Aakash Parab (19) required, as the KEM hospital’s Department of Psychiatry records show, the longest socio-psychological support, more so because he was laden with guilt of letting go of his younger brother Rohit’s hand in the stampede at Elphinstone Road on September 29 last year. A year has passed and Aakash has decided never to go buy flowers for Dusshera or visit the dreaded foot overbridge that connects Elphinstone Road, now renamed Prabhadevi, and Parel railway stations.
Dr Shubhangi Parkar, head of psychiatry department in KEM hospital, says Aakash presented the most difficult case in the aftermath of stampede. “He would keep to himself. His parents did not talk about their younger son’s death and he did not discuss it either. When I finally decided to break the news to him, he told me he already knew his brother was no more,” Parkar says.
Parab remained admitted in KEM hospital for 18 days with a fractured thigh. Every day a counsellor would spend time with him and his parents separately.
“We kept in touch even after his discharge. Acceptance of death was important, it was also important for the family to talk about their loss and move on together,” the psychiatrist says.
In June this year, Aakash finally began attending his final-year BCom classes at Ramanand Arya Dayanand Anglo Vedic College.
“Life will never be the same, but we move on,” he says.
“My uncle came and told me 15 days after the stampede that Rohit had died. But I never brought the subject up with my parents. I knew they were tense, and they knew I would not be able to take it,” he says.
He wants to pursue an MBA in finance. Until a few months ago, Aakash was desperately trying to join the railways. He wrote letters to the Central and Western Railway, approached officers and got the same response. “They said they can’t offer injured or relative of a victim a job, they can give only compensation.”
The Parabs received Rs 5 lakh as compensation for Rohit’s death and another Rs 1 lakh for Aakash’s injury from the Railway Tribunal.
Last year on September 29, the two Vikhroli-based brothers had gone to Parel early morning to buy flowers. Their parents planned to sell the flowers for Dusshera. Rohit, a class 3 student, had missed school.
Aakash had held a polythene bag of flowers worth Rs 2,000 in one hand and Rohit’s hand in other. Rohit’s orange t-shirt was the last thing he had seen when the stampede began and he lost hold of the young boy. He regained consciousness in KEM hospital’s emergency ward and called his parents. Rohit had died on the spot to due to a cardiac attack, his body full of minor bruises.
Aakash sustained a fracture in the femur bone and right leg. The entire day he kept asking for Rohit, and his parents avoided the conversation. Eventually, he says, he realised his brother did not survive.
Days after his discharge the Mumbai University gave special permission to Aakash to take his exams from home. This year in June, he started attending classes.
The 19-year-old often feels pain in the right leg. “He does not have strength left in it,” mother Ankita Parab says. Aakash has stopped running, or taking crowded trains to Bhandup for college.
“It took us months to come to terms with the loss of our son. We are trying to move on. Festivals will never be the same,” says Ankita, who manages their small shop in Vikhroli with husband Ankuj Parab.