Fifteen years ago, when Barun Thakur and his wife Sushma moved to Shyam Kunj in Gurgaon and discovered that a branch of the reputed Ryan International School was in the vicinity, they thought they were in luck.Educated in private, Hindi-medium schools in Jamshedpur, the couple felt that by sending their children — a daughter and a son — to the institution, they were giving them opportunities they never had.
But today — less than seven days after their seven-year-old son Pradyuman was murdered inside the school — the couple are left wondering if a smaller school would have been better. “When you send your child to school, it is like a second home for him… You put a lot of faith in the institution. Nobody would have expected that to backfire this way,” said Thakur on Wednesday, standing outside his three-storey bungalow in Bhondsi, metres from a shivir set up for people to join the family in mourning.
Barun’s days are now spent beneath the canopy, sitting next to a picture of his son, as friends, relatives, neighbours, and dignitaries flock in and out, offering words of comfort in hushed tones, and patting his back consolingly. Most conversations, however, focus more on the case than the memory of the child, remembered by his family as someone who loved mangoes, cricket, and going to school.
Thakur was born in the steel city of Jamshedpur — the first of two sons of a government employee. He completed his schooling as well as college — procuring a degree in science — from private institutions in the city, before heading to Kolkata to pursue designing from a professional college. He first got a job in Badarpur, and 15 years ago, joined Orient Craft in Gurgaon, where he is now a quality manager.
Sushma also pursued her education from a private school and college in Jamshedpur, where her father worked with TISCO. She married Thakur in 2004 and the couple had two children in 2006 and 2010. When their daughter, Vidhi, reached school-going age, the couple’s main aim was to ensure the institution was close by, so that it is convenient for them and safe for their child.
“They had to chose between Delhi Public School and Ryan International, and went for the latter because they heard it was better,” said Tarun, Thakur’s younger brother. Having himself gone to school on foot or cycle all his life, Thakur was keen to ensure the commute was as effortless as possible for his children.
Although the boy initially went to school in a van, Tarun said his parents later decided to drop and pick the children up on their own. “They thought it was safe and the children would always be accounted for,” he said. Having gone to comparatively smaller schools where children were in a secure environment despite dearth of “things like CCTV cameras”, Thakur expected the school would have made necessary arrangements.
“We thought it is such a big institution, and has so many branches. We never imagined we should go and check what their arrangements are. A school by definition is expected to be safe for the child,” he said.