It was a usual Friday at the Bhambhani household. At 5.30 pm, a phone call came, which lawyer Harish Bhambhani answered and left his Matunga home with a smile shortly after, only to be found over 24 hours later in a Kandivali drain, dead. Days later, even as four men have been arrested, the family still does not understand why Harish, 67, was killed.
“We were aware of the Friday meeting. It had been planned at least four weeks ahead. We knew he was following a lead that would help Hema Upadhyay strengthen her case against her estranged husband. While leaving, he told his daughter he was going to meet a person who would give him some evidence,” said a family member.
The family said Harish was in the habit of sharing developments in his cases with them, and the Hema Upadhyay case was no different.
On Monday, the three-storey Bhambhani building in Matunga bid farewell to Harish Bhambhani. Harish was born there, played in its compound, and raised his children there. The residents of the building are now left with many unanswered questions. “It is going to be a week. And we still do not know why Harish was killed,” said the family member.
The family remembers Harish as “a dedicated lawyer”. He would frequently “go out of his way” to help a client, as he did Friday, choosing to accompany Hema to Kandivali. Harish had started his career practising criminal law, moving to civil courts after his marriage when he decided to spend more time with family. It was when he began to fight Hema’s divorce case four years ago that Harish began to concentrate on cases pertaining to family disputes. Over time, the client-lawyer relationship developed into a family bond, with Hema becoming a regular visitor at the Bhambhani building.
“Harish was close to all his clients. He and Hema shared an emotional relationship. The discussions in this case had intensified and we were kept in the loop with whatever came up,” said a close relative of the Bhambhanis.
Youngest of the four brothers, Harish has a younger sister too. He is survived by his wife and two daughters. One of them lives in Pune and he would regularly drive to the city to visit her.
Ramesh Bhambhani, one of his brothers, had retired from Air India. Another brother, Jagdish, was a businessman and his son Manoj is a vice-president with Jet Airways. “Harish, over the years, had fewer clients. He was very meticulous with his way of working and preferred to work alone. He always became very attached to his client. Hema used to come home for dinner at least twice a week and when she would return from an overseas visit she would bring gifts for the entire family,” said another family member. Harish was very technology savvy and enjoyed sending jokes from his phone. “He would sometimes watch Tom and Jerry in Sindhi,” a family member recalled.
“I remember Hema once telling me that Harish was a statesman in a courtroom. His oratory skills would impress the judges,” recalled the family member.
Post mid-night on December 11, when Harish did not return, his family frantically tried to catch him on his cellphone. His phone was not reachable. They tried calling Hema but her phone was ‘switched off’ too. Anxious and scared, the family then lodged a missing person’s complaint Saturday morning at the Matunga police station.
“On Sunday morning, we received a call to identify a body found in Kandivali. It was Harish’s. We were later told it was found wrapped in a plastic sheet, stuffed in a carton and dumped in a drain of Kandivali,” recalled a family member.
Before leaving his residence and getting into his car Friday evening, Harish was seen smoking a cigarette while attending a phone call. At the Bhambhani household, there was a recurring discussion about making him quit smoking. “We tried convincing him but he used to respond saying he only had a few more years left and wanted to enjoy his cigarettes. We simply gave in,” said the family member.