Even as they carried out the last rites for Advocate Harish Bhambani, his family was trying to get over the shock of learning that he and his client, artist Hema Upadhyay, had been killed
A sepulchral silence shrouded the Bhambhani House on the lane next to Don Bosco School in Matunga yesterday, as mourners in white filed into the home of lawyer Harish Bhambhani, whose mutilated body was found in a ditch on Saturday, along with the remains of his client, famed artist Hema Upadhyay.
Harish Bhambhani with one of his daughters, Sonia, who came from Pune for the last rites
The double murder came to light after a ragpicker spotted the bodies — packed in cardboard boxes and cellophane wrapping — dumped in a drain in Kandivli. mid-day had reported yesterday that the police were then led to the killers by the truck driver who had driven them there with the bodies (‘Trucker leads cops to killers’).
Police outside the Bhambhani House yesterday. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
As friends and well-wishers walked into the three-storey building — also called Silver Nest — where the Bhambhani joint family lives, Harish’s eldest brother Captain Ramesh Bhambhani (73) — a pilot and former director at Indian Airlines — struggled to keep his composure, remembering how the house had been filled with joy in birthday celebrations just last week.
Harish’s eldest brother Captain Ramesh Bhambhani (right) recalled how the house had been filled with joy less than a week ago
“I used to call him Bebu. We were four brothers and one sister. He was the youngest of the brothers; eight years younger than me. So, I would call him ‘Bebu’, because he was like a son to me. On December 8, this house was with love and laughter as we celebrated my birthday, and of course, Bebu was there,” recalled Capt Ramesh.
Anita Bhambhani, daughter of Harish Bhambhani at Bhagvati Hospital, Borivli. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Mourners sat on chairs just outside the building. A lift took us to the third floor, where a small teddy bear lying on a bed was picked up by Harish’s 3-year-old granddaughter, who ran towards a guest and asked, “Where is Nanu?” Her mother, Sonia, Harish’s Pune-based daughter who came to Mumbai for the last rites, asked despairingly, “My daughter keeps asking for my dad. What do I tell her?”
The family is hard hit by the loss of Harish, who was the perfect family man. “My father was the consummate family man. Recently, I needed some documents to be sent from Mumbai to my Pune address. I asked my dad to courier them, and two days later, he was at my doorstep with the papers. I would just tell him, ‘Dad, I cannot find shoes in my daughter’s size’, and a pair of shoes would arrive the next day in the correct size. I only had to say I wanted strawberries, and the house would be filled with crates of them,” recalled Sonia.
The household staff went about their chores in a mechanical manner, saddened by the loss of their gentle employer. “We made mistakes in our work, but ‘Bittu papa’ never had a harsh word for us.” Sonia smiled sadly as she remembered, “My father had oodles of patience and his reprimands were so gentle, you would hardly feel them at all. I would always chide him gently, ‘You know, Dad, be practical, you are not for this world’. He was soft-spoken and had such a strong sense of ethics.”
As more people poured in, the house got busier, and it was time to exit. A pedestrian’s curiosity was piqued when she saw people in white and some police presence outside the home. “Has somebody died?” she asked this reporter in a conspiratorial tone. “Why the police? Any problem?” she pressed on, while a clutch of onlookers gathered at the gates. Outside, life went on, as there was a peal from the bell at Don Bosco School, followed by the shriek of children as they ran into school.
‘He was never the target’
Several family members followed the body to the Dharavi crematorium, where the last rites took place at 4.15 pm. A family friend present there said, “Bhambhani uncle was never the target. The killers had wanted to attack Hema (Upadhyay) but uncle fell victim because he was with her. Bhambhani’s eldest brother, Captain Ramesh, said, “He was a very calm human being and very ethical when it came to his work. I don’t know why anyone would want to kill him. I just know that he was fighting a case for Hema Upadhyay against her husband, Chintan.”
— Inputs by Sagar Rajput