The first time I met Mr. Bal Thackeray was the day I joined the Free Press. (I will not mention the date, because that will age both of us, and though I do not mind people knowing my age, Mr. Thackeray might.) One of the reporters took me around the office, which was then at 21Dalal Street, and introduced me to several staff members, including those of the Janshakti and the Navshakti. "And this is Thackeray, our cartoonist," he said. A long, poodle-face with a cigar in the mouth looked up from the drawing-board, smiled, and extended a paint-stained hand with artistic fingers.
After that, I used to see him daily, as I used to see the other members of the staff. He had no cabin; except the editor, nobody had. He used to sit in one corner of what was known as the library, though the only books it had were what came for review, and which the proprietor, instead of handing out to reviewers, used to keep in glass cupboards, locked up.
He used to sit near a window that looked out on the verandah, so that he could get enough natural light for his drawings. The verandah led to the lavatories, so we were bound to look in on him every time we went past. He would be sitting there, concentrating on his drawings, a cloud of smoke permanently hanging over his head. We used to hail him, talk to him, interrupt him in his work. He was never disturbed, he had no hang-ups, at least in those days.
I remember him as a very quiet person, somewhat nervous and even timid. RG. Desai, who was also a reporter then, told me a few years back: "Remember Thackeray, he was so timid that if the chair moved under him, he would get scared."
I do not think he had any particular friend in the paper. He used to go home with Ajit Merchant, who looked after the film page regularly. At least, they left the office together in the evenings, laughing and joking as they passed through the reporters' room.
But Bal Thackeray was very obliging. During one fortnight, he drew each and every reporter individually, one per day, and presented the drawing to the reporter. You can never expect Laxman to do that, he would charge Rs. 5,000 from each reporter, possibly more.
I do not know where my drawing is. Possibly thrown away, as I have done so many other things. I wish I had kept it; it would have not only shown how I was in those days, but how Bal Thackeray was then.
November 1, 1991, Published as Balasaheb, the cartoonist
Copyright: Busybee, courtesy Farzana Contractor
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
It's obvious, that the issue was not specific, but general, with the organisation of the Shiva Sena. All the issues ennumerated, only indicates that people could not get along with other people, and this is what their leader wanted to express. People have disagreements, and a person cannot relate to happiness, unhappiness, and the people around him/her. The Pakistan problem, a few years ago, in that nation was similar. The Pakistan govt. got Afghan refugees into Pakistan. They felt, Pashtuns are all the same, and in Af-Pak, and in Peshawar, seeing Pashtun refugees, they would assimilate into Pakistan. They were doing the refugees a good samaritan deed. But, at the same time, the Kashmiri's in the Pakistan territory, felt they needed to understand the Indian Kashmiri people. It seems, a situation exists, where Chinese are within the northern borders of Pakistan. The Pakistani people were not sure, what was happening in their immediate neighbourhood, and this was in the Punjab, the economic hub of Pakistan. Obviously, China is needed in North Pakistan, in the circumstances. Pakistan is not a failed state. Nero was fiddling, because there was anarchy, and the Roman army, consisting of Praetorians, did not know, whether they were needed to fight any enemy, and the 'Barbarian's', it seems could have been defeated easily. I mean, the citizens were killing each other, probably, and the Roman history does not record this. Some smart academician, saw Nero fiddling, and not killing anyone, before the same academician made his escape. He didn't see the general anarchy, because he didn't believe Rome could be inhabited with those who were the decendants of the founders, and these people could be anarchists, too. This is what an educated mind can also perceive, sometimes.
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