Sitting outside the local court in Khalapur on Monday morning, 55-year-old Dilip Dhanavade was a broken man. A handkerchief tied over his nose and mouth, he was, however, unable to mask his fear over his son’s future. Dhanavade’s 23-year-old son Pradeep, who was a taxi driver for app-based cab services for the past three years, has ended up in police lock-up along with two journalists booked for trespassing on Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s farmhouse in Khalapur.
A resident of Mumbai’s Mahul, an area notorious for its poor air quality and pollution, Dilip works as a plumber. He has not broken the news of his son’s arrest on September 9 to his wife, who suffers from high blood pressure and hypertension.
“All my life I kept a watchful eye on my son so that he doesn’t fall into bad company. That can happen easily in the place we live. But he never went astray. He is a hard working boy. He was working as a delivery boy for a grocery chain before he bought this taxi on a loan. He has no bad habits. It’s only his luck that was bad,” said the father, unable to hold back tears.
Two of his relatives accompanied him to Khalapur, a distance that Dilip had never travelled before. He held on tightly to two cloth bags, one carrying his identity documents and the other a water bottle.
Hours before Pradeep was released on bail, his father sat on the road facing the court worrying about if his son will ever be issued a passport, whether people in the neighbourhood would mock him, and how he would pay off car loan.
“The loan recovery agents came to our house yesterday. What was I going to tell them? My son told me he will not get married until he pays off the car loan. His two sisters are already married,” Dilip said.
Dilip, who still works plumbing jobs, recalled his own childhood while he worried about his son’s future. “I grew up begging at the Santacruz railway station. Then I learnt to paint and took up painting jobs and then learnt plumbing work. I met my Bengali wife when I was young and ours was a love marriage. I don’t have a gaon (village), so her house in Kolkata is the only gaon I know. Otherwise, our world starts and ends between Kurla, Kalina and Santacruz,” he said, adding that they were relocated to a flat in Mahul after their slum was razed.
Senior criminal lawyer, who argued the bail applications of the three accused in the case on Monday, said he started his arguments with Pradeep, who, he said, was only driving the two journalists accused of trespassing on the CM’s bungalow.
Dilip said he had been a loyal Shiv Sena voter all his life, but this was no time for him to feel betrayed. “I just want my son to be alright,” he said. Pradeep was released from jail on Monday evening.
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