiv who said when a big tree falls, earth shakes.

    Who is your hero? Khangrace or across the border enemy of the nation?


    New yorker Reply:

    One wrong does not give other right to commit another wrong.

    Then every rapist in the country will say, so what if i committed the crime xyz also committed the same crime.
    The sikh riots and the 2002 riots both are wrong and all those responsible should be punished.
    If one is not punished that does not mean the other should be spared.

    kanishka Reply:

    Those who talk about 2002 Gujarat riots, keep mum about 1984 GENOCIDE which was more dangerous and one-sided against Sikhs in which not a single non-Sikh got killed.

    Remember, 1984 genocide perpetrator are yet to be punished. There was no SIT for 1984 genocide.

    New yorker Reply:

    so does that mean that the law keeps quiet on Gujarat 2002 just because justice was not delivered in 1984???

    Do we need to commit the same mistake as 1984???

    the judiciary has improved from 1984 and we should be happy about that.

    Anonymous Reply:

    Please spare thoughts for Hindus killed by muslims in pakistan. The 25% got reduced to 2% due to killing, forced conversion, forced migration to India. Get them justice first.


    kanishka Reply:

    Islam permits blood money to the victims family and the murderer can go scot free.


  • unknown

    How stupid country still is .. I am reading the comments. Writer is clearly saying keep demanding the justice, but keep taking life forward and not get stuck. If muslims decide not to ask for schools, education, better systems for their community from leaders and just keep harping on justice for 10’s of years, who is to lose? Finally verdict is to be given by the court so why lose all these years without any development?


  • Pardeep Kumar

    shall we than also demand apology from all the invaders inlcuding Britishers?
    remember power is never given it is taken and to take some one has to take bold steps.
    every muslim or converted muslim (Christians) in India should meet the same fate like these people!





  • New yorker

    First of all i do not understand whats all this talk about great development and governance by modi.
    Great development & governance is when lives of the most neglected and poorest/lowest members of the society is improved the most. In modi’s case it is the opposite the lives of the richest has improved, which it always does.

    Poverty has not reduced in Gujarat the tribal the poor, still continue to suffer, so whats the big deal has he done.
    Secondly doesn’t good governance also mean that riots are controlled and if they do happen rehabilitation takes place, in Gujarat the courts had to Oder the Guj govt in 2012, almost 10 years later to rehabilitate the victims.
    There is no new idea like amul from modi, does make roads in posh areas and giving land for cheap to big corporate mean developement???

    All he has done is shout out loud that i am the best and he has done it so many time that people without any knowledge have started to believe him.

    god bless india


    Anonymous Reply:

    Too much of leftist cr@p…


  • http://twitter.com/Farrukhabadi Praveen Saxena

    If certain Muslims want to remain stuck with 2002 and not move forward then they should not complain if some n Hindus continue to talk of Mohammad Ghori and Mahmud Gazni.