Helen Keller once said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
No one better than Dadarao Bilhore can personify the ethos of this saying. While most people mourn the death of a loved one by shedding tears, very few find solace by saving lives.
Mumbai based Bilhore, who lost his son in a road accident last year, found a unique way of paying a tribute to his teenage son. Ever since the fatal accident that happened in July 2015, Bilhore has taken it upon himself to fill small potholes when he spots them. Bilhore’s story appeared on front page of Mumbai Mirror making it at once the story of the city.
With memories of the incident still fresh in his head, Bilhore fights back tears, as he talks about his beloved son, Prakash, who was only 16 at the time. “My son was intelligent and extremely hardworking. He did us proud by becoming the first one in the family to have studied in an English medium school.”
Bilhore, who can’t stop gushing about his son, remembers the unfortunate day, which brought their lives to a standstill. Prakash and his cousin Ram were on a bike, returning home after submitting forms at a college in Bhandup. Minutes away from their house in Marol, they hit a massive pothole and Prakash suffered extensive injuries which proved to be fatal. “I was heartbroken and shattered. But, I realised that I had to many people who depended on me emotionally. I lied to my wife and relatives that Prakash was in the ICU, even after he died,” said Bilhore, with a choked voice.
After the tragic incident, Bilhore realised that the problem was much bigger than it appeared to be. Soon after the accident, two other subsequent incidents forced Bilhore to take matters into his hands. In the first case, a girl and her mother riding a two wheeler in Ambernath met with an accident, because of a pothole. To worsen matters, the police accused the girl of killing her mother. A few weeks later, a Bandra couple too became the targets of pothole ridden roads, which left the wife in a coma, before she passed away. “After learning about these two cases, the one thing I noticed was that authorities took action only after someone died. I realised that if I made an effort to fix the problem, people would give ‘duas’ to my son,” said Bilhore, adding that he first filled a pothole at Marol Maroshi road in December 2015. All Bilhore does when he spots a small pothole is fill it up with some sand and stones and level it out, which can cover the pothole for 10 days straight.
Fondly remembering his son, Bilhore said that Prakash was always willing to help, no matter what. He would help his mother with household chores and would show immense enthusiasm in celebrating birthdays of family members. “I run a groceries store in Marol and Prakash once came to help around during his holidays. He was so concerned about the safety of the shop, he installed a CCTV camera, which he bought from a wholesaler, to save me some money. Now, this very camera reminds me of him,” said Bilhore, unable to hold back tears.
As a joint family, they all had some wonderful times together. They would all go out for picnics or movies on a Sunday, with Prakash being the most excited. “All that joy has reduced now. Everyday when I return home from work, I see all the children at home, but Prakash. We tell each other to stay strong, but can’t help our sorrows,” said Bilhore, feeling helpless.
More than 10,000 people had gathered for Prakash’s final rites. Such was Prakash’s persona, his friends assembled at his residence, crying and refusing to eat. All Bilhore could tell them was to move on, with Prakash in their hearts. “It was raining profusely that day and here, we were all teary eyed. It’s like God realised that he had done a mistake by taking Prakash from us,” said Bilhore. Prakash always dreamt of taking his parents around the world; a dream which died prematurely.
Such was Prakash as a friend, his companions still drop by his house to visit his parents. “He was willing to do anything for us. He was the best person to seek advice from,” said Raj Kamble, who met Prakash when they were in the fifth grade. Kamble remembers how Prakash helped their friend, who was being troubled by a man. Instead of confronting him, Prakash politely asked him to stop troubling her. “Close on the heels of Prakash’s death, came the occasion of Friendship’s day. With heavy hearts, we went to Marine Drive, our favourite hang out and lit candles in his memory,” said Kamble, adding that not a day goes by when they don’t miss Prakash.
Nearly a year after the incident that snatched his son away, Bilhore is no where close to finding justice. He has made several rounds of the police station, but all in vain. An FIR was filed against some BMC officials and the contractor for wrongdoing, but they are all out on bail. Stressing on the fact that he will not stop till he does not get the due compensation, Bilhore says, “This battle is for my son and all those who have lost their dear ones, because of potholes. Soon, others too will realise and demand compensation. This will also compel authorities to take prompt and timely action.”
Bilhore intends to set up a small trust in Prakash’s name, once he receives the compensation money. He desires to help the deprived in the backward areas, since that is what Prakash wanted; to help everyone, because he couldn’t see them in sorrow. However, until then, all Bilhore can do is fill the next pothole he spots, in the hope that he will be able to save a life. Afterall, he knows, wherever Prakash may be, he will be happy and proud to see his father’s relentless efforts.