In their cramped one-bedroom house in Shadnagar town of Telangana, Sumathi and Ganta Srinivas Reddy are grief-stricken at the untimely death of their daughter Aishwarya. The 19-year-old, who was pursuing her second-year B.Sc (Hons.) in Mathematics at Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women, was a brave girl, according to her parents. She had been at home since March and ended her life by suicide on November 2.
The teenager aspired to become an IAS officer, and the daily-wager couple had big hopes from her. They mortgaged their home, pledged gold ornaments, and even stopped sending their second daughter to school. When the pandemic lockdown impacted their livelihood, Aishwarya became uncertain about her returning to college.
In a brief signed suicide note, Aishwarya said she would not want to be a burden on the family while her education has become one for everyone. And that she would not want to live without education. She also mentions her provisional offer of INSPIRE scholarship in the note.
“It was not a free seat for her in LSR but she achieved it through merit. She was always a brilliant student. She topped her school in matriculation and came second in the town in the intermediate exams. And we were ready to go to any extent to support her education,” said Srinivas Reddy, who had borrowed money and set up his bike mechanic shop just before the lockdown. As his business did not take off as expected, the family’s income crashed in the coming months.
The family had taken a loan of Rs 2 lakh after mortgaging their home and also pledged gold ornaments for her education, apart from debts incurred in setting up the shop. Aishwarya’s 16-year-old sister Vaishnavi had dropped out after Class 7 so that the family could educate the older daughter. Srinivas Reddy said his daughter was worried about the financial requirements of two more years of college education and sustaining herself for another two years in Delhi while she prepared for UPSC exams.
Sumathi, who worked as a tailor from home, said Aishwarya was depressed after receiving a WhatsApp message asking to vacate her hostel room by end of October. All inmates had signed an agreement to vacate their respective hostel rooms after completion of the first year. “Any private accommodation outside would cost at least Rs 15,000 per month. We needed more money towards a deposit amount, too. All this when we did not have money to buy her a train ticket to Delhi,” noted Sumathi.
Aishwarya, according to Sumathi, was planning to go to Delhi in October. The hostel notification asked all inmates to vacate rooms by October 31 and was later extended to November 10. On October 31, Aishwarya sent a WhatsApp message to the hostel warden concerned accepting to vacate the room by November 7.
“For two days before killing herself, she did not eat anything. She fought with her mother and was worried about continuing her education,” said Gandham Navyashree, a BA (History and Sociology) student of LSR, who hails from the same town.
She remembers Aishwarya as a front-bencher, all attentive and well prepared in class. According to her, even 10-15 minutes before ending her life, Aishwarya had a phone conversation with a close friend and discussed upcoming examinations and necessary preparations.
The parents are not sure if the note was written at that moment before ending her life or if it had been kept ready by her. “We were all sitting here. She forced me to have my dinner and went into the room. She usually spent all her time there. The door was not latched and we thought she was studying,” said an inconsolable Srinivas Reddy. “Even in our worst nightmare, we did not think about something like this.”
Recalling a phone conversation over actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, Navyashree said Aishwarya had argued that taking one’s life was no solution to any of life’s problems. However, she agrees that Aishwarya had been stressed over online classes and assignments because she did not have a laptop. “She shared with friends her inability to perform well as she was using her mobile phone for attending classes and doing assignments,” Navyashree added.
After actor Sonu Sood tweeted about his initiative to offer scholarships to students, Aishwarya wrote a detailed email to Sonu Sood on September 14, attaching her certificates as proof, and requested him for financial assistance for her education. In the email, screenshots of which are available with us, she expressed her fear of having to drop out of college.
“I never expected that a laptop is very important as of now. But due to online classes, the laptop became extremely important to study 2-practical papers. I don’t have a laptop and I am unable to do practical papers. I am afraid I may fail in these papers. Our family is completely in debt so there is no way to buy a laptop…I am not sure whether I will be able to complete my graduation due to lack of financial support,” the email read.
Aishwarya had received the provisional offer letter of Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) scholarship for Higher Education (SHE) offered by the department of Science and Technology (DST) but was unsure if she would be able to receive the money. In her note too, she mentioned it and requested if one year’s due amount could be handed over to her family post her death.
“As much as we want justice for our daughter, we want authorities to ensure that no other student faces a similar fate,” rued Srinivas Reddy.
There are several NGOs across the country that are committed to the cause of mental health. They run counselling services and suicide helplines for anyone in danger of committing suicide:
Lifeline Foundation – +91 33 24637401, +91 33 24637432
Address – 17/1A Alipore Road
Sarat Bose Road 700 027
Sumaitri – 011-23389090
Address – Sumaitri
Aradhana Hostel Complex
No. 1 Bhagwan Das Lane
Bhagwan Das Road
Nagpur Suicide Prevention Helpline – 8888817666
The Samaritans Mumbai – 022 6464 3267, 022 6565 3267, 022 6565 3247
Address – B-3, Trisandhya
Behind Ambika Sarees
Dadasaheb Phalke Road
Dadar (E) 400014
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