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Indian Political Leader Thackeray Dies

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Nov. 21st, 2012 | 09:49 am

This was written as a straight-up journalism piece and sent to newspapers. Nobody picked it up in the USA, but I've used it as a "calling card" for a request to freelance for a Mumbai paper.

MUMBAI--India’s largest city was uncharacteristically hushed Saturday evening and Sunday, with shops shuttered and taxis and auto-rickshaws off the streets. A combination of police urging, Mumbai residents' initiative, and political pressure created a city in mourning for political leader Bal Thackerary, who died Saturday at 3:33PM local time.

Non-emergency travel on trains was discouraged, and buses ran a reduced schedule. Theatres stopped films and plays mid-performance.

The controversial leader of the Shiv Sena party, Thackeray was a kingmaker rather than holding office himself; his influence led to the 1992-93 riots (depicted in the film Slumdog Millionaire), and contributed to ongoing Hindu-Muslim tensions.

Thackeray’s funeral on Sunday afternoon drew almost a million people, the Indian news site First Post estimated. Gathered in the suburb of Dadar, the mostly-male crowd listened to competing orations from loudspeakers mounted on buses and utility poles. At times feeling more like a political rally than a funeral, call-and-response chants included, “The Tiger rests/But his spirit lives on.” After the speeches, a flower-decked truck carried Thackeray’s body, with his trademark horn-rim glasses, through heavy crowds lining the road to Shivaji Park.

There, a twenty-one gun salute, bugle calls, and the chanting of priests were televised over the park and around the city. The pyre, decked in rose petals and marigolds, was stacked with sandalwood by Thackeray’s friends, family, and political allies, and set ablaze just before sunset.

While some instances of violence broke out in the crowd—mostly shoving related to sight lines and a desire to be close to the body—substantial police and military presence in full riot gear kept the situation under control.

After the cremation (Mumbai’s first public cremation in many years), crowds dispersed peaceably and street vendors began to sell vegetables, fruit and tea again. Many people had been caught by surprise by Sunday’s closings and had been without food since Thackeray’s death announcement.

Partial business closings are expected Monday, but the government will reopen and taxis are expected to resume service.


Thackeray Funeral 4
Thackeray Funeral 3
Thackeray Funeral 2
Thackeray Funeral 1

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Comments {2}


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from: unmowngrass
date: Nov. 21st, 2012 05:28 pm (UTC)

Let us know how the calling card to freelance went! Also, only from the perspective of someone who occasionally reads newspapers, this reads to me like very good quality journalism, and exactly what I hope journalism articles to read like. Very informative :)

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from: whipchick
date: Nov. 24th, 2012 06:31 am (UTC)

Thank you!! I was trying to do the reverse pyramid thing, where the first paragraph is the most important and it gets less important from there :) So glad this worked for you!

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