DU professorís 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.

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.

Kundu's thesis is on ghost stories, a topic he says his guide found fascinating. In fact, the last post on his blog ó named Jorabhoot ó 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 ó 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.

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