Damodar Naik, autorickshaw driver in Panjim, the Goa capital, does not remember the last time Panjim wore such a deserted look. Naik, 54, says it is “Bhai" who has brought Goa to a rare pause. Manohar Parrikar, who died on Sunday evening and whose funeral on Monday in Panjim saw thousands turn up, was fondly called “Bhai" in his homeland Goa.
The coastal state, which is arguably India’s only joy de vivre location for its laid-back and fun-loving spirit, as well as its essentially secular fabric, wore a sombre look on Monday.
For ordinary Goans such as Naik, who remembered having seen Parrikar often as a commoner doing mundane things, it didn’t have to be a day for national mourning. “He was a big man. Panjim would have stayed quiet over his death, even if there was no mourning declared," Naik said.
The Dayanand Bandodkar Road leading to the Kala Academy and the Miramar Beach was the only part of Panjim that was crowded on Monday. Parrikar’s mortal remains were kept at the Academy for dignitaries and other people to offer tributes. The funeral procession began from the Kala Academy and Parrikar was cremated with full state honours. Many people in the crowd broke down.
Foreign tourists, a common sight in Goa, appeared clueless about the general air of gloom as they went searching for a restaurant or shack that was open. The Panjim market, usually abuzz with tourists and locals at this time of the year, was shut and quiet. Posters of Parrikar with his familiar disarming smile lined the streets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival at the Kala Academy to pay tributes to Parrikar prompted some Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers to recall occasions when Parrikar played a stellar role in Modi’s rise.
Those were celebratory times. One such instance was when Parrikar proposed Modi’s name as the prime ministerial candidate in 2013. Whenever Modi would visit Goa for the BJP’s campaign, Parrikar would stand beside him on stage. On Monday, a pensive Modi saw his trusted lieutenant one last time in a desultory ambience.
BJP president Amit Shah, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, and a host of senior BJP leaders and Union ministers as well as representatives from several political parties also bid adieu to the illustrious and popular leader.
Parrikar died on Sunday evening after a spirited battle against pancreatic cancer for more than a year. The funeral procession and last rites were planned by Parrikar’s family, including his sons Utpal and Abhijat, the Goa BJP, and government of Goa, in keeping with Parrikar’s towering stature and popularity.
At the Miramar Beach where the funeral took place with Hindu traditions, shouts of “Manohar bhai amar rahe" (Long live Manohar bhai) rent the evening sky. BJP cadres, some in their 20s who probably joined the BJP inspired by the party’s tallest leader in Goa, and the veterans, and some contemporaries of Parrikar, together presented a picture of dismay reflecting the general mood of gloom in Goa.