A man of many hues, who could disagree, yet remain friends

Balasaheb Thackeray did not inherit wealth or landed property, but a fighting spirit from his father Keshavrao. Like his father, he too was a very effective speaker and wielded his pen bluntly.

His father was a journalist, a leading social reformer, dramatist, historian and also a cartoonist. He was one of the prominent leaders in the movement for the linguistic state of Maharashtra.

Nobody thought that his son would emerge as a political leader. A person who would later made his mark as a fiery speaker did not appear on a public platform until the formation of the state of Maharashtra. His cartoon weekly, Marmik, caught people's attention. But in the initial period, it was not political.

My first meeting with him had a strange background. Though I knew that Maharashtrians were suffering from some disadvantages, I held that it was an economic problem. But Thackeray made it a political one, and launched an organization, the Shiv Sena.

In 1969, the Shiv Sena was very volatile, culminating in a violent uprising. Dadar was in the eye of the storm along with some other areas. For about three days or more, people could not get milk or grocery. Shops were looted and civic life was at a standstill.

I was then editor of Maharashtra Times. I wrote a front page editorial calling for the military.

D V Gokhale was our news editor. As both Balasaheb and Gokhale had been in the Free Press Group, they were close friends. He said that both of us were to see Thackeray.

We went to see Thackeray, who was staying in an apartment near Shivaji Park. Thackeray's first few words were reassuring. He agreed with us that the agitation needed to be withdrawn.

The three of us prepared a draft and informally approached the government. The response was positive. Life in the city started coming back to normal.

... contd.

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