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Self-sacrifice at altar of unemployment

Calcutta, March 18: The husband was an aeronautical engineer, wife is a postgraduate from a city university. Together, they could not find themselves one decent job in the entire city.

Unemployed and married, and the constant butt of criticism and ridicule from their families on both counts, they chose to end their unhappy lives in their Shyambazar Street home.

Husband Kaushik Chatterjee was successful — he died at a state-run hospital today — but wife Vaishali, removed to a much better private clinic by her sister, was still hanging on to the life she sought to end.

The incident in a north Calcutta middle-class Bengali home may be an extreme example, but the torment of being educated and yet unemployed is not exactly unknown in this city.

Complicating the case was the opposition of both families to the match. Vaishali’s family even lodged an attempt-to-murder case against Kaushik on Wednesday, when he was yet to breathe his last, police said.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kaushik married Vaishali, four years his senior, last May. But their thoughts of living happily ever after died even before they got married. There was no ceremony associated with the average Bengali wedding as both families disapproved of what they were doing; on May 26, 2003, Kaushik “just brought” Vaishali home.

They came and locked themselves in. And that locked-in circumstance stayed for most of their married life. They would wake up late (sometimes after noon), have a hurried meal, go out and return at night — unsuccessful after another day’s futile search for a permanent job — and again lock themselves in.

Very little was spoken between the couple and Kaushik’s parents (Ashok and Shikha Chatterjee). When words were exchanged, they were more often than not “very unpleasant”, family members said.

“Kaushik would always be riled about his ‘bad’ marriage and his unemployment,” an aunt — refusing to be quoted — said.

That was why Kaushik’s parents did not suspect anything amiss on Wednesday afternoon, though Ashok had another unpleasant row with his son the day before (the topic was the same, revolving around his decision to marry an unemployed girl four years his senior despite having no job himself). But, when the couple did not come out even after 2 pm, the parents decided to knock on the door.

There was no reply, prompting the parents to break open the door. Kaushik and Vaishali were found in an unconscious state. They had finished off four vials of sleeping pills after grinding them to dust and diluting them in water.

Both were rushed to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital. But Vaishali’s Jadavpur-based family — after being informed — came and took her away to Belle Vue Clinic, separating her from her husband. They also lodged a complaint with Shyampukur police.

Kaushik, in and out of several part-time jobs, died this afternoon, leaving Vaishali behind to fight for life and, if successful, possibly some more thereafter.

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