Adarniya Balasaheb, Pranaam.
I would have written this letter in Marathi, but most of my readers are Indians.
I have never done a survey to find out how many of them are Maharashtrians -- nor made any attempt to block non-Maharashtrians from reading what I write. Indeed most of my writing is in English. This is not because I am ashamed or embarrassed about my mother tongue.
On the contrary, I am grateful to my parents for cultivating in me a love of languages and for helping me learn a language which -- if they had not taught me -- I might forever have remained ignorant of. That is because unlike most Maharashtrians, I was neither born in Maharashtra nor have I ever lived there.
It would have therefore been very easy for me to remain ignorant of Marathi -- or even forget it. But I am not ignorant of my mother tongue neither have I forgotten it.
I was not born in Maharashtra but I consider myself Maharashtrian. Unfortunately your son Uddhav, your nephew Raj and many of your supporters may not consider me one. For I have not lived in Maharashtra -- ever. I was born in Madhya Pradesh.
Balasaheb, this is where my problems begin -- and this is where I need your help. You see, as a child and later, when I was growing up, I have never stayed in any one place in India for long. No, I was not born or brought up in a foreign country (in fact, I had not ventured beyond our borders until I was well into my twenties). I was born and brought up in India.
And while I was being born and brought up, I was always told that we are one nation...from Kashmir to Kanyakumari we are one... From Somnath to Sibsagar, this is our country... these are our people... we are free to go where we want and where we like...because we are all Bharatiyas...This is our land, our nation...we are one nation.
And so Balasaheb, while I grew up in many different parts of my motherland and learnt many different languages, never once did I consider I was a Maharashtrian first and an Indian second.
When I was a child, I read about the stories and exploits of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and when I grew up, I sometimes used to wonder why 'Maharashtra' is not called 'Marathi Pradesh'. Later on, I realised why it was not... because it would have been an insult to the vision of Shivaji. It would have been an insult to Shivaji who dreamt of a united Bharat, a united Rashtra. To name the region where his lived and breathed as 'Marathi Pradesh' would have been an insult to his memory.
Balasaheb, you are a learned man -- far more knowledgeable in matters of culture and language than me. So I am certain you know that Rashtra is not Rajya. Rashtra supercedes Rajya -- not today, not yesterday -- but always. And Bhoomi trumps Kshetra -- always.
So while I can understand that Maharashtra is a kshetra where Maharashtrians live (and belong to), I cannot understand how Maharashtra bhoomi can belong to anyone other than all Bharatiyas and all the citizens of Bharat Rashtra.
I was therefore dismayed -- and pained -- to read your son's comment reiterating what he had said before, namely, 'Mumbai belongs to Marathis'.
Balasaheb, Mumbai is a city that we are all proud of -- we who are from Mumbai, we who left our homes and came from afar to settle here, we who have never lived here but dream about it -- and we who don't live here but feel proud of its achievements and accomplishments of its citizens, of its artists and of its industry.
Please do not take Mumbai from us Balasaheb. Mumbai belongs to Bharatiyas, it belongs to Indians. A Naga from the north-east has as much claim on it as a Maratha from Vidarbha.
Do tell Uddhav, 'Mumbai does not belong to Marathis, it belongs to Indians'. It belongs to Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan. It belongs to Aamir Khan. It belongs to Amitabh Bachchan, it belongs to Mukesh Ambani, it belongs to Sachin Tendulkar -- and it also belongs to me -- me who has never stayed there... me who was not even born there... but me who is a Bharatiya.
Mumbai belongs to me...us, Balasaheb... It belongs to Bharatiyas. Don't try to take it away... and please remember, there is a Rashtra in Maharashtra... but there is no Marathi there.
B Shantanu blogs at http://Satyameva-Jayate.org/