Citizens have the freedom to make demands of their local governments, especially if the local governments do a poor job of representing their concerns and aspirations. We cannot fault the Shiv Sena for demanding – in the typical Sena style – a memorial to their departed leader Bal Thackeray at the very spot at Shivaji Park where he was cremated on the evening of November 18. The demand has yet to see over-whelming support from other quarters.
This demand has been tossed between various leaders of the party, between political parties, between the elected and administrative wings of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, between the civic body and Mumbai Police, and between the civic body and state government, without a resolution in sight. It seems the resolution, if it’s decided upon, will not be until the end of the month.
But watch what’s happened meanwhile: sections of the Sena have vociferously raised another demand to have the Shivaji Park itself re-named in Thackeray’s honour as Shiv Tirth, to have a grand memorial dedicated to him in the city, to name the second international airport at Navi Mumbai after him, to have a majestic oil painting of Thackeray prominently hung in the state legislature, to officially declare November 17 as Thackeray Punyatithi day (which could make it a state holiday), and to have chapters on Thackeray in school textbooks.
Why stop at this, I ask. Let’s have suggestions, nay demands, of what more can be done to honour the memory of the man who gave Maharashtrians – at least some sections of Maharashtrians – their identity and pride in a fast-changing city. Kala Nagar, where Thackeray spent most of his adult political life, can be re-named in his memory. But it would hardly do justice to his stature in the city’s public life.
Perhaps then the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) too can be re-re-named after him; after all, if the Mahim Park which the British re-named as Shivaji Park in 1920 to honour the Maratha warrior can be re-re-named after Thackeray, so can other monuments and public places that carry the warrior’s name. But wait, the one re-naming that would render complete justice to his contribution to Mumbai, which incidentally he had had re-named from Bombay, would be to have the city itself named after him.
It would help resolve many tricky issues in one go – the Sena would not have to keep raising new demands every now and then to honour his memory, the state government would not have to worry about hurting and enraging the Sainiks every time, the family – all branches of it – can take solace that the patriarch has been duly honoured. Of course, Google Maps would have to change a detail, as will companies and banks and airlines and the rest of them. We will eventually get used to arriving, in long-distance trains and through flights, in ‘Thackeray’. We will get used to living in ‘Thackeray’.