Agonising wait for missing teen
By Shevlin Sebastian | Published: 09th October 2012 12:48 PM |
Saju Pappachen was angry with his 16-year-old son Rohit. On September 3, Rohit told his father that he had to go for special classes, but later in the day, through his neighbour, Saju realised that St Joseph’s European High school in Bengaluru was closed because of the Sports Day, which had concluded the day before.
When Rohit returned that evening, Saju questioned him at length. “He said he was playing football, but his clothes were not dirty at all,” said Saju. Astonishingly, this questioning lasted till 2 am.
The next morning, Saju and his wife, Reny, took Rohit to school. As the teenager waited at the playground, the parents met his class teacher, Uday Kumar, who gave them the shocking news that Rohit had been absent for the past two weeks. The reason why the school did not inform the parents was because it was only a couple of hours of special classes, as there were sports and cultural practices taking place. An incensed Saju went in search of his son, but Rohit had already slipped out of the school.
One month has passed since the boy went missing. A desperate Saju, who works as project manager for an IT company, lodged a police complaint. He accompanied them on their searches in malls, parks, fast food joints, shops, and Internet cafes. Rohit’s friends told Saju that his son was addicted to computer games. “Apparently, he spent hours at Alienware, the computer gaming centre run by Dell,” said Saju. The father met senior police officers and politicians and placed ‘missing person’ advertisements in the local newspapers and in Kerala. But so far, there has not been any response.
Missing children is a major issue in Kerala. “From April 1, 2011, we have received 152 complaints,” said Fr P D Thomas, director, ‘Missing child search and child protection homelink network’. Of these, 120 are boys. “They are usually in the age group of 13-15. Most of them get lost while travelling with their parents or are taken away for child labour. Around 10 per cent run away because of tension with parents,” he said.
According to Kochi-based child psychiatrist Dr Alexander Mathew, when parents are violent or abusive for a long time, children desperately want to escape. “It is natural for some children to run away. Unfortunately, what happens afterwards is what makes it worse,” he said.