Amidst the multitudes of people from across the state that thronged the streets of Mumbai yesterday were a number of individuals who were dissuaded from joining the march. Even though they could not actively participate in Bal Thackeray’s funeral procession, their devotion to the Sena chief did not waver, even though they could not witness his last rites.
Pradeep Bhosale, a 52-year-old handicapped man who lost both legs in a train accident, came all the way from Bhiwandi by train with his 15-year-old daughter. Bhosale had been waiting since 8.30 am, and was sitting with his daughter behind the crowd, as he was not allowed to go ahead.
Despite not being associated with the Shiv Sena in any way, he has been a follower of Thackeray since 1981. “I love his speeches, and am a die-hard fan of his. He takes right and quick decisions and was very strong,” Bhosale said.
He also said that he had got a wall clock as an award from late Sena senior leader Anand Dighe some years ago with Balasaheb’s photo on it. “My clock automatically stopped on Friday night and I somehow understood that he was about to leave us,” Bhosale added.
Bhosale has been visiting Matoshree annually for several years on the occasion of Thackeray’s birthday. “Every year, I am at Matoshree at 6 am sharp. I have also met Saheb a few times. I remember I once got a chance to meet him on his birthday. I wanted to garland him even though I could not stand. He said that he would sit down and allow me to place the garland around his neck. It was a special moment for me, and I was very touched by his gesture,” he said.
Another follower, 61-year-old S D Masavkar, who lost both his legs in a train accident in 1976, came to pay tribute to the Sena chief one last time. He had left his home in Neral at 7 am and reached Shivaji Park at around noon. A retired central government employee, Masavkar was attracted towards Shiv Sena in 1967. Masavkar joined the post office as a worker in 1971 and became an active Sena member.
“I came just for Balasaheb who is God for us, and I prayed for him,” said Masavkar, who walked from Dadar station to Shivaji Park.