If there was an award for sycophancy and turning-netas
-into-Gods, Mohan Yadav would undoubtedly be the clear winner.
"Balasaheb Thackeray and his late wife Meenatai are the only Gods I worship. I have removed photographs of all other Gods from my house," Yadav begins his story of adulation.
His dedication to Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray is written all over him - saffron shirt, saffron trousers, saffron cap, saffron shoes, saffron colored motorcycle, saffron wheels, saffron pen and even a saffron mobile phone.
"Earlier, Balasaheb used to wear normal clothes. And I can't deny, his saffron attire, beaded necklace and tilak
on his forehead, made him look too like a God for me," he says, dressed in glimmering saffron silks outside 'Matoshree' where he has become the centre of many a Shiv Sainik's envy.
The 52-year-old sainik from Nangaon in Pune District says he joined the Sena about 25 years ago and that changed his life. "Balasaheb's powerful speeches turned me into an ardent follower. I too wanted to become a 'Tiger' like him," he explains adjusting his saffron cap in Mumbai's sweltering November heat.
From inspiration to imagination, he then turned to imitation - the closest he could get feeling like his idol.
So, after his marriage to Sunita, he rechristened her as "Meenatai". His two sons - Raj and Uddhav - too joined the 'pantheon of Gods' at least in name. And yes, he claims, everybody else has started calling him 'Balasaheb'.
"My grocery shop was named 'Raj-Uddhav Thackeray Kirana General Store and Balasaheb Thackeray'. Once he quit, I dropped 'Raj'," he candidly recounts, reaffirming his allegiance to the original Thackerays.
Mr Yadav's temple though is his thirteen year-old motorcycle, which has photographs of the entire Thackeray household. The seat cover is a fake tiger skin. And the wheels too, painted in bright saffron paint.
On either side of the front wheel, two plastic tiger heads glare angrily, as the Sena's saffron flag - fixed to the handle - flutters in the warm afternoon sea breeze.
"In 2006, I brought this bike to show it to Balasaheb. I wanted to take him on a small drive. But since that wasn't possible, I took circles around him," Mr Yadav proudly explains, convinced, the ailing leader will recover.
What takes the cake though is a mobile phone he wants to gift Balasaheb, which he has converted and placed into a miniature car. To show it isn't a dummy piece, he dials his phone. And the phone belts out a popular Sena ringtone!
"No, no. This is not sycophancy and I am not ashamed of this. For me he is my sarkar
, my God," Mr Yadav says, at the same time, acknowledging a handshake from a passing Sainik.
As I prod further, his parting words, leave me stunned and with a smile on my face.
"I have prayed to so many real Gods but did they appear before me? But I prayed to Balasaheb and he gave me his darshan