In the first week of July, Mark Andrew Charles, a twenty-year-old master’s student of the elite IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) hanged himself in his hostel room on the campus in Hyderabad. In the eight-page letter that he addressed to his Varanasi-based parents he wrote, “I am sorry I turned out to be such a waste. I’m a loser…. Two years away from home, at the best institute, with the best of people around me, I wasted it all.” Reinstating his plight, he added “IT me kaam karte karte apni life matt bhul jana. Live a little every day. Ek hi zindagi mili hain.”
According to Police Investigations, Charles had gone to his hostel room at about 11 pm on July 1, Monday. Failing to find him till the afternoon of Tuesday, his friends broke open the door of his room and found him hanging by the ceiling fan. A rural police station in Sangareddy investigates Charles’s death “under circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion”. They assert that it may be difficult to conclude with certainty.
Before taking the ultimate step, the 25-year-old left behind a compellingly original work that he had planned to submit as part of his final-year dissertation for his Masters in Design (M. Des) course.
But a peek into his dissertation gives a glimpse of a young man who thought deeply about what was happening in his country, someone who wanted to engage with politics through his writing.
“Charles, who studied in Varanasi until he finished his Bachelors’ degree, was a good student who scored 84% in Class X and 82% in class XII,” said his parents Nirmalya Choudhury and Abrian David Charles, both school teachers. But it was not due to his academic performance that he was popular everywhere he studied. Since his childhood he was a musician and an artist.
This is the second suicidal incident at IIT Hyderabad alone this year. Anirudhya Mummaneni, a mechanical and aerospace engineering student in his fourth year, had jumped off a hostel building in February. In his suicide note, he clarifies that the decision to end his life is purely logical, based on his estimation of what the future holds.
India’s IT professionals often work long hours and complain of bad work culture. Therefore, students at premier engineering and science institutions in the country, have an added pressure to land a great job. Suicides at IIT bag most public attention because students are under utmost stress.