This naturally comes as a severe shock to those like me who knew him. I wasn’t close to Sandy, but I came to know him as a batchmate at IIT Bombay (he was in CSE and I was in KReSIT; the departments have since merged) and as a fellow research student in the NLP group (we shared the same advisor). He was undeniably smart, both by acumen and appearance. I can never recall him looking unkempt, which at IIT is quite something. It’s ironic that this incident comes almost exactly a year since the 2007 IIT-B convocation.
What do you do when you hear news such as this? You ask people, you look for the last trails online, scrabbling for information, you sit and wonder. To give you a sense of our amazement, hardly anyone in his inner and outer circle seems to have had any inkling. True, Sandy was probably quieter than most people with regards to such talk with anyone outside to those to which he was closest. He had had an uncomfortable time in the First Semester of the M.Tech programme. I never probed the exact reasons; I didn’t want to crowd him, but it was partly the load of the course (the first sem is a bit of a bitch). But we were glad to see him emerge out of that pall and do a fine job in the remaining 18 months. Which is why this is a shame. I wish he had thought about that Ph.D more. He had such a fine time in France in the spring of 2006.
Predictably, this is going to spark the inevitable “techies under stress" stories in the local media, some of them likely to be half-baked. Having also been at Persistent in the past (overlapping with Sandy’s first term) and with several friends there, I would not like to think that the situation could have become so arduous (but in this case, it somehow did). I’ve already seen some forums say all sorts of things about Sandy and the situation (some of the content being factually incorrect, such as confusing the bio of a very different Sandeep Shelke from Pune with this incident). All I’d like to say that there’s a family, some friends, some colleagues, who’re probably even more baffled, devastated, angry, and incoherent than we can imagine. Please give them their space. I do hope that there isn’t much more to this than we have heard.
The life of a depressive isn’t easy to fathom. Instead of speculation, take a look around, have a chat, pull yourselves together. We still want you around, you still want me around for a little time more. Sandy: how do we tell you all the nice things we thought of you if you aren’t around to hear ‘em, hmm? Cheers man, and will remember all the little moments.
Some updates – 8 Aug 2008
The incident received a lot of coverage in local newspapers. I overheard several people talking about it; all were very upset and saddened. Sandeep’s Orkut scrapbook was filled with messages today, most of them from strangers, who lamented the loss and wished things had turned out differently. I was busy for most of the day, so I couldn’t find out what the mood at Persistent was like.
Links: Times of India (Pune), DNA, Indian Express (contains factual errors that “He had completed his higher studies from America and had been working with Persistent Systems for two years."). Like many other blogs and news sites, the Pune Mirror cannibalized content on blogs, online forums, and Orkut scraps to fill a second page on the incident and the predictable “IT engineer-stress" theme. It also incorrectly claimed that Sandeep was in the IT industry for 7 years.
Update – 25 Aug 2008
I haven’t been able to find out what progress has been made in tying the threads in Sandeep’s case, but this news article in the Times of India (assuming it has been accurately reported) gives some clues to the current status. The report quotes a sub-inspector as saying:
What baffles the police is that the CCTV images before his suicide do not show any abnormal behaviour . "Sandip (sic) was seen walking freely and working on his laptop. We also enquired with his friends, who said that neither did he have any problems with anyone nor did he have any quarrel with any of his superiors,'' said sub-inspector U.K. Yadav.Perhaps "bored" isn’t the right choice of word, as it is hard to imagine Sandeep taking such steps because he was "bored".
"Probably, Shelke was bored with the mechanical life he was leading. We could gather that he was unable to spare quality time for himself due to the work pressure,'' Yadav added.
The report later says:
But apart from work pressure, at times the inability to do the things which one actually wants to also leads to frustration. This was particularly observed in Shelke's case.It doesn’t give any particulars though.
I (and others) still remain puzzled.