• Ajinkya Satish Dharane

Dear Baba...

Where do I start? What would be the perfect word, the perfect sentence, that phrase which fits, to start writing this letter? I can’t seem to find an answer.

Just like I can’t seem to find an answer to so many questions right now? Why did you leave us? Why so suddenly?

For the last 31 years, when I was lost like this, it was you, baba, who gave me answers. Now who do I ask these questions?

Whenever something good or bad happened, you were my first call. Whenever I was ecstatic, you gently brought me to reality and calm. When sadness filled my heart, you rushed to my rescue and cheered me up. When I was trembling due to fear, you gave me confidence to fight on.

Now that you are gone, there is a dark hole in my heart. To fill this hole, all my instincts are asking to call you, talk to you, hug you. How do I do that?

Again a question without an answer.

With time the pain may reduce, but the void will always be there.

Instead of focusing on the void that has been created, I am going to focus on the countless memories you left behind. As Adwait and Mom, who is stronger than a century old oak tree, said - “Moving forward, we are only going to celebrate your life.”

I celebrate that because of you, I will always put my family first. You went through hell and heaven in your professional life. You flew high and you also climbed out of a muddy trench. But through all ups and downs, you kept your family on number one priority. You protected us from ever getting wounded. I promise you to keep our family on top of my priority till my last breath.

I celebrate that I treat my wife my equal, because you treated Mom equal all your life. Even after driving for 8 hours to reach home, it was you who made tea as soon as you reached home. It was you who cooked tasty meals for Mom and us, not to just feed us, but to spend quality family time together. You made coffee for us after dinners just to keep our chats going. Whenever I travelled to India and reached Pune at odd times at night, it was you who fed me your special poha. You supported Mom to lead the life she wants. You did the same for me and Adwait.

I celebrate that I, Adwait and Mom were fortunate to work with you on different occasions. I worked for a year with you after my graduation. Adwait was fortunate to work with you throughout the pandemic. Then for the last few months, you worked with Mom in her business. We three were fortunate to learn work ethics from you. Even though you were running a successful business, the attitude of being involved in all tasks hands on is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

I celebrate that because of you, I love travelling. You called yourself, bhatkya-jamaticha (Literal meaning - Gypsies). You travelled all over India. Sometimes you travelled in premium first class in planes and sometimes you travelled in state transport buses. While growing up, you were out of the house about four days a week. But with your constant calls and later text messages, you kept us close. Fortunately, I get to travel a lot for my work. And I love doing it, because you loved it. I remember our first trip as a father and teenage son together. It was a week-long trip north-eastern Maharashtra. Just at 17 years old, just having finished my high school, you took me to all your meetings, like I was an adult. You installed a life-long confidence in my mind that I carry to all my meetings today.

I celebrate that because of you, I love cars. I remember when I was about 10 years old and we had our first road trip as father-son. Just the both of us. Driving on newly constructed highway NH4, from Satara to Pune. The car was a Maruti Omni. I can’t remember whether you bought it or borrowed it from a friend. But I remember it was white. Yes! You and your white cars. In your life of 61 years, your career of about 35 years, you bought about 15 cars. Most of them were white in colour. Every time you bought a new car, my love for cars exponentially increased. I eventually pursued a career in the auto industry.

I celebrate the fact that I love pav-bhaji. I love it so much, sometimes I wonder, who wouldn’t? We spent about 7-8 years in Satara away from our extended family in Pune. Every weekend, you and mom used to take me & Adwait to Pune to spend with my family. Come Sunday, I used to throw tantrums about going back to Satara. Then you found a trick. You introduced me to the stall near the bus station in Satara - Kabadi Pav Bhaji & Juice. There I was hooked and how. I still eat pav-bhaji twice a week.

I celebrate the fact that I love vacations. Every year, we used to visit Mapro Garden in Mahabaleshwar, Konkan or Goa. Even though you travelled 80% of the time for your work, you travelled again to show us a good time. The love for vacation you instilled in me will remain forever as I try to continue the tradition with Achal & Myra.

I celebrate the fact that because of you, I love entertaining people, especially family. Almost every weekend, we had huge family gatherings, chats, parties and of course dinner prepared by you. Your famous misal-pav, bhel, ukad-handi, I will celebrate every dish forever. In this anti-social and technology driven world, I will hope to keep this tradition alive.

I celebrate the fact that because of you, I know how to break barriers. You owned a business for all your life. When one opportunity closed or when current work became stagnant, you looked for new opportunities. You never confined yourself to a comfort zone. You kept challenging yourself all your life. You constantly challenged me in achieving my goals. I remember you giving me a challenge in my last year of college. Bring me a first class and I will surprise you with a gift. And what a gift it was.

I celebrate that you were always my friend first. I was just 17 years old when I was dating Achal. The day I started dating her, I wanted to share the news with you. But I did not know how. You took me to a cafe, I think it was a Barrista, which was way expensive coffee 14 years ago. I could not tell you throughout our time in Barrista. But while riding back I told you about Achal and you just accepted and made fun of me like we were best friends, which we always were.

I celebrate that you always included everyone in even small celebrations. In Barrista, where I told you about Achal, we had a fancy coffee. You ordered a sandwich to take home for Adwait. We were celebrating a small meal. But you wanted to include Adwait in this celebration. I promise to keep this ethic with me forever.

The spectrum of your life is longer than Maharashtra’s coastline. There are not enough words my mind can generate to describe it all. You lived your life at both ends of the spectrum. I can safely assume that you have no regrets.

You kept all your promises to us. Today I promise you to keep those promises for you. I promise to pick up the baton of light you brought home everyday and carry it till my last breath.

Goodbye Baba. I love you! We all love you

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