Dr Kashinath Ghanekar and Dr Kaka to me

There’s a family folklore here – a time when I wasn’t even born - apparently my eldest sister Sadhana was a baby and was fast asleep when Dr Kaka, as I fondly called him, was visiting our home. She was lying on the diwan and my parents and Dr. Kaka and his wife Irrawati kaki were comfortable settled around the sofa set. The baby suddenly stirred and my mother went to hush and turned her on the other side. Dr Kaka who was more than a couple of drinks down, got emotionally volatile and accused my mother of turning the baby’s face from him – to apparently save the little one from the “boori nazar” as they were a childless couple. My horrified mother, couldn’t not utter a single word in her defense and it was only after my father had assured Dr. Kaka that he would have full rights as a Godfather, that he calmed down!

In the years that followed and even after I was born which was a good six years after this particular incident, Dr. Kaka always introduced my eldest sister as his daughter whenever we met him at social dos and other events. Whenever he come home he would always be partial to her, giving her more attention and gift than me. Once I remember when my sister liked a golden pen in his pocket, he simply plucked it and gave it to her! My father tried it give it back later, since it was an expensive Sheffar, but he wouldn’t hear of it! Often as a child I wondered why Dr. Kaka’s daughter was living with us!

I was always fascinated by him. He had a wonderful sense of humor and I think I must have been introduced to all the shivya (bad words) in Marathi by him. When he was with us – we were his family too – so it was natural to have him as he was! Jokes, bad words, back stage politics, oh how I was privy to all, simply because I was the youngest – so everybody thought I was too young to understand!

I always knew when he was visiting or even if I had missed his visit. Like a small puppy dog I would look into every room till I found him! And if I didn’t I would throw a tantrum on why he had gone without meeting me! I knew because of his lovely perfumes! He always wore expensive attars and they filled our home like his vivacity.

His hazel brown eyes that laughed almost all the time, he spoke with his eyes. He delivered long monologues and the way he mimicked his co stars!  It was an unbelievable comic saga!  

Time wore on. Although highly successful as a cine star as well as in theatre, Dr. Kaka went through his own troubled life – a divorce and a marriage to the much younger Kanchan who was actor Sulochana’s daughter. I don’t remember her much and Dr. Kaka stayed away a lot. We had shifted to Pune by then but he would never miss an opportunity to visit us, particularly if he had a show in Pune or was on his way to Sangli or Kolhapur. Somehow those times, even as a teenager I felt, were quite strained – the old magic was gone and he never brought his new wife to socialize with us.

I clearly remember his last visit. It was more than six months after my father had passed away. He was passing through Pune on his way to a tour in the rural parts of Maharashtra. He came at a very odd time – suddenly in the middle of the day. I had just come back from college; it was just me and my mom. He was unduly quiet – my mom kept asking, “Aaho doctor? Kai zale?” and he just shrugged off her concern with a simple, “Kahi nahi ga vahini, zaraa bare nahi watat,” “Aaho mug aaram karta ka? Udya sakali nigha,”

“Aga naahi ga, prayog housefull ahe, show cancel nahi kartaa yenaar,” Then he just asked for his favorite dish, shikran-poli from my mom, ate and left. That was the last time his fingers ruffled my short hair lovingly.

Two days later we heard on tv that he had had a massive attack and was no more.

I was devastated and heartbroken. Even today the very thought of that news can move me to tears – for it was like losing my father all over again.