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'We'll achieve Saheb's dreams, come to power in 2014'

Last updated on: November 18, 2012 14:45 IST

They sat there, quietly, along with hundreds of other men and women, mourning the loss of the one man who had given them both hope and pride.

Maharashtra's mighty 'Tiger' has been silenced forever, felled by the twin arrows of old age and ill-heath, leaving his cub (the organisation he had created, the Shiv Sena) mewling in sorrow.

Pranita Prabhakar Tamankar, a 42-year-old-housewife, was sitting beyond the barricades that have come up outside Bal Thackeray's residence Matoshree in Mumbai's western suburb of Bandra.

"Balasaheb loved Maharashtra and Maharashtrians and he particularly loved his Sainiks very much. He was everything to us," she said.

Like thousands of other grassroot Sainiks, she has never met Thackeray personally.

"But I have seen him from close quarters during birthdays -- I mean, I did not shake his hand but I was near him," she says.

She religiously made the trek from Marol, located in the western Mumbai suburb of Andheri, to Shivaji Park in central Mumbai every Dussehra, to watch Thackeray give his annual speech.

"When Balasaheb talked," she says, "when he gave a speech, it was so compelling. We would wish he would never stop speaking, that he would go on and on. He would fill us with such energy, yet the silence was so great when he spoke; you could hear a pin drop. We would listen to his speech and everything he had to say with great attention."
 
Smita Dhabadkar, who also lives in Marol, says, "For the world he may be dead but for us, he is alive. What did Balasaheb say? He said my heart is in the hearts of my Shiv Sainiks. Today, his soul is alive in our souls. He can never leave us and go, he is within us. He has only left his physical body".
 
"When he made that statement, we did not realise why he was saying that. Maybe he knew what was to come -- but that is only between him and God -- which is why he said what he did," she says.

With eyes moist, she added, "But he is a part of us now; that can never change or end. We will make sure he is part of the next generation, our children. We will plant the roots of his love in the coming generations as well."

Maya Vitkar, who was also sitting on the road with them, says, "He is our God. We worshipped him. We have not even cooked the evening meal. We have all come and are sitting here. What else can we do when our God is gone?"

All the three women call themselves Shiv Sainiks by birth. They say the elders in their families were also Shiv Sainiks so loyalty to the Sena runs in their blood.

Smita says, with a catch in her throat, "There has never been a man like amchya (our) Saheb before, and there will never be a man like him again. After Shivaji Maharaj, the only other man like him is Balasaheb."
 
"We will miss Balasaheb but the Shiv Sena will go from strength to strength. We knew he was very ill, but we were hopeful he would live longer. We wanted amchya (our) Balasaheb to remain with us at least till the 2014 elections. That was our dream," says Pranita.

Smita adds, "We wanted our Saheb to see the Bhagwa (the saffron Shiv Sena flag) fly all over Maharashtra after our victory in the 2014 election. We are feeling bad that he will not be with us then. He should have seen that victory."

Maya, who is moist-eyed, says, "Balasaheb would tell us to be peaceful, to be kind and considerate to everyone, mil-julkar raho (live in peace and harmony). That is what we will do; we will continue to live his lessons."

Smita adds, "Saheb lived for others; he taught us that we should also live for others. We have learnt from Saheb that we should serve society; we should serve the people."

"Saheb was not a selfish man," says Pranita.

Their words tumbled over each other as the three women shared their thoughts, grief and pride.

Smita says, "We are the grassroot workers, the ordinary Sainiks. What do we get, what will we get? But doing the work that we do and belonging to the Sena gives us the kind of satisfaction that big leaders don't get. We feel that we have achieved something big."
 
Pranita adds, "Balasaheb was our strength; he gave us strength. Now, our memory of him, his thoughts and his words will give us strength. And we will give this strength to others."

All three of them believe the fractured Sena will come together again, sooner or later.

"That will happen," they say. "And we will come to power in 2014. That is written in stone. We are there na, we will achieve Saheb's dreams.

Savera R Someshwar in Mumbai