Sixteen-year-old Varun Chaudhary misses the jokes and the parental advice that his father Shyam Sundar gave him nine years ago. This before a bomb explosion in a cab on Western Express Highway on November 26, 2008 left Shyam paralysed.
“He is still my best friend and I tell him everything about my life. But I miss having him talk to me,” says Varun, who sits next to his father on the single cot in a two-storey shanty in Sambhaji Nagar, Vile Parle. Today, Shyam’s limbs have wasted. Although he can’t speak, the family now has a new language: eyes.
Varun explains: “We tell him what we want to and then to get his opinion, we give him options. We slowly repeat the options until he gives us a series of eye movements or the slightest nod.” This is how the father-son duo decides which Big Boss contestant stands a greater chance of eviction this week. Varun whispers a joke into his father’s ear and Shyam lets out a giggle.
Although fond of cricket, Varun rarely has the time to play. “Between classes and taking care of father when mom goes to work, there’s hardly any time left. But I am extremely dedicated when it comes to going to the gym,” says Varun who religiously works out every afternoon. At six feet, the boy towers over his mother and shows off his biceps. “I want to be an economist, the subject seems very interesting and is related to various disciplines,” he says. Almost immediately, the Commerce student hints at a possibility of a career in the hotel management industry.
“I am grateful that my father is around but there is still a void. I’d like for my father to talk to me, or give me advice. A teenage boy needs a father around and has things to say to him. There’s a void that the attack has left,” says the boy, who is currently a first year junior college student in Ritambhara College in Vile Parle.
At a very young age, Varun’s younger sister Shikha was made to relocate to Virar — the sibling’s maternal grandmother’s house. “We barely meet once a month now. I miss having Shikha around. Sometimes I feel I don’t know her any more,” Varun says.
On November 26, 2008, Shyam was returning from work when a bomb left behind by two terrorists, who hailed a cab from Badhwar Park in Cuffe Parade, exploded on the highway. Shyam sustained several injuries and eventually by March 2009, he was paralysed.
It was then that Baby, Shyam’s wife, decided to send Shikha away to her mother’s house in Virar. Shikha is now a class VIII student at the MGM School in Virar. She visits the house in Vile Parle only once a year during her summer vacations.