Breaking My Silence about my Alu Muter err Alma Mater

Update (April 19, 2008): The unfortunate part of maintaining this post is that when people start searching for ‘IIT Kanpur Suicide’, this one starts getting hits and I have to keep my fingers crossed, that no not one more time. So for a while people have been stumbling on this post via Google today and yet my search would not reveal any news. Not anymore. Yet another suicide at IITK-

His family blamed ragging for his extreme act but institute authorities denied the charge. The body of Prashant Kumar was found hanging from the ceiling of his hostel room.His father Sunder Lal Kureel said he had been suffering from depression after facing ragging in the campus. Institute director Sanjay Dhande, however, ruled out ragging as a factor and said the student had been suffering from a psychological ailment.

Update (April 27, 2007): Just about six months and I am writing another update at this post. It is sad beyond words. After Jay Bharadwaj’s suicide NDTV reports that they are going to appoint a few counselors for every hostel. Hope this would be a well thought out and serious step. Hope this is the last time I am updating this post for a very very long time.

Update (November 7, 2006) Abhilash, a Ph.D Chemistry student also commits suicide. The newspapers say it was not the academic pressure that led to the step.

Update (May4, 2006): Sailesh also commited suicide yesterday. Makes it two from IITK alone in the last five months. Extremely sad situation.

I saw a ticker going on and on and on, at CNBC18 saying that an IIT Kanpur student was found dead (did I say suicide?)on the premises two days ago. It brought back such a torrent of memories. I called up and asked a few friends if they knew anything because they have recently graduated and their friends are still at IITK. They told me apparently the guy jumped from the 6th floor of the faculty building. Now, this building called ‘Facb’ in IITK jargon, is an ugly red brick building (though I always remember it as grey in color due to some quirk in my memory) where on the top floor is the department of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), what used to be ‘my department.’

I remember very clearly that afternoon of long back, even now. We have a blessed soul ‘Brijlalji’ who would make tea in the corner room of the top floor at specific times of the day. (He must be the most acknowledged person by HSS students in their Ph.D. thesis.) I was running to get a cup of tea, when something seemed horribly wrong.

Actually, above my department is a small jutting structure (above the sixth floor) where only lift mechanics are supposed to go but it had a few broken glass panes and many of us would climb there at the dead of the night just for the heck of it. I did it only twice and always in company.

That afternoon when I was running for tea, I saw a few people standing in the corridor and staring at something. When I looked in that direction my blood froze. There was this figure standing at the edge of the Facb top and taking one leg out of it. Worst still, I recognized who the person was! I too stood rooted to the spot but luckily an extremely capable professor for such situations, was standing near us but not looking at scene, and I alerted her and she took over. Security came but they were helpless, as all of us were worried that the person might jump or fall if distracted. After long anxious moments, the person backed off and came down but the memory still upsets me. And what is more haunting, it was life as usual at IIT, as if nothing had happened.

I do not know much why or how Swapnil Dharaskar (the correct name, as Vinod pointed out in the comment section) met his end but it saddens me a lot. AsVinod points out again in the comment section, the cause of his death is not clear. My musings are about the days I spent and what I saw there. I am not trying to attribute any cause to his death.

In fact, I always saw IIT from the eyes of an almost outsider, being a post graduate student. I wish these kids would somehow be able to look beyond IIT, not take their end semester exams and F grades so seriously. There is a life beyond IIT and it can be fun, if you choose. I also feel parents put undue pressure on the kids to continue at any cost, even if the child is on the verge of breakdown. Many of them (parents) find it extremely difficult that in spite of getting into IIT, the child can fail in a course or mess up a semester.

I remember another suicide when a second year Hall 2 student hanged himself in his room during Antaragni, the cultural festival of IITK but the students refused to shut down the discotheque that night, giving some lame excuse about sponsors not agreeing to it.

I do not know what more to say, talking about IITK is not easy for me. So this post has no crisp ending and a sound opinion that I seem to possess about every other matter on earth.

Update: Abi has an excellent post.

News articles on the issue:

http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=83056

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1562506,0035.htm

http://www.ndtv.com/morenews/showmorestory.asp?category=National&slug=IIT+student%27s+death+raises+questions&id=81934

Some blogs talking about IITK in general or the same issue:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/indranic/14496.html

http://adjournment.blogspot.com/2005/12/rigid-systems.html

http://riteshm.blogspot.com/2005/11/one-more.html

http://iitkstudent.blogspot.com/2005/11/life-in-iit-kanpur.html

http://rajatkashyap.blogspot.com/2005/11/shocking.html