On Monday, the principal of Sahodaya School in South Delhi’s Hauz Khas had a question for the 39 students in Class I-A: who was Avinash Rout’s friend? “Everyone raised their hands, it was emotional,” said Sister Sudha.
Just six days ago, seven-year-old Avinash had succumbed to dengue after being denied admission in five hospitals. Hours after his death, his distraught parents had committed suicide by jumping from the terrace of the building in which they lived.
Today, the tragedy is still sinking in at Avinash’s school, which will be closed on Tuesday in memory of the student who was described by teachers as an “extrovert” who got full marks in class tests, took part in all competitions and “never complained about anything”.
While speaking about Avinash, his class teacher, Sister Prabha, took out his notebook: revision tests with full marks; a drawing of a traffic signal with red, yellow and green lights; a labelled sketch of the human face, again full marks.
“He was loved by students and teachers, and actively participated in various competitions. He was an extrovert, always in the company of friends. He never complained about anything,” said Sister Prabha. “Mostly, he got cent per cent marks in class tests, and always submitted his homework on time. He had a bright future,” she said.
Looking at the open notebook, Sister Prabha said: “His drawings were far better than those of most of his classmates.”
According to the principal, the school learnt of Avinash’s death and his parents’ suicide from a friend of the family.
“At first, we did not believe it. We sent three people to his home and only then realised that the entire family had died,” said Sister Sudha.
Last Friday, the school maintained a minute’s silence during the morning assembly to mark the tragedy.
“But we did not tell the students that Avinash’s parents had committed suicide. We just said that they had passed away, too,” said the principal.
Sister Sudha said she met the child’s parents — Laxmichandra and Babita — for the first time during the admission process in April. “I remember them clearly because I found out during our interaction that they were from Kendrapara in Odisha. I was based in Odisha, too, before coming to Delhi,” she added.
Asked about Avinash being rushed from one hospital to another for lack of beds to treat dengue patients, the principal said, “An investigation has been announced, but what is the use now? We have lost a very bright student.”
“It is unbelievable,” said Sister Sudha. “Just the week before his death, I saw Avinash playing with his friends… Last month, he had won the third prize in a debate competition. He spoke on the topic ‘My Family’.”
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