Memoirs of a changing political fabric as Uddhav Thackrey becomes Maharashtra CM

Last few weeks the state of Maharashtra and the nation witnessed some unforeseen political developments and power struggle. An unprecedented turn of events for the state known for a strong political culture and some robust contribution to the Indian democracy. As I write this Shivaji Park, a stone throw’s away from my house, is getting ready for the oath taking ceremony of the next chief minister Uddhav Thackrey, the Shiv Sena supremo and the heir.

Shiv Sena and BJP alliance had an unceremonious fallout after contesting elections together for 30 years. Observing this political drama, I realized in some way I have witnessed this change closer home for the last three decades.

In the mid-1980s a little girl would see Shiv Sena shakha and its workers as a call away for help – ambulance service, blood donations, etc. Growing up in Dadar, cradle of Shive Sena’s birth, was not a surprise to see Balasaheb Thackrey’s car (there were no convoys then) passing through some wadi for corner meetings. Public meetings were not glamorous, even during election time. The only big meeting was the Dasara rally which would fill Shivaji Park with saffron flags.  Once the Shiv Sena – BJP friendship became stronger Lotus symbol accompanied Bow & Arrow on the posters and pamphlets.

This teenager was then a by-stander to another significant political development. In the pre-TV and internet era locals in Dadar gathered outside counting centers to know the election results. EVM machines had not made their debut yet. The josh was high in Dadar during 1995 Assembly Elections. Accompanying her father to Shiv Sena Bhavan on the counting day, she saw a huge crowd errupt with joy as one particular election result was declared – Bala Nandgaonkar had defeated Chagan Bhujbal in Mazgaon. As Shiv Sena – BJP alliance inched closer to the government formation, Gokhale Road leading to Shiv Sena Bhavan was full of people, Shiv Sainiks celebrating on every naka. The culmination was the oath taking ceremony at Shivaji Park. With the downing sun, Manohar Joshi, senior party leader and resident of Dadar, became the first Shiv Sena Chief Minister.

In next few years another wave swept Dadar. Like the rest of Maharashtra, this Sena stronghold was torn between the big split – Uddhav & Raj Thackrey. Through her window she would observe a symbolic struggle. On important occassions the statue of Prabodhankar Thackrey – a social reformer and Balasaheb’s father would be surrounded by two flags with different symbols – Bow & Arrow and Railway Engine. Festival celebrations also saw this impact. Krishna Kunj, in a sleepy lane near Shivaji Park, became popular for its resident – Raj Thackrey. Dadar supported Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, elected its MLA and backed corporators in the BMC elections.

Last decade was another transformation. Now a working woman with interest in political science and developments, the change was palpable. National political environment was not the same – rising power and clout of BJP was visible in the neighbourhood. While people were pro-development, there was some disillusionment and an underlying soft-corner for Shiv Sena.

Amid the political wrestling and the game of Kabaddi, it remains to be seen how will Thackrey Sarkar be different, will Dadar yet again be witness to a new Shiv Sena? This time it is the other Thackreys – Uddhav and Aditya.

The Crown & The Queen’s world

I finished watching The Crown Season 3 in four days. Though OTT has become our primary entertainment, I am not a binge watcher. Then why is The Crown special? It’s the evolution of the young Elizabeth to the Queen, the monarch. The series reflects the inner struggle, journey of so many women, thus making you reflect on so many hidden sometimes not so hidden emotions. The first season made me go back to the history books and political developments. It hooked me to Netflix.

While the plot unfolds, glimpse of the life of royals – the drama was personally fascinating. I remember seeing images of the Queen on television, photos of their annual Christmas parties or royal weddings in newspapers. History textbooks referred to the royals from colonialist perspective. They taught us that Lord Mountbatten was the last Viceroy of India. The closest I came to Royals was on a tour of the Buckingham Palace during my stay in London. Other memories are that of passing by the palace on the eve of Prince William’s wedding or seeing the palace in Edinburg. So, The Crown lifted the veil for me of the royals and opened my mind to the British history.

Each season reveals so many facets of Queen Elizabeth. The narrative has changed my perspective about the Queen as a person. Her relationship with her father, love for her sister, decision to marry Philip or passion for riding is what every girl wants, dreams of.  The young Elizabeth wears The Crown, reluctantly and with a lot of apprehension. As she assumes this new responsibility, time and again she juggles between her personal thoughts, emotions and views against those of the establishment, family and the crown’s legacy.

Elizabeth learns the ropes of power, decision making, diplomacy with a kind heart. Her dialogues with successive prime ministers demonstrate this change – from vulnerability to decisiveness. The Crown Season 3 has ample evidence of the Queen and their maturity. Her concern for the school children caught in the mining incidence, efforts to save sister’s marriage, helplessness in matters of Prince Charles personal life or her visit to the ailing uncle -all stuck an emotional chord.

Watching her journey made me reflect on our daily lives. Some rules we have to follow or can decide to over rule as we assume responsibility – personally or professionally. Every woman at some stage has to decide between her dreams and her duties. Balancing once personal relationships while in office or position of power. More importantly it is what we take from these incidents is makes the difference. As the Queen thanks her uncle – His not accepting the crown changed her life forever. At the cross roads of life, our decisions and thoughts have the power to transform our lives.

G – Garden View #AtoZChallenge

I ways associated garden with swings, see-saw, slides. Where children play. Recently I moved to a new house, which overlooks a garden.

Garden for me has somehow changed. I see people walking, exercising, morning yoga classes, someone comes to the garden to study, while someone else is working on a laptop maybe before going to college or a meeting.

I have started enjoying the silence after garden closes. So many times after a hectic day my best way to unwind has been to sit next to the window looking at the garden. The trees, grass, smell of the fresh watering & dim lights are soothing.

Yesterday was Gudi Padwa, a new year for Maharashtrians. Sharing the picture of our Gudi with a garden view

F – Fishy Tales #AtoZChallenge

Last Sunday I visited a fish market after very long time. It was refreshing in many ways. While malls, e-stores are convenient, I enjoy buying certain things myself and Fish is one of them. Observing my grandmother and then my mother I have learnt buying a fish is an art and bargaining is the masters! I am fairly good at art and fail in masters.

In my childhood we bought fish at the doorsteps. Our regular firsherwomen would visit us at a particular time. During my primary schooling, it would be the time for my school bus to arrive. The sight of my trying to jump over the huge fish basket was common. Granny would be checking the fish and bargaining with one eye on me to see if I am going down the staircase without falling. On some days I would get a chance to watch this routine process, try and imitate my grandmother. My cheeks would grin with a smile when the fisherwomen slipped couple of more pieces of prawns, Bombay duck extra to please me.

Over years we developed a different bond with fisherwomen. I would be eager to wave them out if I see them around in the area. Granny also knew what kind of fish to buy from which lady. Each of them had a unique way of selling fish. Many years later when I attended wedding of one of the fisherwoman’s grandson, I realized what this bonding was. The smile on her face on seeing us at the wedding said it all, likewise for us!

It was my mother who taught me to buy fish from a market. A few years later she started buying fish. Again she had her set rules and preferences. Our fish destination was the famous City Light market at Matunga, it remains so.  This market is packed with people and a variety of fresh catch.

My mother would take a direct bus from office, buy fish and come in time to cook it for dinner. Her shopping bag introduced me to huge pieces of surmai, king size prawns and fatty pomfret. On weekends I started accompanying her and was learning other side of household shopping. Buying other necessary items, other than fish. How to make effective use of this single visit. Round it off with a spicy pani puri !

And what I called the Masters – bargaining I observe from my father. After every visit to the fish market he asks me – what price did she quote, how much did u bargain for? Then I get advice on how should I bargain, what should I quote.. something I am yet to learn.

How can I trade these fishy tales for an online delivery? Will you? I rather enjoy my fish and the happiness!

E – Exercise #AtoZChallenge

  • What have you done?
  • Your clothes are fitting loose now
  • You have lost weight
  • Are you dieting?

These are the common comments I hear from people I meet. Feels little weird for a person who is used to the other extreme comments – being called fatty, advised on how weight control is important, judging the food I eat because of my weight.. the best answer I developed for this was to Smile.

 Like every other obese or overweight person, I always thought of getting fit, exercising, following diet but could never do it. Having read blogs, social media posts of the struggles, the common factor for many like me was motivation and to stay motivation.

A simple ‘statement like be careful while standing on the chair /table, it will break’ is enough to lower your confidence. What is the best way to start? Gym, yoga, cross fit, walking, swimming, so many options and social advice we get…

For me, the shift happened in my mind – When I broke the psychological block of fitness. Most importantly when I got the right encouragement; positive encouragement. I started seeing some visible results; I slowly started believing that I can be fit.

Yet again there was an obstacle. Traffic, travel became an issue to manage to reach fitness center on time. One day of bunking the workout session becomes a bad example to take it lightly. Finally I again stopped exercising. But in this phase my mind had become stronger to pursue exercise whatever the case.

In next few months I found another fitness center. This time I again received the required encouragement. And this was the second shift in my thinking.  I met an encouraging trainer, patiently listening to me and my body. He shattered another psychological block –

“Weight Loss is not important, You being Fit is more important” 

With this he never allowed me to go near the weighing machine. He says , “the day people start commenting and noticing change in you, the results will be seen.” Playfully I started addressing him as a doctor and not a trainer. Every day he would ask if there is any body pain, few days later he will try to understand what difference I am noticing. I realized this was his way of studying if the workout is helping me. He helped me release the conscious and subconscious pressure of losing weight.

Most importantly I started enjoying workouts. Looked forward to my gym sessions, changed my other priorities, tried to accommodate my exercise more meaningfully in my daily routine.  I have surprised myself my hitting the gym at 10 pm.. even if it is for half an hour.  Started becoming restless if I missed it for more than 3-4 days..

4 months down I have not lost much weight, maintain low carb diet becomes difficult. The biggest change has been my attitude and perspective of looking at fitness. That’s when the external comments just become a part of this process.. not something to be bogged down with. Today also I Smile at the comments, but with a different attitude & I’m loving it !

How have you overcome psychological blocks?

D – Dadar #AtoZChallenge

Our birthplace is always close our heart. For me it’s Dadar – a central place for all Mumbai citizens to travel. Dadar in literal terms means steps. And indeed it has been a staircase for me to become the person I am.

Often we relate our behaviour or who we are to a particular country, city or a town. From the Indian context it would mean a Delhi vs Mumbai person, Mumbai vs Pune person. We unconsciously develop traits or identity of a particular place. On thinking deeply, I think it is our immediate neighbourhood or a place that plays a critical part in this process.

While I am a ‘Mumbai girl’ Dadar is a part of my personality. It is associated with connectivity, buzzing with people, socio-cultural developments, theatre and sports, markets thronged with shoppers. I find so many similarities and identify with many other.

  • Growing up in Dadar has been like a sponge. It offers ample opportunities to absorb and learn – from cultural events, sports, educational institutions to political developments. Probably my curious mind was developed because of this.
  • The Badaas attitude – The safety, security and cohesiveness of this place never made me think twice of making my own choices. Not to be afraid, discover new things, and meet people – providing a free and open environment.
  • Dadar has taught me to be inclusivity. To get along with people and be a team player. The old wadis, long last neighbours creates the community bonding. Teaches you to be caring, compassionate and makes one an empathetic person.
  • Enjoying culture – Festivals are an intrinsic part of Dadar from every angle. Traditionally People across the city and from outside throng Dadar market for festive shopping. It makes me wonder with so many shopping malls, new shopping places and hip places why is Dadar market always buzzing with people. Maybe the answer lies in its identity.
  • Food and its evolution – Dadar is known for famous Maharashtrian eateries, local seafood favourites and popular street food joints. In today’s scenario, it doesn’t offer many ‘cool’ options for pubs and clubbing. But it still has a distinct evolving food culture. Think of it, I am so much like that. I love to explore new restaurants but yet stick to my roots with a typical CKP fish preparations.

Last but not the least how can I forget Dadar chowpatty and my love for sea!

Have you ever wondered how your birthplace has shaped your personality?

B – Books #AtoZChallenge

Since I started blogging again, I realized many bloggers participate in different online challenges, contests etc. One of the popular challenges I realized was #AtoZChallenge, during the month of April. I always had it on my mind to participate, but time just flew by I realized it’s already April.

As a new to the blogging space, I didn’t know how to go about it. Also bloggers plan themes for this challenge. None the less I decided better late than never. So here I am attempting my first ever challenge with Random Thoughts.

B – Books

Books always intrigued me since childhood. I use to subscribe to a neighbourhood library during summer vacations. That was the time I read a variety – from glossy magazines, autobiographies, fiction, to the teenage books of Secret Seven et all…

But the most special memory is of sharing books with my grandmother. My father had subscribed to another local library which gave two books at a time. He use to mostly bring Marathi books so that my grand mom could also read. Thus, there was a time I was exposed to a lot of Marathi books. Looking back, it was a golden period as after that I did not really catch on reading Marathi books.

As in other aspects in our lives, there came a phase I completely stopped reading for myself. It was always related to academic or professional reasons. During this time my mother started second phase of her education – so we again had Marathi books in our house.  My brother caught to reading, which led to completely different kind of books – on finance, self – development, history & wars and also on exercising and following good diet.

My interest in reading books was subconsciously and consciously reviving. Meanwhile, I found another medium to keep in touch with reading. BooksonToast, a Youtube platform that one of my colleague started. Instead of browsing endlessly on the net, I started following the videos. It was a rich online resource, again exposing me to a vast variety.

This variety is what I have always enjoyed. In that sense I am not restricted to a particular genre, author or style. So I never really had a favorite author, but enjoyed the company of book !