It was 7 pm and we had all just finished playing a game of “nerts” for the tenth time that night. Everyone sat at the eight-seater table in the common room, dealing out six decks of cards while someone’s Spotify playlist played in the background. Lucia was my partner and we had just won for the second time in a row, which we celebrated by giving each other a high-five with our damp palms. The room was steamy as we had to keep the doors leading to the terrace closed to make sure no mosquitoes got in.
“I think I’m gonna sit this one out, guys,” I said to the group as I leaned back in the red chair.
The others nodded their heads at me. They were already shuffling their cards in preparation for another game. Sweat dripped down their faces and onto their collarbones as The Black Eyed Peas played. I looked at each of them and was overcome with a feeling of appreciation. This group of sixteen people had all chosen for whatever reason to study at the University of Hyderabad. Even though we came from different backgrounds, we sat together laughing hysterically as if we had known each other for years.
I walked around the table and out to the terrace so that I could watch what was happening on the street. The terrace faced a street that ran perpendicular to the main road of the University. There was always movement and sounds coming from below: motorcycles revving past, laughter dancing through the air, drums being hit. I could easily spend hours sitting on the cement railing listening to the sounds of the night.
I could hear chanting and drums coming from a distance. People from the street served as my alarm as they looked in the distance where I couldn’t see anything. A pack of five dogs ran away from the noise, all of them checking behind their shoulder to see if anyone was following.
A group of fifteen men came into my line of sight. They were holding a white banner with red Hindi words painted on it, which they raised with each chant they bellowed. One of the men was drumming along to the beat as his face brightened from the glow of the drum. I couldn’t understand any of the phrases but I felt their anger radiate up to me with each fist they pushed into the sky. They continued yelling for 20 minutes, with each person in the group taking turns saying a phrase. Some of them got more into it than the others as they danced along to the music.
They moved farther down the street and out of my vision towards the main road. I could still hear them yelling but then the noise suddenly stopped. The men started running past my hostel back towards where they come from, leaving the only sound coming from their sandals hitting the pavement. They each sprinted through people and motorcycles with people watching from around them. Everyone slowly began following them as they crept towards the men’s hostels down the road. It was as if everything had paused for a second, even the trees stopped their dancing to see what was happening.
One of my friends Crystal and I were already planning on hanging out with another student, so we walked down the flight of stairs and exited the gates that guarded our hostel. Our friend sat outside waiting for us.
“Do you know what’s going on? People have been running back and forth for half an hour now,” I said to him.
“You haven’t heard?” he said. “A student committed suicide. He hanged himself from the fan in his room. The police just found him 20 minutes ago.”
People ran past us as we stopped in the middle of the street, the fluorescent lights buzzing above us. I couldn’t find the words to speak, but our friend understood me as he simply nodded his head in an unspoken understanding, watching chaos unravel around us.
Thoughts raced through my head as I stood immobilized. What’s shocking to me is that this has been the third suicide at the University of Hyderabad in the past year, the second in the past 25 days when a girl jumped from a high-rise building. What’s even more shocking is that I’ve become numb to this.
When does this start becoming a problem that people want to take seriously? After the 6th suicide in a month? When you don’t feel any emotional response to someone taking their own life? This isn’t just something that is affecting the West. This is a global issue that I can’t understand how or why it has gotten to the point where we are at.
If this message affects anyone reading it, go tell someone that you appreciate them, that you are grateful they are here on earth.
INDIA – UNIVERSITY OF HYERDERABAD, 2018 FALL
Anne Berset is double majoring in Creative Writing and Psychology as well as a minor in Philosophy. She is studying at the University of Hyderabad in India for the Fall term, where she will be taking philosophy and political science courses. She hopes to gain a new perspective on culture, politics, and religion while abroad. Anne loves to watch films, go on hikes, and spend time with animals.