I was member of our college cultural group ‘Art Circle’ and every year we participated in a highly prestigious Marathi theatre competition ‘Purushottam Karandak’. That year, I had auditioned for the lead character’s role. The scene given for audition was that of when the character, who lives in a hostel, is told news of his father’s death. I didn’t get the role because the director thought my reaction to news didn’t feel ‘real’. I really wanted that role.
6 months later: 23 Jan, 2011. Evening. Pune.
It was Sunday and I was in college along with some friends practising for a dance competition. After few hours and several calls by mom, I returned to my room around 10pm. My mom was living with me from last 3 months after I fell seriously ill and was allowed only boiled homemade food to recover. So she shifted to Pune temporarily, while my father was alone in Nasik, eating mess food. Quite a role reversal.
I was watching movie while having dinner with my mom. She didn't enjoy it much- she was constantly saying something about dad not answering her call. I was too engrossed in the movie to pay much attention. My dad was on his way back to Nasik from Pune, along with 6 of his friends in Toyota Innova, and was expected to reach around 1 am in night. So I just told her that he will call back when he reaches home. And anyways she had spoken to him at 10 pm when they had stopped for dinner at a famous highway side restaurant called ‘Daulat’. She seemed worried and went to sleep without watching the movie ending.
I slept around 12.30.
Suddenly my mom’s phone rang in the night, and she dropped it on floor while picking it up in darkness. The phone’s battery came out. I picked it up but mom said that it was 1.30am now and it must have been dad’s call- he must have reached home- so I should call him first from my cell.
So I called. The voice that answered my dad’s phone did not belong to my dad. It was a rough and loud voice.
Me: “Who are you?” (I thought he must be one of my dad’s friends who were in car with him)
Him: “Who is this?”
Me: “This is Rasik Pansare. And the phone you are holding is of my father, Shivaji Pansare. Who are you??”
Him: “I’m a police officer from Ghargaon. So you are son of Shivaji Pansare?”
Me: “Yes. Why?”
Him: “He is dead”
Life was sucked out of me. Like something had hit me hard in the lungs and stomach. Couldn’t breathe. My senses stopped working. Mom was asking me what had happened. She hadn't heard and didn't know who I was talking to. I looked in her eyes. She is a very sensitive, soft-hearted person who can’t bear a sudden shock. She cannot handle it. I feared she might get a heart attack or something. I feared for her life now. I already had lost all my senses and my heart had shut itself down to emotions. My mind had gone blank, devoid of any feelings, like a robot. Must be a defensive mechanism.
I blurted on phone: “What??”
The officer said there was an accident- a drunk truck driver had hit the car- and 5 of 7 people in it were dead. He asked us to reach government hospital at a place called Alephata on Pune-Nasik highway. We didn’t have any vehicle or relatives in Pune. And we had to travel 100 kms in the middle of the night. Urgently.
I was still looking at my mom and all these and several thoughts had raced through my mind in a fraction of second. She was priority now. She was already shivering with fear of not knowing what’s going on. I decided then & there that I won’t tell her immediately. I feared for her and was worried if we would make it to hospital on time.
I told the police we are coming.
I cut the call. Didn’t know what to tell mom. So just told her that there has been an accident and we need to rush to hospital. I hoped she would assume he is still alive and wouldn’t break down at least until we reached the hospital. She asked whether dad was alright. I told her that the police didn’t give any details and has just asked us to reach as soon as possible. We packed a bag in 2 mins. I wore my favourite Red shirt- the one that I had bought along with the only shirt I had ever gifted my dad. I knew this trip will end with our stay in Nasik for a long time. So I secretly packed some clothes and other essentials for mom too.
I had called up my college friends who arrived in 5 mins. I was unable to even tell them the truth. They helped us search for a rental car. No driver was ready to take us. Even for a lot of money. They had several stupid reasons- and none agreed to drive. We tried at 3 different well known Taxi stands and car rentals in Pune. Not a single car/taxi would agree. Meanwhile a family friend we had called up arrived and agreed to drive us. I asked my best friend Vinit to come with me. I felt like I needed someone to support me, while I was supporting mom. He hopped in the car without a thought, even though he had come out in the night just to help me find taxi and had nothing more than his wallet on him.
In my rush to arrange a vehicle, I had simply forgotten that I should tell all my relatives. The first uncle I called up, Mr. Gite, told me he will call others. Soon the news spread across friends and family. All were rushing towards a hospital in the middle of highway from Nasik, Mumbai, etc. But no one knew that my dad was no more. And I simply couldn’t find the strength to speak those words out. Shubham messaged and asked me, what had happened to dad. He was in Mumbai at grandpa’s place and nobody could tell him what exactly had happened. I stared at that SMS for a long time. I love my brother the most and felt he should know what happened. But I couldn’t speak so in front of mom in car and telling something like this by SMS was not the right way. I had never felt so helpless in my life.
Luckily, that same uncle, Mr. Gite, being a govt. deputy engineer had put to work his subordinate government servants to find out information from that hospital. Somehow he got to know the complete news and he conveyed so to everyone. Everyone- except my mother, who was travelling with me and already seemed devastated.
By the time we reached hospital, the doctors had already prepared all 5 bodies to be sent to Nasik to their respective homes. So we went home too. And that’s where over hundred people had already gathered. I didn’t have to say a word. Seeing the crying crowd in our bungalow . . . my mom understood everything. And the look on her face was the most heart wrenching thing I have ever felt.
That night completes 3 years tonight. And I never shed a tear that night. Or ever in last 3 years. But many times when I’m alone and unable to distract my mind, I remember those moments when Shubham, I and our dad would do masti having fun together and mom would be worried that someone might get hurt in our masti. And then I remember that night, that call, that rough voice, those words and the look of my mother. And Shubham’s SMS.
We don't own anyone, so we can't lose anyone. What we lose is the experience of being with that person. I miss the experience of being with him.