Mumbai, Aug. 13: Hetal Parekh’s parents have surrounded themselves with a wall of silence.
Their flat at Jamuna Mahal, an apartment block in Santa Cruz East where Nagardas Parekh and his wife have lived for 13 years since Hetal’s death, has been off limits for visitors from soon after the verdict. But to avoid the world’s eyes and the media glare, the elderly couple have now fled to an undisclosed destination.
“We don’t know where they have gone,” says Pushpa Chauhan, a neighbour who knew them well. “Perhaps they have gone to Chardham (a pilgrimage route) in Gujarat, or perhaps they are roaming all over the country to get some mental peace.”
“We know they have left for Gujarat,” adds Raman Parekh, another neighbour with whom they were on cordial terms. “But we don’t know where they are.”
They say the Parekhs had lived anonymously all these years till the media splashed the Dhananjoy Chatterjee hanging verdict. “The media descended on the building,” says Raman. “Since we closed the gates, they went into the next house and took photographs of the Parekhs’ flat. It traumatised them. They did not want to talk to anyone.”
Hetal’s brother Bhavesh, who lived with his parents with his wife and two children, also left town three or four days ago.
Pushpa says the Parekhs had a tough time adjusting to life in Mumbai. “We know they had a big business in Calcutta and lived in a plush apartment. But here they had to get used to this middle-class locality (the residents of the apartment are predominantly Gujaratis like the Parekhs) and even had to send their son to work in an office.
“Nagardas Parekh has become infirm. He has a problem walking. Hetal’s mother barely ever went out. She hardly spoke to people. Sometimes it would seem she had lost her mental balance.”
The neighbours and the watchman claim there were problems other than the media invasion that led to the security measures.
“We started to have all sorts of visitors asking for the Parekhs after the verdict. One day around 12 noon, a Maruti van turned up with four men,” says the watchman. “They wanted to see the Parekhs. They were carrying arms and were using threatening language. It seems they were speaking in Bengali.
“We felt they had come here from Dhananjoy’s side. There was a confrontation between the guards and these men and finally we could turn them away.”
They did not go to the police. But after that the society declared no visitor was to be allowed to the Parekhs’ flat and there was a change of security guards for the building, says Raman.