Veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar was a close friend of Bal Thackeray, and has known the family for more than 25 years. She was profoundly saddend by the Shiv Sena supremo's demise on November 17.
Lataji looks back at her long association with Balasaheb, and the person he was outside the ambit of politics.
Balasaheb Thackeray the to Maharashtra tha. Woh nahin, to kuch nahin hai (Maharashtra existed because of Balasaheb Thackeray. It will cease to exist now that he's no more).
What he has done for Maharashtra is unparalleled.
Look at the kind of turnout his illness brought at his home Matoshree. He had a knack for forging enduring relations with people. It's indeed a very rare gift. And his gift of oration! Bahut kamaal ke insaan the (He was a great human being).
When I heard he was unwell, I went to meet him on November 4. He had asked me over the phone to meet him. When I visited Matoshree, he said, 'Arey zindagi bhar main alag-alag shehron mein ghumta raha hoon, logon se milta raha ab mujhe bistar mein pada achcha nahin lag raha (I've travelled to different places and met many people all through my life. I don't like to be bed-ridden).'
I told him to eat something with the familiarity and affection that one exercises only with those very close. He had some soup when I insisted. Before I left, he showered me with blessings.
Raj (Thackeray) and his wife, Uddhavji and his son Aditya are all close to me. Aditya writes good poetry in English. He has published a book of poems and also cut a music album.
Thackeray's nephew (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief) Raj sings and also plays the violin. His father was a music director. Mohammed Rafi had sung a Marathi song for Raj's father. It was a big success.
He knew I am apolitical. He never discussed politics with me. He could've asked me to join the Shiv Sena and I wouldn't have refused. But he knew I am not comfortable with politics so he graciously kept me out of it. Perhaps being an artiste himself, he understood the sensitivities of another artiste. Our conversations were always about the world in general.
The most memorable meeting with him took place a few years ago, when he called me up and asked me to check out the auditorium that the Shiv Sena had built in my father Dinanath Mangeshkar's memory.
He said, 'Tere pitaji ke naam se maine hall banaya hai. Tum aao aur bataao kaisa lagaa (I have built a hall in your father's name. Come see it and tell me if you like it)' .
The auditorium, named the Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar hall, is in Khar (in suburban Mumbai). I had gifted Balasaheb a painting done by my father. That is now hanging in the front foyer of the auditorium. When I saw it there, I was deeply moved.
Balasaheb had a long way to go. He had just published a new Marathi book, which is selling exceedingly well. He had a very sharp mind and a terrific sense of humour.
He could converse on any topic under the sun. During my most recent visit to Matoshree, he had ordered me to visit him everyday. I wasn't able to fulfil his wish. I wanted to meet him when the crowds in front of his house thinned.
In the picture: Lata Mangeshkar and Bal Thackeray in April 2012. Photograph: Sahil Salvi.