Bal Thackeray’s last journey

National

Considered Bal Thackeray's Man Friday, Champa Singh Thapa was by his side for over 30 years, cooking for him and helping him in his daily schedule. On Sunday, Thapa saw the leader off on his last journey, participating in the last rites along with the rest of the family.

Thapa would tail Thackeray around his house and be present at each of his public appearances. He would often be on duty from evening till morning. A resident of the Terai region, he was fluent in Marathi and helped Thackeray learn a smattering of Nepali during their decades-long association.

Earlier this year, when Thackeray travelled to Thane to address an election rally, Thapa helped him up the stairs and stood behind him and handed him, as necessary, a handkerchief, a glass of water or papers to read out from.

A Sena leader recalled how Thackeray often liked the simple staple of dal khichdi that Thapa cooked. Often during tours outside Mumbai, Thapa would reach the location a day in advance and oversee the preparations. Over the last few years, Thapa would religiously help maintain Thackeray's medical routine.

Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe recalled that in June 2011, when Baba Ramdev was arrested in Delhi, the party wanted to issue a statement and she had to speak to Thackeray. "I called up and spoke to Thapa. He immediately got me to speak to Balasaheb. It showed his understanding of issues," said Gorhe.

Thapa is part of the Nepali Shramik Mazdoor Sangh, an association of Nepalis under the Shiv Sena.

3 who won't celebrate

Dilip Kumar

Dilip Kumar, who will turn 90 on December 11, has ruled out a birthday bash. "Yash Chopra was by my side when I blew out the candles on my birthday cake last year... We are deeply grieving the passing of Balasaheb Thackeray who I always thought was not a tiger but a lion... Rajesh Khanna, who was with us at our party last year, is no more with us. Dara Singh, who wished me so warmly last year, is not with us... I am missing N K P Salve... With so many dear friends gone, how can we even think of a celebration?" the actor said.

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