|Mother Tapati Manna woke up on Sunday morning to realise that Utsab (above) was missing. Pictures by Amit Datta
A student appearing for his school-leaving examinations went missing on Sunday and was found on Monday under alarming circumstances.
Barely 24 hours after he disappeared from his Rajendra Banerjee Road residence in Behala, 16-year-old Utsab Manna was found naked and loitering off VIP Road by a taxi driver.
His body bore cuts and bruises and was caked in grime.
The ICSE candidate from MP Birla Foundation School was taken home, examined by his family physician and referred to a psychiatrist.
Utsab was then administered sedatives and sent to sleep.
'We will speak to him after he has suitably recovered and will then inquire about where he had been and what he had gone through since Sunday morning,' said S.N. Gupta, superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas.
Utsab was last seen at home on Saturday night, when he retired to his room after dinner. The next morning, his mother Tapati found the door to his room ajar.
Utsab was nowhere to be found. His father, Mukul Manna, filed a 'missing persons diary'.
Early on Monday, cabbie Dinesh Prasad was driving towards the airport when he spotted the teenager.
Around 8 am, Prasad's taxi made its way into the narrow Behala lane in front of the Manna home. As a small crowd gathered to find out who had arrived, Prasad helped Utsab out of the taxi.
Caked in dust and clad in ill-fitting clothes that Prasad had managed from residents off VIP Road, he was unrecognisable. Only when Prasad led Utsab to the Manna's ground-floor apartment did his relatives realise who he was.
Faced with a barrage of questions, Utsab appeared frightened and incoherent.
Prasad, meanwhile, narrated his story: 'At first, I was confused. Though the boy was roaming aimlessly like a maniac, his well-built frame and his innocent face told a different story. Then, I realised he was speaking in English'
Prasad took Utsab to his taxi, put him in and arranged some clothes for him. Utsab told Prasad his name, his father's name and mentioned that he lived in Behala.
Once the taxi reached Behala tram depot, Utsab directed Prasad to his house.
With police playing no role in the return of Utsab, the mysterious circumstances under which he went missing and the disturbing circumstances under which he returned can only be explained once the teenager talks about what appears to have been an ordeal.
For the moment, the points for police to ponder are:
• How did Utsab leave his Behala apartment without alerting any of his family members'
• Was Utsab under undue pressure in the run-up to the examination'
nWhere was Utsab till he was found'
• How did he suffer the injuries that left him bruised and bleeding'
• Why was his body caked in dirt'
• What happened to his clothes'
• How did he land up near Dum Dum'
Though the needle of suspicion as far as police are concerned swings to Utsab having fled home because he was afraid of faring badly in the ICSE 2005, his neighbours on Monday dismissed the theory.
According to next-door neighbour Dibyendu Ghosh, the boy was 'very studious' and spent all his time buried in his books or in front of his computer. 'He was essentially an introvert, and did not mix with others in his age-group,' pointed out Ghosh.
'Utsab's results were always good. Perhaps he was tense about the examination. We sympathise with him and will recommend him to our counsellor when he resumes school,' said school principal H. George.