Eyes filled with tears, 18-year-old Tithi Upadhyay stood guard outside her chawl in a modest residential colony in Borivli (East) on Wednesday afternoon.
Her father, Devshankar Upadhyay, 48, is one of the nine passengers who was charred to death in the fire on the Mumbai-Dehradun Express.
The teenager was, however, determined not to cry. “My mother doesn’t know yet. I am not letting people inside our house. I don’t want her to know yet that my father is no more. If she sees me cry, she’ll know for sure,” Tithi said, choking on her tears.
Neighbours at Viththal Nagar surrounded the youngster as she spoke. As an elderly woman put a soothing hand on her shoulder, Tithi broke down, but she cried silently.
Upadhyay, a wholesaler of foodgrains who also ran a grocery store at Sukurwadi in Borivli (east), was on his way to Gujarat with an associate for work when the incident took place.
“It was a planned visit. He was supposed to return in two days,” said Dharmesh Oza, 46, a neighbour.
Around 4am, Upadhyay’s associate who was travelling with him, had called their common friends to tell them that Upadhyay was missing, Oza said.
The friends had dropped in at Upadhyay’s home, collected his son, Parth, 21, and gone to the spot. “We did not know whether he was dead or alive till 9.30am when we saw his name flash on a news channel among the list of dead passengers,” said Oza.
In the afternoon, all Upadhyay’s wife, Sharmila, 46, had been told was that her husband was injured in the mishap. Everyone was waiting for her family members to arrive before breaking the news to her. “I will take care of her,” Tithi said, speaking more to herself.
Chaos at crematorium
There was chaos at Ambawadi crematorium where Upadhyay’s body was taken around 6.30pm, as authorities refused to permit the cremation. “They told us his post-mortem report was not proper and that we should get a new one done on Thursday and need an NoC from the police,” said Dharmesh Oza, a neighbour.