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Friday, June 3, 2011

37 - 19th April 2008 - Yet Another Suicide at IITK

April 19th, 2008

Yesterday, when I was doing the final preparation for my presentation for CS727 course project, someone was tying rope around the fan in his room, and sometime after that, a good observation was made. The way suicides are shown in Bollywood movies, its pretty much true. Fan can in fact take the burden of a dead body. Oh, by the way, IITK is best at that. It is bearing (why bearing? you will know as this post progresses) burden of God knows how many suicides. At least it is 5th time in my stay here in IITK. Only 2 of my batch mates “could” do this daring task. I “know” some more tried, at least thought about it. Its not only daring but geeky as well to come up with new ideas. See, all 5 had different ways of doing this deed. What actually is more problematic for me is that this guy had to do this just before end semester exam. I remember screwing my 625 end semester exam because of similar incidence. And I have got 648 exam tomorrow.  …. oh yeah, my 727 presentation went well. It was my 20th project at IITK.

Yes, I am still able to write this post in some funny way. Some of you know how these incidences effect me. Still want to control my thoughts on the way things are going. As far as this issue is concerned, I have been shifting from one view to another. I still do not know whom to blame. But I think I have come up with some lemmas and theorems which will surely help.

Warning: If you are one of those who think I shouldn’t write about it outside IITK, you can go to hell. I gave you 3 years to come up with a solution or at least clear the situation. You didn’t do that. You hence loose the right to stop me from writing this post. Yes I know people (15 people a day?) will read it, and I guess they should.

Note: I am mainly talking about suicides which are not purely because of personal reasons.

The first thing to notice is that the students who do these things are stupid. Yes, lot of IITians are stupid (It may sound ironical, but its not). Like a friend of mine pointed out, an F or a bad grade doesn’t ruin your life. I get bad grades, and I am going to Purdue University, which is like one of the best universities for CS. I know people who will graduate in 1-2 more years and still have job offers. Who reads your transcript when they offer you job/admission? Sometimes they do, but most of the times they don’t. And do you know that an F doesn’t affect your CPI (GPA)? Its hilarious, isn’t it. People with lot of Fs have CPI similar to mine. Then whats the fuzz about? Oh one more thing, whatever you score here in IITK, people outside IIT will always call you IITian, and will always listen to you like an SRK fan watches SRK movies.

Secondly, lot of parents are stupid as well. I have some friends who are “frustrated” ( not real frustrated, but frustrated in IITK slang) with the way parents pressurize them for academics. Parents have small idea of how things go in IITs and will still comment on students performance. I remember my father once talking to me about job etc. He was like I got to know that a CS grad from IITK gets like 2 million a year or something. Though in general average salary is like 0.8-0.9 million Rs. Thank God my parents are awesome, who never show any expectations from me except from hard work. And thank God they let me do whatever I wanted to do. I never got to listen comment about my results.

Thirdly, the academic system of IITK. The guy who committed suicide (he was in first year) belonged to a batch of around 500 students. In their first semester itself, in one course, 96 out of 500 students got an F. 20% of the class was dumb according to the instructor. Thats what an F means, right. In IITK, in a normal course, getting an F is a tough job. How can 20% students get an F? Just think who was wrong. IITK is the *best* institute of India. It is one of the best institutes in the world for UG studies. Best students clear its entrance exam. In first semester, these students perform the best. My first semester SPI tops my chart as well. A similar thing happened with a guy from my batch, who committed suicide last to last semester. The professor sent a mail naming students who might will get an F. The list had almost 50% students who were doing the course. I wonder what happened in that particular course. I mean, the students are doing good in other courses, but in one particular course students perform so bad? Who is wrong? I was discussing it with a professor in Happy Hours, and he said that it happens only once a semester. But thats not the point. Why does it happen at all? And don’t you think it will affect student morally and mentally? And don’t you know that it does effect his future in some sense. An F given by mistake in final semester can waste a students 1 whole year. Every now and then there is a course which acts like this. Of course it creates pressure. People have expectations from themselves. I myself expect somethings from myself. Thankfully I do not expect to get good grades. But I do expect to learn from a course. Similar, one guy may expect to get into MIT. And if something tries to come in between even when it doesn’t deserve to come in between, and if the person gets to know that he can not do anything about it, it creates problems.

So, yes. The major cause of these suicides is the student. I know its very harsh to say it so clearly, and believe me its hard for me as well to say it this clear, but this is the fact. Its student who couldn’t think reasonably and couldn’t cope with the pressure. Like a friend said, “apne neeche dekho, duniya hai puri. agar upar dekh ke depression hota hai, aur phir bhi neeche nahin dekh pate, inspite of such a counselling service to help, to unka uthna hi bhala hai”. You know your parents have wrong expectations from you. You know the system is wrong not you. And you know that you are better than most of those who couldn’t even get into IIT. Then where is the problem. And yes, academics or parents trigger the process. But again, why do you give a damn to it.

zakir
April 19th, 2008 at 03:39     | #1 Reply | Quote
i feel this mainly happens because we see studies as a burden rather than enjoying it .. i too feel the same ..
 
rohitj
April 19th, 2008 at 05:28     | #2 Reply | Quote
When I am forced to take TA201, I have to feel it as “burden” and no fun. Secondly, when I get to interact with professors who judge be based on my CPI, I have to feel burden.

chachi
April 19th, 2008 at 11:11     | #3 Reply | Quote
Well, let me take a black-box view of the problem. Students took JEE and got distributed fairly evenly among all IITs. IITK has 5 suicides in 3 years and rest have none(?). On the face of it, there is a problem with IITK, which has surfaced in the last 3 years.
On the other hand, one could argue like this. The pressure is immense, in all IITs. Suicides are one-off cases. At least the first one was. After that, probably the IITK student always thinks that there’s an easy escape called death. Whenever something really over the top comes up, suicide becomes a realistic option. Because there have been people who have done it. So as I see it, this problem would, unfortunately, only escalate now.
IITs are not as good as they’re made out to be. They’re more like a common place where a large no. of good students flock in, go through four years of torture, and go out and do well in the world which they’d have done anyway, making others believe that IITs are good.
As I have said earlier ( http://grunged.kuro-katana.net/blog/2008/03/10/no-comments/ ), the students who come here are/become mediocre by way of their goals in life. You said that the students contemplating suicide should realise that it’s not the end of the world. But how do you expect them to suppose so, when they’ve lost their self-belief? During four years, IITK takes away everything from you and stamps a brand value in the end. And I don’t mean the administration, I mean the whole community. I’d much rather give JEE and have an AIR, and skip the four years I have wasted here.
I won’t like to blame the student – he could be me or you, only more unfortunate.
I don’t have the requisite mental faculty to dig out the reasons behind these suicides, but the very fundamental issues I’d look into are:
1) Acads ARE tough at IITK. Very Tough. Too Tough.
2) Got to have the “less is more” approach. Teach more concepts/in-depth in a smaller field rather than teach many things in a superficial way. The minute you do that, you’re digging the grave of the student’s thinking abilities. Since the student has too many things to think to properly understand whatever’s being taught, he gets by just by mugging/cheating. Very quickly, the student who had been thinking until now, becomes a rote-machine. On the other hand, if a student actually knows the concepts, it gives him confidence/self-belief, and he’d learn the broad things as and when required. That should be a part of experiencial learning, rather than curriculum. A classic example is that if a student knows programming in one language, he can program in any language. But if he knows the syntax etc of many languages, but is not very good in programming, he’d never be a good programmer.
3) Attitude of students towards studies has to change. They must realise that it is what they’ve chosen for a living and it should be something they should enjoy. If it wasn’t their choice or their first choice, too bad. But at least let others feel good about acads.
4) Interaction with seniors : this a very delicate point. Ragging never helped, it only damages and spreads the IITK germ quickly among the new students. It’s like a crash-course in losing your self-belief, and becoming mediocre. Interaction of 1st year students with 2nd year would only hamper the progress of 1st yearites, becuase the 2nd-year students aren’t serious enough. By the middle of the 6th sem, things start to dawn upon the students and they see their mistakes. But would they share these with the juniors, or would they still be happy to only take pleasure by ragging them? It’s very difficult to tell, and I don’t see anyone sharing valuable tips with juniors unless in a more formal setting.
My proposal – have formal “counselling” sessions of first yearites with fourth yearites. They are the ones that the first yearites look up to, and would listen to. Sensitize them about the difficulties they’re going to face and the mistakes they’d make, and about the good things that are there at IITK, in acads, and in the world after. This should nip the problem in the bud, i.e., don’t let the student become damaged enough to feel it’s all worthless.

Puru
April 19th, 2008 at 13:31     | #4 Reply | Quote
I havent given this issue much thought but whenever I sit down to think about it – the first thing that comes to my mind is that most of us (including myself sometimes) take things more seriously than they actually should. If each and every course we take starts becoming a matter of life and death then I dont see any easy way out.
Moreover I think in light of these recent events, the IITK community should start taking the concept of peer-group-counselling seriously. The people who are most close to a student – his/her wingmates, close friends, classmates – are the best people to identify and help him/her out if he/she is in distress. Many people testified to the fact that the recently deceased student (God bless his soul) was depressed from repeated failures in his courses. (Incidently the newspapers were inaccurate in this respect. Some reported him failing in Ad-Flu-Mech and such courses which are out of bounds for a 1st yearite.) In such cases the immediate peer group should keep a strict vigil on the student monitoring his (it is tiresome to keep writing his/her so I am going to use the male pronominal only) progress in his courses and be extra cautious if he/she feels depressed. Often a suicidal person craves to be stopped – but unfortunately there is no one to stop him.
There are myraid reasons why a person even after clearing the challenging hurdle that is the JEE may fail to perform well at an IIT. In many cases it seems some sort of a disillusionment sets in where a student does not feel enthused toward academic acheivement anymore. I dont know what could lead to this. In other cases academic achievement might not have been what the student was looking for in the first place when he chose to go through JEE. He might have had different aspirations – and outperforming his classmates might not have been one of them.
One needs to identify the spectrum of students that enter the IITs. All dont come here with the same goal in mind and the initial phases of “informal counselling” complicates things further.
In my first night at this place I was told by a senior with much conviction that the key to success at this dump is not to listen to an old hag belch his life-long experiences in an air conditioned room (aka course lectures) but to study on ones own. Now this might be possible for some but not for everybody. Turns out that my “counsellor” himself spent the whole summer making up for 3 courses in which his self study could not do him much good. I wonder if listening to those three old hags might have been helpful.
The main point I am trying to arrive at is that we have to know our students better – why have they come here – what do they expect to do and what they would not like to be made to do – and other such questions. Only then can we figure out why students in almost all stages of completion of their stay here (fresher, sophomore, senior, even PhD) have chosen to end their lives.

rohitj
April 19th, 2008 at 14:28     | #5 Reply | Quote
@chachi : My point is that the main cause is not academic system. Yes system is wrong. System is screwed like anything, but thats not the main cause. The main cause is that students are taking it seriously. They don’t realize that there are good side of system as well. They don’t understand that they can actually stand in front of the system. They don’t think much about what they can do, and what can be done. Rather they do not know what they expect from themselves. I have sort of pointed out some feasible ways to make things better. I hope these will make sense. Please read my recent post.
@Puru : I pretty much agree with you. Though I wonder how much peers can help in this regard. at the end of the semester, everyone is busy with acads. A lot have anxiety higher than normal situation. At such situation, who will take care of whom? Everyone has his own problems.

chachi
April 19th, 2008 at 15:34     | #6 Reply | Quote
Well, I am saying that academic load IS a major cause, but one can’t do much about it. There would be that much load in a four year BTech course. System is not very wrong or screwed up, it is tough. It thus becomes the base cause of the tensions in the student’s life. Failure and the fear of failure. After this whatever you said is probably true

Soham
April 19th, 2008 at 15:44     | #7 Reply | Quote
“What actually is more problematic for me is that this guy had to do this just before end semester exam.” – This just shows what sort of a guy you are. Man – you are a real jerk.

rohitj
April 19th, 2008 at 16:07     | #8 Reply | Quote
@chachi : hmm, I would put it in a different way. We take system as tough. It was tougher 5 years back. But people didn’t consider it as that tough. But yes, the system is still tough enough to think freely and rationally.
@soham :  …. I hope what you said was a joke. And I hope you read the blog properly, because if you have you will probably observe that I am pretty much concerned about this issue, and probably thats the reason I said I screwed some of my exams as well. Also, I mentioned that these incidences effect me a lot. I was trying to be sarcastic here. If it wasn’t clear, my sincere apologizes.

shyam
May 10th, 2009 at 18:39     | #9 Reply | Quote
It is non sense to join IIT.Living life is important.Get some girl to fuck him who wants to commit suicide and make him to learn bad habbits.I did the same and now i am running behind such things and dont care such things in IIT.I am also IITian.