“IT is nobody’s fault. It is our decision,” they wrote in Odia on the suicide note. Minutes later, the parents of seven-year-old Avinash Rout jumped to death from the terrace of a four-storey building in South Delhi where they were staying on rent, police said.
Just hours earlier, on the night of September 8, Laxmichandra and Babita had buried Avinash after he succumbed to dengue in a Delhi Hospital. The end came after a traumatic 24 hours when the parents failed to get a bed for their son in two of Delhi’s top hospitals before rushing him to Batra Hospital, said police and the family’s neighbours.
By then, they added, it was too late for the family from Kendrapara in Odisha — after a night in hospital, doctors declared Avinash dead at around 1 pm. Police said the heartbroken parents performed the last rites of their son at Chhattarpur that night. Then, at around 2.30 am, neighbours found the bodies of Laxmichandra and Babita inside the compound of a government school nearby, their hands tied together.
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On Friday, The Indian Express reached the couple’s rented accommodation at Building No. M212 in Lado Sarai and found their neighbours still reeling from the events of those 24 hours.
Outside the two-room house in which the family stayed, a yellow cycle that belonged to Avinash — or Bittu as he was called at home — was propped up against the wall.
“Babita’s left hand and Laxmichandra’s right hand were tied together with a dupatta. Babita was wearing her nightdress, just as she was when we last saw her about an hour before,” said Kavita Sejwal, their landlord.
She added that Laxmichandra was an employee of a private firm that provided services to Pizza Hut outlets, Babita managed the home and Avinash was a Class 1 student at a local school.
Chandra Bhanu Mohanty, Laxmichandra’s colleague, said the couple had married after they fell in love while studying together in a college in Odisha. Laxmichandra was a science graduate who later did an MBA, and worked in accounting and auditing before joining his present job in the business support division,” Mohanty said.
Recalling the events that led to the double suicide, the family’s neighbour, Gyanendra Debashis, who is also from Odisha, said: ”Laxmichandra and Babita had rushed out with Bittu at around 6 pm on September 7 after his condition started worsening.”
The boy was being treated for the last “three-four days” by a doctor at a nursing home nearby, he added. “On September 7, Babita told my wife that the doctor had told her to get her son admitted. But she said he was running around and seemed fine, so she brought him home,” Debashis said.
By evening, however, Avinash started complaining of severe pain, said Dharmo Devi, Sejwal’s mother-in-law. “His body turned cold and he complained of pain. When they were taking him away, he told me ‘Dadi, my head will burst’,” Devi said.
Banalata Moharana, another neighbour, said the family was accompanied by some neighbours as they went from one hospital to another. “We went to Moolchand Medicity and Max Saket, the biggest hospitals in the area, but they said that all beds for dengue patients were full. Finally, we went to Batra Hospital in Tughlakabad Extension, almost 7-8 km away. Bittu was finally admitted about four-five hours after they left the house,” Moharana said.
When contacted, Batra Hospital & Medical Research Centre (BHMRC) said in a statement: “We confirm that the patient was in a critical condition due to dengue. The child was brought to us… at 11:05 pm in our casualty department in a very critical condition (on Monday) without pulse and blood pressure. Our physicians directly took the child to our paediatric ICU and gave all appropriate treatment available but despite our best efforts, he did not survive.”
The medical director of Moolchand Medicity said in a statement: “The patient was treated and stabilised in our emergency. Given non-availability of inpatient beds, the patient was advised to seek an alternative hospital and mbulance was arranged for safe transfer.”
Max Saket did not respond to a request for comment.
When contacted, Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Prem Nath said the couple left behind a signed one-page suicide note and added that the bodies were sent for post-mortem.
Police received a call at around 3.50 am in the intervening night of September 8-9 that the couple was missing, a senior officer said. “After conducting a search, we found the two lying in a pool of blood inside the compound of a government school next to their house. An inquiry has been initiated and an FIR will be registered once the post-mortem report is received,” said a senior officer.
According to neighbours, Babita was so disturbed by her son’s death that she had threatened to jump from the hospital roof while Laxmichandra appeared calm. “As per our custom, we bury the young, and I remember Laxmichandra sat nearby while we dug the grave. He told us that we should whisper in Avinash’s ears that his mother would be waiting for him. It’s a custom and the belief is that the child will return to the same house when the parents conceive again,” Debashis, the neighbour, said.
Babita kept saying that she “could not sleep on a bed when her son was sleeping under the soil”, said Moharana, the neighbour, adding that she was with Babita till she went to bed.
”When her father, who was on a visit, tried to console her by saying that she could have another baby in a few years, she shouted at him, saying no child would be like Bittu,” Moharana added.
”At midnight, they asked us all to leave so they could rest,” said Kavita, the landlord.
”Her father told us later that at around 12-12.15 am, they stepped out saying they were going for a walk. At around 1 am, he said he woke up to realise they had still not returned,” she added.
Debashis said he realised something was wrong when he heard Babita’s father shouting. ”We first went up to the terrace. I rushed to the crematorium, thinking that Babita may have wanted to see her buried child. But we did not find them there,” he said.
Finally, the wife of another neighbour discovered the body inside the school compound. “She started screaming,” said Kavita.
Recounting his last conversation with Laxmichandra, his colleague Mohanty said, “He asked me to go to the cremation ground where his child was buried and light incense sticks. I said it was his responsibility, but he insisted that I do it.”
On Thursday, Babita’s father, her Gurgaon-based nephew and neighbours cremated the couple. Babita’s father left for Kendrapara soon after. “This morning, I went back, lifted the cycle and put it back in its position,” Debashis said.