Mumbai, Nov. 18: If Bal Thackeray’s mourners were out on the streets today, much of Mumbai stayed indoors heeding a police advisory. Now the city isn’t sure about tomorrow.
A rush this evening to stock up on essentials, transport travails through the day and shuttered outlets suggested most residents were keeping their fingers crossed.
A section of the traders and jewellers has called a bandh as a mark of shraddhanjali (respect) to the departed Shiv Sena founder.
Police commissioner Satyapal Singh has said there are no instructions to close down shops. That clarification had come yesterday when the city virtually shut down within 30 minutes of the announcement about Thackeray’s death. Shops, malls and cinema halls were closed today as well.
But some suggested they had acted more out of fear of mobs and untoward incidents. “It (the closure) wasn’t as much to pay respect (to Thackeray) as for our safety,” said the owner of a general store in Andheri, the western suburb that many production houses call their home.
For some, gaining access to essentials became a struggle. “I live on rent and buy a weekly stock of drinking water. Before I could reach home yesterday, the shops had shut and I had no water to drink. I visited a couple of medical stores where I found water bottles,” said Shiladitya, a film production professional.
Food was also a problem. With several eateries and restaurants closed, many were left with few options.
Bipasha Basu @ bipsluvurself tweeted: “Never thought finding eggs would be soooo tough in this city!Phewww!”
A tweet from Gaurav Kapur @ gauravkapur said: “I have no problem with 20 lakh at Shivaji Park. What’s wrong is that the other 2 crore are under forced house arrest, some with no food!”
Two security guards on duty at an outlet in Dadar, not far from the Shiv Sena Bhavan, had to walk a few kilometres to a relative’s home in Mahim only to eat. “We depend on small eateries for our lunch and dinner. We had to take turns and go to Mahim and eat,” said a guard.
Passengers who arrived at the airport and the railway stations complained of inconvenience.
Puneetha Hegde, back from Mangalore with her 83-year old mother-in-law, had a long and futile wait for a taxi outside Thane station. “A cab driver initially agreed to take us home for Rs 600 (five times the normal fare) in Mulund, which is not far. We agreed but after that he refused to go, fearing his vehicle may be attacked,” Hegde said.
Parul Sharma arrived with her family from Jammu this evening and had to wait with her luggage at Elphinstone Road station, near Dadar. “We got the news after we started our journey. Since Balasaheb Thackeray was a larger-than-life figure, we had expected this but the inconvenience caused was immense,” said Parul.
By late evening, some parts of the city saw small retailers and vendors return to business. But some restaurant owners who tried opening their eateries were told by co-operative societies, which own the complex the outlets are located in, to shut down.
The Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM) has appealed to all its members to observe “Shradhanjali Day” tomorrow. “The state and the trading community has lost a true friend and a well-wisher,” FAM president Mohan Gurnani said.