When personnel from the Bally police station broke open the door to one of the rooms of Mukti Neerh Ladies Hostel on Bireswar Chatterjee Street in Bengal’s Howrah district on Wednesday morning, none of the nine residents living there was prepared for the shock awaiting them.
28-year old Konica Layak, the Jharkhand state champion in 10 M Air Rifle Shooting, had reportedly not given any indications about her depressive state of mind that was evident from the purported suicide note she left behind.
Konica was found hanging in her room with a dupatta tied around her neck, lifeless, when police brought down her body. The note recovered from the spot read she wants to quit for not being able to fulfil the dreams of her parents and called herself a “failure”.
Hailing from Anugarh Nagar in Dhanbad, Konica was living in Bengal for the last eight months and training at Olympian Joydeep Karmakar’s academy. She had participated in a few tournaments, national and regional, during her stay in the state which wasn’t the one she represented at the national stage.
A shell-shocked Partha Pratim Layak, Konica’s father, said he had no idea why his daughter may have taken the drastic step. “The local police have begun investigations. They are going through her cell phone details. She seemed perfectly fine when I last spoke with her on Tuesday night. I hope the police find something,” Layak said on the verge of a breakdown.
Was it performance pressure that ultimately got to the athlete? Was it non-cooperation and lack of support from authorities which isolated her from her community? Or was it something else that Konica never let anyone have an inkling about? We wouldn’t know until investigators come up with credible evidence. But for someone, who was engaged to be married in February next year, Konica’s death throws questions which most people close to her are struggling to find satisfactory replies to.
“I have known her for a few months now and I am shocked beyond words. Everybody I have spoken since yesterday have found it utterly difficult to believe this. She was doing well at the academy and had a promising career ahead. We offered every possible assistance to ensure she continued to excel at her skill. It is important that we know why she felt so utterly depressed,” said Joydeep Karmakar, Olympian.
One of the high points in Konica’s struggle to reach her goals surely came in June this year when actor-philanthropist Sonu Sood responded to her distress calls and gifted the shooter a rifle she needed for her next tournament. Among the handful tweets she has on her social media handle, the one that stands out was posted on June 26 with a picture of her beaming with the newly acquired rifle and read: “Sonu Sood sir, meri bandook aa gayi. Mere parivaar mein khushi ki leher phayal gayi hai aur poora gaav aap ko aashirvaad de raha hai (Sonu Sood sir, my rifle has arrived. My family is replete with joy and my whole village is offering you its blessings).”
Said Adhisha Dutta, owner of the working women’s hostel where Konica stayed: “She was living here for nearly four months and was supposed to leave since her training had come to an end. She came across as a polite person who maintained cordial relations with everyone. She looked absolutely fine going about her daily chores the last time I met her two days ago. She had even attended a friend’s wedding the night before she was found dead. None of her hostel mates ever found anything suspicious about her state of mind.”
It’s baffling why people close to Konica would miss the most certain signs of depression in her, go deep into their causes and offer help. A promising athlete, akin to thousands like her in this country engaged in the daily struggle to surge ahead amid financial challenges, had a life abruptly cut short and the Olympic sports fraternity of this country is clearly found wanting in terms of providing psychological assistance to those who find that struggle getting to them.
Unless, of course, there’s more to it than what meets the eye.