'I am going to sleep now’

2013-12-18 00:00

“I AM going to sleep now.”

These were the final words of Ashlee Reddy to the hundreds of people who had attended his wedding on Sunday afternoon.

Hours later Reddy and his bride Deepika were killed in a head-on collision while travelling along the notorious R61 on their way to the Peermont Mondazur Hotel and Spa, San Lameer.

The accident also claimed the life of Johannesburg teenager Ernest van Rensburg (15), who had been travelling in the other vehicle.

Yesterday, friends and family — some who had travelled from all parts of the country to attend the nuptials — watched in disbelief as the bodies of Ashlee and Deepika arrived in uMhlathuzana, Chatsworth, in two black Mercedes-Benz hearses.

Hundreds of mourners who had attended their wedding at the MTSS Hall in Merebank on Sunday evening, queued solemnly to pass the newlyweds’ open coffins to pay their final respects.

When the hearses arrived, a Hindu priest prayed over them while a young boy swung a flame — three times clockwise and three times anti-clockwise to symbolise a full circle. Light is central to Hindu religion. In the background, the sound of wailing women could be heard only to be broken by a man’s voice, “Our children have passed on. Let us pray for them. These are our babies.”

Ashlee’s cousin Naven Govender said the family has moved from what was meant to be “a week of celebration” to one of “utter sadness”.

Ashlee’s final words to his wedding guests as he drove his new wife Deepika on their honeymoon were, “I must sleep now”.

“We are entering a period of 16 days of mourning to mark the 16 steps to heaven.

“Ashlee was the centre of attention — even in death. He was spontaneous. We looked up to him. He was the first in the family to achieve a Masters degree,” said Naven.

On the 15th night and 16th morning from the accident, prayers will be offered to release the souls of Deepika and Ashlee. The couple were expected to return from their honeymoon today and stay in Durban this festive season.

To accommodate the already-present wedding guests, the double funeral was arranged within 24 hours.

Just on Monday, the celebratory lights that adorned Ashlee’s father’s house on 29th Avenue, uMhlatuzana — a father’s proud gesture to mark the wedding of his only son — were taken down and instead the garden and double garage were transformed into a place of mourning with white drapes, candles and assorted flowers.

Afterwards, grown men wept softly as the hearses waited to transport the coffins to their next destination — Deepika’s family home in Phoenix.

The couple met in Durban, through a mutual friend, four years ago.

Ashlee (30), who has left behind his parents and older sister, had a Masters degree in Microbiology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Growing up in Mariannhill, he attended Mariannhill Primary and Pinetown Boys’ High, excelling in academics and sport, including cricket and volleyball.

A staunch Manchester United supporter, like his dad, he met Deepika through a mutual friend.

From Phoenix, Deepika (27), who has two older brothers, attended Woodview Secondary School and studied Public Relations at Varsity College, Pietermaritzburg, and took a gap year to volunteer at a kindergarten in the Czech Republic. Her father is deceased.

She loved Audis, shopping and Bollywood movies but friends said the wedding had dominated her every recent conversation. The couple had moved to Midrand, Gauteng, two years ago and in April had bought a home and were in the process of furnishing it. Both of them spoke about starting a family.

Deepika’s eldest brother, Vikash Sirbadhoo, said his sister “spoke her mind” and often said she “was a Bollywood star”.

“She had passion for whatever she put her mind to. My mother has been deeply traumatised by what has happened. We only found out when a policeman on the accident scene found her phone and dialled my uncle at 2.30 am,” said Sirbadhoo.

Kesevan Moodley, who had driven Deepika every day to and from work for two years, said his “car rides to work will never be the same again”.

Their bodies were cremated yesterday evening and their ashes were released into the Sivananda Ghat, at the Clare Estate crematorium on the banks of the Umgeni River.

Funeral organiser and uMhlathuzana community leader Sagran Naidoo praised Port Shepstone SAPS warrant officer Leelan Govender for assisting the family to allow the funeral to happen so quickly.

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