A frame from the CCTV footage
Puja Singh’s 13-year career as a private tutor is littered with instances of parents cutting short her assignments because they disapproved of her methods of “disciplining” their children.
Images captured by a CCTV camera of Puja, 35, slapping, kicking and slamming down a slip of a boy on a mattress inside a locked room of a Lake Town flat last Tuesday reinforced the persona of an ill-tempered woman whose stints seldom lasted beyond a few months.
A mother in Lake Town who had hired Puja to tutor her son said on Thursday that she was relieved at seeing the danger signs early. “After watching how Puja assaulted that three-year-old boy, I realised what a wise decision it was not to allow her to bolt the door of the room where she would teach my five-year-old son.”
Most of Puja’s assignments were in Lake Town and Bangur Avenue, off VIP Road, and her students ranged from primary to middle-school boys and girls from reputable south Calcutta institutions. “She would be paid between Rs 1,800 and Rs 2,200 a month for each child,” a fellow private tutor said.
Puja had been tutoring around 12 students until the CCTV footage of her assaulting one of them prompted her to abscond.
“Even in my presence Puja would become furious and shout at my daughter at the top of her voice,” recounted Niharika Pachisia, who lives in Block A of Lake Town.
She had hired Puja to tutor her six-year-old daughter in 2012 and never left the two unsupervised.
“My daughter appeared reluctant to be with Puja within a few days of her first tuition. I cajoled her into telling me why she was unwilling. She told me that Puja would pinch her when she failed to finish her homework. Since that episode, I never left my daughter unsupervised in Puja’s company,” said Niharika, who replaced her with another tutor after a few months.
Puja used to also take tuitions at her home in Jyangra, where she had nobody to stop her from being rough with her students. Dipak Sharma, a resident of Bangur, withdrew his son within four days of his first tuition session in Puja’s home.
“He told me that his teacher would beat him,” said Dipak, a friend of the father of the boy assaulted by Puja on Tuesday afternoon.
Puja, absconding since the parents of the child lodged a complaint at Lake Town police station on Wednesday morning, was last spotted leaving Jyangra, off Baguiati, early on Wednesday.
Her husband Rohit Singh was with her, witnesses said.
“The two of them recharged their mobile phone accounts at a shop in the locality and left in a rickshaw. Nobody has seen her since,” said a shopkeeper in front of Puja’s rented house on B.C. Roy Sarani, Jyangra.
The house where Puja stays with her husband, daughter and father-in-law has been locked since Wednesday.
The landlord of the ground-floor house alleged that Puja would beat up her six-year-old daughter too. “It was mostly when the daughter wouldn’t study,” said the landlord, who did not wish to be identified.
The beatings would have been mild compared with the images captured by a CCTV camera on Tuesday.
The footage shows Puja holding her three-year-old student upside down, hurling him on a mattress and pummelling him in between rummaging through the closets in the room.
At one point, she is seen wrapping her right arm around the boy’s neck, lifting him and slamming him down on the mattress.
She next sits on the bed, adjusts her dupatta, gets up again and appears to try to gag the boy. A bout of slapping follows and then a couple of kicks on the boy’s chest.
The boy’s mother was alerted by his cries but couldn’t enter the room because Puja had locked the door from inside. She then switched on the CCTV monitor in the other room , witnessing live the horror of her son being tortured by his newly appointed tutor.
The child, who recently started going to a south Calcutta school, was traumatised even 48 hours after the incident.