As the reality that Shiv Sena surpemo Balasaheb Thackeray had indeed left for his heavenly abode on Saturday afternoon began to sink in, an uncertain atmosphere slowly crept across the state and city and many a household was cast into utter shock and disbelief.
Those in the home of Thackeray’s colleague, close friend and veteran cartoonist RK Laxman were in no mood to speak and had resigned themselves to silent grieving. 92-year old Laxman is barely able to speak due to his current health condition and when MiD DAY met him at his residence last week, his wife Kamala interpreted what he had said.
“As I can’t move due to my present health condition, Balasaheb had assured me during a visit to my home last year that he would visit me once again,” Laxman had said. Kamala said that they are old pals and colleagues from their days at the English daily ‘Free Press Journal, they have been friendship has continued over six decades.
“Last week, Balasaheb called RK and enquired about his health. Earlier, he [Balasaheb] had recommended world famous homeopathic expert Dr Vijaykar to check my husband. He was very concerned for RK and all of us,” Kamala said.
Laxman described Thackeray as an excellent person, a very good human being and a great artist. “Why only friends, we are like brothers and also have very good family relations. My daughter had met him at his Matoshree residence when he fell sick. He also likes to eat south Indian idli prepared by my wife. We are all eager to greet him when he comes to Pune. I pray to God to make my brother well soon,” Laxman had said.
Other cartoonists from the city echoed similar sentiments and said that they were praying for his recovery. Mangesh Tendulkar, a senior cartoonist from the city, said, “He inculcated his own style of illustrations and cartoons. Balasaheb was very transparent and admitted that his style was inspired by great artists like David Lee and Dinanath Dalal. He gradually stopped sketching when he established the Shiv Sena party.”
Tendulkar added that Thackeray always had a deep concern for artists and cartoonists. “I had the opportunity to work with him at his weekly magazine Marmik. My initial career took off under Balasaheb, who was my source of inspiration when I was a nobody. I will never forget his humility, generosity, affection and sense of humour. Balasaheb had inaugurated my cartoon exhibition at Savarkar Bhavan in Dadar, Mumbai, which helped boost my morale.”
Vikas Sabnis, senior cartoonist, and Baner resident had worked under Thackeray in Marmik for 12 years “Balasaheb never interfered with my work or imposed his views on me. In fact, working under him was a great pleasure, as he gave me a free hand to work and always appreciated and encouraged me. As a person, he is a great person and a genius. He became an idol for others in the cartoon field. Balasaheb and R K Laxman are living legends. He [Balasaheb] treated me and my wife Bharati like family.”