When Balasaheb travelled in autorickshaw through the city

The erstwhile Bhanuvilas Talkies bears a deserted look, with a mutilated signboard stating that it is the property of the Income Tax department hanging by its rusted gate. Across the road, the lane leading to the building of the Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha office is 408, Narayan Peth.

There is nothing extraordinary about the place, apart from the fact that Bal Thackeray was reportedly born here in 1926.

In the corner of the lane, the Middlestar Cycle Shop has a story to narrate — its tryst with the late leader. Its current owner Chandrasekhar Kanade remembers the time when Thackeray had come there to inaugurate the second branch of Shiv Sena during its formative years in 1969. "My father Rajabhau Kanade was the first head of the branch that opened then," says Kanade.

While his own memory of that day is very faded, given that he was in his pre-adolescent years then, Kanade says: "There were a lot of fireworks that day. I remember seeing him (Thackeray) at the official inauguration of the branch and he even spoke about the reason and importance of the organisation. What he said I do not remember. But people from all houses had gathered to hear him speak."

Incidentally, Dattatraye building, where Kanade's shop has been housed since 1970, was a wada earlier. While he doesn't ascertain the claim that Thackeray was born there, Kanade says: "The elderly people used to say that he was born in the wada, on the grounds of which this (Dattatraye) building stands. We do not know the truth but like to believe this."

He says leaders like Ulhas Kalokhe, Shashikant Sutar, Nandu Ghate, who were members of the Kasba Peth branch of the Shiv Sena that was the first branch in Pune, were apprehensive about the opening of a Sena shakha (branch) in a place like Narayan Peth given that it was predominantly a Brahmin locality. "But my father stood up and told Balasaheb that he would take charge of the place. In fact that was a reason why Balasaheb was pleased with his enthusiasm and made him the branch head," says Kanade.

... contd.

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