Among the hundreds who gathered outside Bal Thackeray’s residence Matoshree in Bandra on Wednesday night after they heard about his deteriorating health was Mohan Yadav, a 44-year-old grocer from Nandgaon taluka in Pune, for whom the Shiv Sena chief is not just the head of the party he owes allegiance to, but a god.
“His instructions are like gospel and Matoshree is the most revered temple for me as my deity [Thackeray] lives in the sanctum. He is everything to me,” said Yadav, who rode to Matoshree on his motorcycle at 4am, soon after he learnt about “Saheb’s” health, with his younger son riding pillion.
Like the other staunch Thackeray supporters who had come from different parts of the state, Yadav was standing in the Kalanagar area till late in the night, when HT caught up with him. “I will not leave until I hear of Balasaheb’s recovery,” Yadav said.
To prove his dedication, Yadav has named his two sons, who are now in their teens, after Thackeray kin Uddhav and Raj. Even his grocery store was called ‘Raj, Uddhav kirana store’, until Raj Thackeray split from Sena. “Now, it is just Uddhav kirana store,” he said.
But that is not where Yadav’s obsession with everything Thackeray ends — a cursory glance at the man and his motorcycle, which he had parked on a footpath in Kalanagar, speaks volumes.
Every inch of his body, barring the face, is covered in saffron. His motorcycle, a Bajaj Pulsar, is also painted entirely in the party colour — even the tyres are not spared.
From a distance, the motorcycle looks like a mini chariot. A frame of iron rods, mounted on the forks and chassis of the motorcycle, runs around the motorcycle with several pictures of Thackeray, his son Uddhav and wife Minatai pasted on the tin plates mounted between the rods. Brightly illuminated frames of Shiv Sena’s symbol, a bow and arrow, don the front and rear of the frame.
“This is my way of propagating Balasaheb’s ideology,” said Yadav, who claimed that a meeting with Thackeray when he was 13 had changed his life. “I forgot the gods I was worshiping. Since then, he became my god.”
Yadav has since been attending every Dussera rally of the Sena at Shivaji Park to hear Thackeray, and visits Matoshree on the Sena supremo’s birthday to seek blessings.