Legacy of Thackeray Raj
Ah, if only Shakespeare were alive today. I'm certain that in the aftermath of the recent Maharashtra assembly elections, he would have been inspired to write another play - a rip-roaring comedy, this time. Shiv Sena supremo, Bal Thackeray, may have made a fitting Julius Caesar. His 'Et tu, Brute' moment, when the Marathi manoos made it clear that they preferred Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) over his party, can go down in history as one of the most touching soliloquies ever. I have made a spirited attempt to rephrase it in Shakespeare-speak:
Julius Sena: (Roaring like a tiger that has a thorn in its paw, which is turning septic.)
"Et tu, Marathi Manoos? Then fall Sena!
You ingrates, you wretches, you worse than senseless things,
Know you not what I hast done for you?
Attacked outsiders and minorities in the name of Maratha pride!
Yet you stabbed me in the back with mine own swords,
The very ones I hast lovingly given you to attack outsiders and minorities with,
To elevate that arrogant cub, Pretender to the Sena throne?
Fie on you, vile sons of my beloved soil."
Oddly enough, the emotional speech did not inspire the Marathi manoos to weep with shame/ run to Bal Thackeray and touch his feet, begging for forgiveness/ commit harakiri. Of course, about a week later, he retracted his speech (great Indian rabblerousers always do that, sigh), made a valiant attempt to look innocent (not easy for him, mind you) and pretended that he'd been misreported. Tragically, this too, didn't inspire the Marathi manoos to weep with shame/ run to Bal Thackeray and touch his feet, begging for forgiveness/ commit harakiri either. It is with a heavy heart that I report that they sneered instead. While they still have deep respect for Bal Thackeray, his son is affectionately referred to as 'Heir Today, God Knows Where Tomorrow'. Uddhav Thackeray's gentler and more humane (relatively speaking, of course) approach has few takers. It is the slap-happy Pretender to the Sena throne whom they admire.
Some leaders inspire men to achieve great boring things, while Raj Thackeray inspires them to do interesting things instead, like slapping people or trashing institutions whenever they get the urge. A lovely testosteroney buzz follows, and besides, it makes them feel taller. Also, since their self-proclaimed leaders can't give them the badly-required development, they're willing to settle for fun instead. Uddhav is beginning to realise that making local munchies like zunka bhakar and vada pao easily available is not enough to fill the bellies of the Marathi manoos with pride. So after deep introspection following his party's pathetic showing in Mumbai, he has regally given the Marathi manoos license to slap anyone with impunity.
With both parties in belligerent mode, 'outsiders' are bound to be caught in the cross-slaps. Keeping that in mind, I have a small suggestion for the state government. Ensure that all planes, trains and tourist buses arriving in Mumbai broadcast the following message: "Welcome to Mumbai. The outside temperature is a fiery 100 degrees. There's a very good chance that you will be slapped soundly at random during your stay here. Please don't take it personally, though. It's just a charming regional pastime. Have a wonderful stay."
Uddhav's Shiv Sena has a lot of catching up to do. During the recent swearing-in ceremony at the state assembly, shots rang out. Alarmed, we assumed that nasty terrorists were at it again. Soon, we heaved a sigh of relief because it was just the slap-happy MNS feverishly at work restoring regional pride by slapping an MLA, an official language and democracy in the face. Fortunately, after the moment of shock and horror passed, the outcome was a happy one. Four out of the 13 MNS MLAs have been suspended from the assembly for four long years. So now there are nine left. If they keep at it, soon all the 13 assembly seats the MNS won will be empty. The thing about God is: he works in mysterious ways.
By the way, a little bird told me about a new collection drive in the city, organised by 'outsiders'. The money, they earnestly swear, is for a worthy cause: to help send Raj Thackeray's children to Australia for higher education. Gosh, I wonder why?