Reetik Chhabra (left) and Rohan Chhabra (right). (Express Photo)
For Raj Kumar, a hospital attendant in PGIMER, Chandigarh, a day of celebrations and new beginnings ended in a tragedy and loss that can never be filled. Raj and his wife lost their two sons, Reetik Chhabra, who had turned 23, and his younger brother Rohan, 22, in a car crash in Brampton, Canada, on the night of February 8. It was his older son Reetik’s birthday, and the family had cut a cake together earlier in the evening with their son on a video call at their home on the PGI campus, with the boys discussing their plans for the evening ahead, hours before the accident.
In June last year, Raj travelled to Canada for the convocation ceremony of Rohan and to also see where his sons lived, worked, and their future country. He came back happy and satisfied that Reetik and Rohan were working hard to make a new life.
Both Reetik and Rohan were former students of Chitkara International School, Chandigarh, and Reetik moved to Canada about four years ago after his Plus Two from St. Peter’s School (medical stream), and was on a study visa, and was doing part-time jobs, along with his college. While their father was not very keen to send Rohan, the younger son to Canada, Rohan joined his brother in Toronto about two years and a half ago.
“Reetik was going to get his PR in about seven months, and was all set to start his own business, something in the medical field, and was supporting Rohan, and also Gaurav, a dear friend of Rohan from Pune, who was also staying with them in Canada. Gaurav was the only child of his parents, who had sold everything, including a small piece of their land, to send him there and they all dreamed of giving their families a better life after they had achieved their dreams,” said 26-year-old Varun, their cousin, who has lived with the family for many years, and considers himself as the oldest brother. Rohan had got married in November. His young bride was counting the days remaining to join her husband in Canada and build a new life there and had spoken to Rohan on a video call a few hours before his death. Shocked and lost at this unbelievable turn of events, the young woman is running from pillar to post to get an emergency visa to Canada, so that she can hug and see her husband for one last time.
Varun was busy the entire day with work, and could not join the family for the cake cutting and video chat that evening. It was about 1.30 am that he had sent a text message to Reetik, wishing him a happy birthday and sending him love and blessings.
“He never read that message, for he was already gone. I keep going back to the evening, wishing I had spoken to them, and if they had told me they would be going out partying, I would have dissuaded them. Maybe it would have never happened. Now they are gone, and all that will come back to us are their remains. My uncle and auntie have gone to Canada for their cremation, for it was not possible to get their bodies home. We have collected funds, around Rs 30 lakh, to get the body of Gaurav to his parents in Pune, as they don’t have the means, or a passport,” said Varun.
As per Varun, the police investigations and the post-mortem reports say that Reetik was driving the car at night, with Rohan in the front and Gaurav in the back seat, and they were probably racing with someone when Reetik lost control of the car and hit a divider and pole. There was heavy fog, and the impact was so great that except for two seats and a tyre, nothing was left of the car, with the police taking out the bodies with great difficulty.
“They had dinner about 12.30 and were supposed to go to another cousin Himanshu’s home a few kilometers away for another celebration. They were 2 kms away from Himanshu’s house when the accident happened, and he was the first person to be contacted by the police, who have arrested a person in this connection. While Reetik and Gaurav died on the spot, Rohan died a few minutes later due to a heart attack. The crash was too big and there was nothing left of them,” said Varun.