In 1991, after Tarun Balpande finished his graduation he would assist his elder brother in running a medical store in Nagpur. In the house next to the store, stayed a girl named Rakhee. The sparks flew and soon the two started seeing each other.
After having a relationship of nine years, the couple decided to get married. Though Rakhee’s family was against the match initially, they gave a nod later. Tarun is the father of 13-year-old differently-abled Chaitanya Balpande who was brutally murdered by his mother Rakhee and her lover earlier this month.
“What attracted me towards her was her kind nature. She was an extrovert and intelligent. Just like me, she too loved bird watching,” says Balpande, who works with a private firm in Nagpur. In the second year of their marriage, the couple was blessed with their child Chaitanya. It was a premature delivery and Chaitanya was hospitalised for two months.
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“Chaitanya was my wife’s life. Since we stayed in a joint family, he was loved by everyone in the family,” recalls the father.
However, after a few years of marriage things started turning ugly for the family. “In 2007, I learnt about Rakhee’s affair with a man in Nagpur. I confronted her and we had a fight. However, I also made her understand and she accepted that she was wrong,” says Tarun.
Meanwhile, the bond between the son and the father kept growing. “He was more attached to me. Whenever I used to be out of station, he would keep calling me to check when I was back,” says Tarun, adding, despite his physical disability, Chaitanya was very good in cricket and preferred batting as he needed support to stand.
As days passed, the relationship between the couple deteriorated. Tarun claims that during small arguments, Rakhee would threaten to file a police complaint against him and family for torturing her. “She had filed three complaints against me and family – two in Nagpur and one in Pune. However, she withdrew them later,” he adds.
Finally, three years ago she filed for divorce and shifted to Pune. Though, initially, she demanded Rs 25 lakh alimony, a year ago her lawyer called up Tarun saying if he can pay her Rs 5 lakh they can opt for out-of-court settlement. “But I declined saying that I will follow regular procedure and court order,” he says.
The court granted Chaitanya’s custody to Rakhee and Tarun was given permission to meet his son every last Sunday of the month. “However, every time I would call her on Saturday to inform that I will visit Pune to meet Chaitanya, she would ask me not to come and give excuse like he is ill or she is taking him out and so on,” he says.
The last time Tarun met Chaitanya was in May last year. The couple and Chaitanya had met at Phoenix Mall in Pune and were accompanied by Tarun’s elder brother and sister and their spouses.
“Chaitanya kept saying that he wants to stay with me,” says Tarun. In the past three years, he had applied for the custody of his child thrice but each time was given a different date for hearing.
Tarun claims Rakhee rarely used to allow Chaitanya speak to him over phone. “Only once a month, she would allow Chaitanya to chat with me on WhatsApp. Perhaps. it was easier this way for her to check what we were talking. The last time they when they chatted three months ago, Chaitanya had said, “‘Mala tumche barobar rahaycha’ (I want to stay with you),” says the father.
Tarun says although he had made peace with the fact that the Rakhee he knew had changed, he had absolutely no clue that she was ill-treating her son. “Chaitanya could not say anything as he had no way to reach me. But Rakhee’s mother knew all this and she is equally responsible for my son’s murder. I never imagined that Rakhee would do this to Chaitanya. She should be tortured the way she tortured my son. She should be hanged,” says Tarun.
Tarun said he was not aware about his wife’s affair with Sumit More and learnt about it only after he read reports in the media after his son’s murder.
‘Why was I murdered?’
A Facebook page with the name of Tarun Balpande carries many photographs of his son with a caption ‘Justice for Chaitanya’. One of the captions reads ‘Why was I murdered?’