Hiraman Bachkar, a 42-year-old resident of Nashik, had seen his father for the last time 16 years ago. Missing ever since, but unknown to his family, Prahlad Bachkar lived on a road only 20 km from his home. On January 21, Hiraman finally saw Prahlad, but only his body.
In a coincidence that he attributes to the hand of god, Hiraman said he was planning to conduct his father’s last rites when he received a call from a police constable, who said that a body had been found and it could be his father’s.
Prahlad, who would have turned 65 this year, left home in 1986 after a quarrel with his wife over his drinking habit that had forced him to sell his brick manufacturing and welding businesses. But with the family not lodging a missing person’s case with the police, and accepting his disappearance over the years, Hiraman said he could have never imagined that his father lived so close by.
On January 21, passersby alerted the Nasik Police control room about a body lying in the open at Laxman Nagar. Constables Arun Gaikwad and Anandya Chowdhary of Pachavati police reached the spot. “We found two documents in the man’s pockets. One was the discharge receipt of the Nasik civil hospital, which had his name written on it, and the other had a phone number,” said Gaikwad.
When the policemen called on the phone number, the person who replied put them in touch with Prahlad’s relatives, through whom they eventually found the son.
Hiraman said the police sent him a picture of the body. “I could not recognise him but after my mother confirmed that he was my father, we went to the civil hospital and brought his body home,” he added.
Before he identified the body, Hiraman’s last clear memory of his father was from that night in 1986, when he was eight years old. “Baba came home at night. He was drunk and after a heated argument with my mother, picked up a bag and left.”
Constable Chaudhary said Prahlad had died due to pneumonia. He had survived all these years by begging and sometimes working as a daily wager. “He lived the life of a wanderer.”
Prahlad’s wife Suman spoke about how well her husband’s brick making business had been doing in Satpur village where they lived before he took to alcohol. “He even started a welding business with a friend, but eventually everything had to be sold because of his addiction,” she said.
Suman recalled that the family owned 20 houses and a large plot of land in Satpur, but one day she learnt from a neighbour that they had bought their home. She then came to know that Prahlad had sold the land as well. The family then shifted to Ozar, a village 20 km away from Nasik, where Suman’s parents also lived.
“He had stopped working, as he would always be drunk. I would see my son and two daughters starve… I started selling vegetables at Ozar market to feed them. While we ate lunch, I would always think whether I would be able to put food in their mouths at night. Even then, my husband would come home, snatch the money I earned to buy alcohol,” she said.
Suman said she looked for him when he did not return, but was focused more on working so that she could feed her son and two daughters.
Prahlad did return once in 2004, stayed home for a few days before his abrupt departure once again. For one week, Hiraman searched for him in Nasik.
Asked why he did not approach the police, Hiraman said, “My father left on his own so I thought that police would not accept a complaint.”
This year, believing him to be dead, Hiraman and Suman were planning to conduct his last rites at Trimbakeshwar temple. “It is my duty as a son to ensure that his soul rests in peace,” Hiraman said. “I barely got to see him in his lifetime, but at least I gave him a proper funeral… God wanted me to bid a final goodbye to my father.”
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