The nightingale Lata Mangeshkar is profoundly shocked by the death of Bal Thackeray Saturday.
She said: "When Bala saheb was there, Maharashtra was there. When he's not there, there's nothing. No one can equal what he has done for Maharashtra. We needed him to be with us for many more years. Look at the kind of turn-out his illness invited at his home Matoshri. He had a knack for forging enduring relations with people. It's indeed a very rare gift he had."
She adds: "When I heard he was unwell I went to meet him Nov 4. When he saw me he said that he had travelled all his life and that he did not like to be bed-ridden. I told him to eat something. He said he wasn't hungry. I insisted. He agreed to have soup. He showered me with blessings."
Lata Mangeshkar was close to the entire Thackeray clan. "Raj and his wife, Udhavji and wife and their son Aditya are all close to me. Aditya writes good poetry in English. He has published a book of poems and also done a music album. Raj sings and also plays the violin. His father was a music director. Mohammad Rafi had sung a Marathi song for Raj's father. That song was a big success."
Recalling her long association with the Shiv Sena Supremo, Lata Mangeshkar said: "He gave me a lot of love and respect.I knew him for a good 25 years and we were very close.I knew him from the time when he didn't live at Matoshri."
"He knew I am apolitical. He never discussed politics with me. He could've asked me to join the Shiv Sena and I would have not have refused him. But he graciously kept me out of it. Perhaps being an artiste himself he understood the sensitivities of another artiste."
Lata Mangeshkar's fondest meeting with Bala Saheb was the one year ago when asked her to check out the auditorium that the Shiv Sena had built in her father's memory.
Recalling the incident, Lata Mangeshkar said: "Bala Saheb called and said eh had built an auditorium in my father's name. The auditorium named Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar hall is in Khar. I had gifted Bala Saheb a painting done by my father, which is hanging in the front foyer of the auditorium. When I saw this, I was deeply moved."
"Bala Saheb had a long way to go. He had just published a new Marathi book which is selling exceedingly well. He had a very sharp mind and a terrific sense of humour. He could converse on any topic. During my most recent visit to Matoshri Bala Saheb asked me to visit him every day. I wasn't able to fulfil his wish."
She added: "I was going to meet him as soon as the crowds in front of his house thinned out. Maharashtra had come to a standstill because everyone was worried. People all over Maharashtra were holding yagyas and prayer meetings for his recovery. I prayed for him to recover. My prayers are with his family."