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DU professor’s last lecture was on suicide,says student

On November 16,Achyut Mandal discussed Badal Sarkar’s existentialist play Ebong Indrajit with his MA students. He talked for 40 minutes on death and suicide.

Written by Deepu Sebastian Edmond | New Delhi |
November 23, 2009 2:45:36 am

On November 16,Achyut Mandal discussed Badal Sarkar’s existentialist play Ebong Indrajit with his MA students. He talked for 40 minutes on death and suicide.

Mandal,Delhi University associate professor and a blogger of ghost stories who loved detective fiction,was found hanging early on November 17 by wife Sudipta Basu at their Reids Line Flat opposite Miranda House.

“Students really loved him. He was a good teacher. He was also a very good student,” remembers Amitava Chakraborty,colleague in the Department of Modern Indian Languages and Literary Studies (MIL & LS).

Chakraborty,Mandal’s neighbour,said his wife rushed to his house at 6.30 am to tell him of the suicide. “He was moody and unpredictable. A brilliant theoretician,he was fascinated by popular literature,” said PhD student Arijit Kundu,whom Mandal was guiding. Twice married,with a daughter from his first marriage,the 41-year-old from Siliguri completed his higher studies in Kolkata. His PhD thesis was on Selected Bengali Existentialist Poets.

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Kundu’s thesis is on ghost stories,a topic he says his guide found fascinating. In fact,the last post on his blog — named Jorabhoot — is a 54-second video. A bespectacled and bearded Mandal makes an appearance in a red shirt over his head after opening shots of an eerie-looking room. Titled Ghosts Caught on Camera,the December 2,2008 clip ends with Mandal’s high-pitched laugh.

“I was in Orissa attending a seminar when Mandal died. He was closest to me in the department. He was very friendly with students,” said Prakash Patnaik,head of the Department of MIL and LS.

“I remember he was a good painter too — we exhibited his works two years ago during a seminar in the department. A student of his was telling me of his last lecture,where he spoke of suicide as the ultimate freedom,” Patnaik added.

Mandal was cremated on November 18. Anuradha Mandal,the second of Achyut’s two elder sisters,attended the last rites with Achyut’s brother-in-law from his first marriage,a doctor.

“I have some questions about my brother’s death. The person accompanying me was a doctor,who pointed out certain things about the dead body,” she said from Siliguri.

“Achyut’s eyes were closed,and he looked as if he was asleep,which is unnatural for a case of hanging. His tongue was not very protruded and his face was not swollen,which should have been the case had he hanged himself,” she added. Police have registered a case of unnatural death under section 174 of the CrPC. The postmortem report is awaited.

Mandal said that she did not know whether or not her brother had remarried.

“I knew that he was living with Sudipta Basu,but had never met her,” she said. “My brother had an active friends’ circle in Kolkata. When I was in Delhi,some of his friends told me that he was not happy in his relationship with Basu,” she added.

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