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Stress drove IIT boy to death

Mumbai, Dec. 31: Examination stress and an inability to measure up to high standards drove Mallepula Shrikant to end his life at IIT Powai on Saturday, according to a suicide note police found in his hostel room.

His mother and brother arrived in Mumbai this morning and flew back home to Hyderabad with the body for the last rites. They refused to speak to reporters.

The 21-year-old, staying alone in room 713 of hostel number 13, was in his final year B.Tech in electrical engineering. He was found hanging from a ceiling fan when a batch-mate went to call him for dinner around 7.15 pm on Saturday, police said, adding they believe the suicide took place sometime between noon and 6 pm.

“I feel I couldn’t make it because of the backlog of exams. But I want to thank all professors who helped me immensely and I am sorry for causing all these things,” says the note, addressed to Shrikant’s mother and a close friend.

The suicide occurred a day after curtains came down on Mood-Indigo, IIT Powai’s annual bash and the city’s biggest student festival. It also came a week after President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam urged IIT students to contribute to national development at an alumni conference.

Friends and hostel-mates say Shrikant had shown no symptoms of depression. “I met him two days ago during Mood-Indigo. He seemed perfectly okay,” said Lokesh Singh, his batch-mate. Shrikant hadn’t been able to complete two courses when he was in second year. “We call incomplete courses backlogs. He had two, but was planning to complete them next summer,” Singh said.

The backlog meant Shrikant figured lower on the cumulative performance index, an IIT grading system. “The performance is measured on a scale of 4 to 11 points on the index. Shrikant scored 5,” a hostel-mate said.

The placement season for final-year students, when some of the biggest companies pick IIT talent, often with six-figured salaries, has started. Many of his batch-mates got lucrative job offers, but Shrikant was yet to get one.

Asked if this could be a reason, Singh said: “Placements would not have been a problem. The interviews will continue till January. I got mine only two days ago. I am sure he would have got through next month.”

The suicide has shocked students and professors at the campus, which already has two counsellors and as many psychiatrists to help students cope with the study burden. Friends say Shrikant hadn’t sought any such help.

In November 2005, the death of a fourth-year physics student had shocked IIT Powai. Vijay Nukala, a computer wizard nicknamed “Nuke” on the campus, had three course failures and less-than-expected exam scores.

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