“I have never spoken to anyone in the media. Can we finish this off over the phone?” said the voice on the other end. It was Champa Singh Thapa, former Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s trusted Man Friday, who served him devotedly for 27 years before his death. Champa Singh Thapa, fondly called Thapa by reverential Shiv Sainiks, was speaking to this correspondent from Matoshree, which he claims is his permanent residence. After all, the senior Thackeray himself had asked him never to leave the house.
Thapa landed in Mumbai in the year 1985 from west Nepal, and started working with a private businessman in Goregaon. Two to three months later, he was spotted by Thackeray’s son Jaidev, who asked him whether he would like to work for Bal Thackeray. He decided to give it a shot. “I went there and started working for Balasaheb.
Nearly eight days into the job, Saheb asked me whether I would like to quit and go somewhere else that paid better. I didn’t respond. Nearly two months later, I was asked once again by Saheb whether I would like to quit and go work at a place where I would get a better salary. Saheb said I would also get some time to spend with my family, which I didn’t get while working for him. ‘However, here you will get izzat,’ Saheb told me,” he recalled.
“I thought for a while that I had come to Mumbai all the way from Nepal not to earn izzat but money. Still, something made me stay back. I didn’t earn a lot of money, but then the izzat that Saheb had spoken of is something that I am getting even today. Whenever I go out with Uddhavsaheb and Aaditya, people touch my feet saying that I have served Balasaheb. Getting so much respect from the public makes me proud and I often cry. For me, Saheb was nothing less than a bhagwan,” said Thapa.
Thapa, now 48, started working for Bal Thackeray when he was only 21. He admitted that his wife often complained, as she didn’t get any time with him. “I used to take leaves for only 15-20 days in a stretch of two years. Only on rare occasions would I go on a month-long leave. I used to get up at 6.30 am, give Saheb his favourite tea, and only after he went to sleep at night would I go to bed.
I have lived in Matoshree all my life and plan to stay here . Saheb had told me never to leave Matoshree. I had never thought that Saheb would leave us all so early, so I am still here and both Uddhav Saheb and Rashmiji give me the same respect that I used to get earlier,” he said.
‘Never held grudges’
“After Maasaheb’s death in 1995, it was I who started taking care of Saheb fully. I remember, Saheb rarely got angry, and even if he did lose his temper, it would only be for a minute. Never in my life did I see him angry with anyone for more than a minute or two. He never held any grudges and forgave everyone,” said Thapa.
His sobs become audible when Thapa starts narrating his Saheb’s last wish: “Saheb used to regret what happened with Raj. He would say that what happened wasn’t good and that Raj shouldn’t have gone. It’s true that Saheb wanted both the brothers to come together. If they want, the two brothers can join forces and come to power in 2014 and work for the Hindus and the development of the state.”
League in Nepal
Many of Bal Thackeray’s close associates got party tickets, and even his bodyguard became a Member of Parliament. But Thapa claimed he neither asked for nor dreamt of becoming a politician. However, Thapa started the Shiv Sena in Nepal along with a few friends and claimed that nearly 60 districts in Nepal now have active Shiv Sainiks.
Thapa’s greatest regret remains that he wasn’t by Bal Thackeray’s bedside in his last days. “I had gone to Nepal as my mother wasn’t well. I left to see her on September 15 and she passed away on October 24. I completed her last rites on the thirteenth day and immediately took a plane on the fourteenth day and reached Mumbai to serve Saheb,” he said.
Thapa also disclosed that Thackeray loved idlis and medu wada for breakfast and a Maharaj - from Bihar - used to prepare it for him. As his health deteriorated, he shifted to milk, and subsequently took only tea and biscuits in the morning. Thapa, who rode the hearse that carried Thackeray’s body to Shivaji Park, performed the last rites for the leader along with his family members.