Foreign beer was one of his drinks

Seventies and eighties were the days when foreign liquor was available only in duty-free shops inside the airport precincts. Senior scribes with smiles beaming used to say “Oh we had Heineken beer yesterday with Balasaheb Thackeray.”

The pipe-smoking Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray apart from being a connoisseur of tobacco, also had a refined taste buds for beer; the preferred brand was the ‘Dutch Heineken Beer’ over salted nuts.

Senior journalists in eighties were sometimes invited by the cartoonist to sip beer with him; with his pipe puffing. Thackeray would discuss political permutations, combinations and possibilities in the state and the country and also the adverbs to be used to describe his speeches.

The cartoonist was well aware of the power of word; and these beer-drinking sessions resulted in news reports lacing his utterances with verbs like ‘he roared,’ ‘he thundered’ etc., carving out an image of a ‘belligerent derring-do.’ He switched from beer to red wine after he underwent heart surgery but his love for beer remained even though his earlier sittings with journalists diminished.

But his taste was not just confined to the palate, his sartorial preferences also underwent change from the sixties bush-shirt and pant to shawl draped kurta in eighties; mid-nineties onward he started wearing ochre-coloured toga with his neck and wrists wrapped with rudraksha garlands.

Like his sartorial preferences, his gestures and gesticulations also changed as he rose up on the political ladder. While in his earlier days his abrupt gestures in street-corner meetings slowly became pronounced to exemplify speeches laced with street slangs and jokes.

In later years, the arm-waving became slow and theatrical akin to slow gesticulations of messianic leaders.

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