After a tense night spent waiting for health updates of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, several Mumbaikars preferred to stay at home and pray. While the Shiv Sainiks spent hours organising pujas and prayers for the good health of their leader, many in the financial capital of the country prayed for calm and peace. Offices and establishments remained closed for the day, as people preferred to avoid commuting in a tense situation.
Add to that the fact that autos and taxis also stayed away from the streets, an official bandh is in force in Mumbai. Tense but calm, is the current situation in the city of seven islands.
The huge crowds that had gathered outside Matoshree in suburban Bandra around midnight began to thin after Shiv Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray emerged from Matoshree shortly after 2 am and announced that Bal Thackeray was stable. “He needs your prayers. Maintain calm and offer prayers,” is what he shared with his workers.
“We are praying for the health of Balasaheb. God will give him many healthy years,” said Mangesh Sawant, a vada pav vendor from Dadar, who came to Matoshree last night after reports of Bal Thackeray’s deteriorating health spread like wildfire.
Sensitive areas like Jogeshwari, Mahim, Kurla and the central suburbs of Ghatkopar and Mulund have extra police patrolling to avoid any untoward incident. The security was upped early this morning after reports of skirmishes and stray incidents of violence were reported from the Eastern Express Highway around midnight.
Ismail Ansari, an autorickshaw driver from Jogeshwari, has parked his vehicle in a garage soon after the news of Thackeray’s deteriorating health began the rounds.
“My rickshaw was vandalised by a mob last year. I am still paying for the damages. It is better to avoid the streets on a day like this,” shared Ansari.
Chetna Israni, one of the few people who reached her office in Parel, said that an eerie silence followed her from home all the way to work. “The bus stop outside my house was deserted, and all the way to work the roads were empty. I reached my workplace in less than 20 minutes. It usually takes me around 45 minutes.”
She added that the sensex and markets have taken a beating. The sensex shed close to 168 points this morning. "I am just praying that all goes well."
Restaurants, eateries and small food stalls downed their shutters fearing the possibility of violence. “Thankfully, I got my lunch from home. None of the restaurants in the area are open. I am regretting having come to office today,” Israni concluded.
The streets are empty, taxis and autorickshaws are off the road, and silence rules in the city that never sleeps. The only sounds that can be heard are of bells in temples and prayers.