An uneasy silence enveloped the Singhs’ three-storeyed residence in PN Mitra Lane as Saturday evening rolled into the night. Four-year-old Subham, the eldest child of the family, was missing since the afternoon.
Unable to bear the tension any more, the boy’s mother, Sova Devi, headed for the Hanuman temple in a corner of the sprawling courtyard, where Subham was last seen with his private tutor Manoj Prasad. She lit a lamp in front of the deity and started praying for her son’s return, seemingly unmoved by the frenzied activity outside.
Only at the break of dawn did a family member manage to persuade Sova Devi to leave the temple. She was accompanied to a room on the first floor of the house, where she lost consciousness immediately.
“The temple was built just a few years ago. But since then, the family members hardly did a thing without offering prayers to Lord Hanuman. When Subham could not be found, Sova naturally sought divine intervention. She prayed all night, hoping that her son would return by the morning,” said neighbour Biva Raha.
As news of Subham’s death reached the house on Sunday, Sova’s faith gave way to grief. Her Lord had let her down and her prayers had gone in vain.
The family members gathered around the temple, struggling to come to terms with the blow. Evening came, but nobody remembered to light the lamp in front of the deity.
At Kantapukur morgue, Subham’s father Rajesh struggled to keep his emotions in check while waiting for the body. “Please spare me today. Aaj main kuchh bata nahin paunga (I won’t be able to say anything today),” he said.
His brother Rakesh wondered aloud where they had gone wrong.
“The tutor was with us when we went around looking for Subham this morning. We still can’t believe that he could do this to us. Manoj was almost a family member. Bhagwan janey ye sab kaise hua (God knows how this happened).”
Across the locality, neighbours gathered in groups, discussing the tragedy that had befallen the god-fearing family.
“A month ago, they had held a huge puja in their Hanuman temple. Almost everyone in the neighbourhood was invited. We remember the puja distinctly as there was theft at the local Sitala mandir on the same day. Subham’s grandfather Lakh Deo Singh and the other family members used to offer puja at the Hanuman temple every morning,” said Sanjit Mukherjee, a local youth.