Found Body Identified

While the fields of yellow wildflowers that outline the gravel path leading to the UC Irvine observatory at California Avenue and Gabrielino Drive create a scenic spot to walk, last week, the sunny flowers marked the final resting place of Mahesh Mahadevan, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering graduate student who was an international student from India.

On April 15 at around 7:40 p.m., two hikers discovered Mahadevan’s body in the brush with a plastic bag over his head, suggesting a possible suicide by asphyxiation according to authorities.

There were no signs of foul play, said UCI Assistant Director of Media Relations Laura Rico, but police are still investigating.

Mahadevan had been missing since around 5 a.m. on Sat., April 10 and one day before his body was found, on April 15, an e-mail from Chief of UCI Police Department, Paul Henisey, through the office of Vice Chancellor of Administration and Business Services, Wendell C. Brase, had been sent out to notify the UCI Community of his disappearance and inquire for any useful information.

Although the missing person case corresponded eerily close to the body found near the observatory, authorities still needed to verify that it was indeed Mahadevan. About 24 hours later, the autopsy report from the Orange County coroner confirmed suspicions.

The body was Mahadevan, but Orange County supervising deputy coroner Larry Esslinger said that the cause of death is still pending.

An e-mail was sent out to students on Sunday, April 17, to inform them that the search was called off and also to encourage any grieving students to go to counseling. According to William Parham, assistant director from the UCI Counseling Center, counselors have already been deployed to the places where students may be the most affected like in the Palo Verde housing complex where Mahadevan lived or in the mechanical engineering department.

Still, there are some who may wonder why the counseling option did not save Mahadevan himself.

Parham said that many of the international students at any school suffer from specific mental health problems from missing their home-countries while still adjusting to life at their new place of residence. There are also additional problems in finding work after graduation, particularly in the current economy, if the students do not have U.S. citizenship.

While Parham clarified that there are multiple reasons to explain the increase of students seeking counseling, he did say that more students were using the Counseling Center this year. This, he argued, may even be a positive statistic signifying that more students were getting help.

Mahadevan was an ambitious student who had several articles printed about him in India’s national newspaper, The Hindu. His achievements in engineering were the primary focus of these articles, but Mahadevan was also known for his other talents, including skateboarding.

When Mahadevan disappeared, the Silverfish Longboarding Web site even posted a Missing Person message, asking its members to keep an eye out for him.
“Please,” the post pled, “he is a good kid … Not confrontational or anything like that.”

His friends from both India and UCI continue to mourn his death on the Internet, using Facebook and other blogs.

Sayan Ganguly, a friend of Mahadevan’s from India, blogged a lengthy post about his friendship with the young man.

In it, he refers to Mahadevan as “Nai.”

“I would like to believe I see life how Nai did,” The post said, “That living is all about learning continuously. Reinventing oneself while staying true to one’s passions. The fact that he did it so much better than I ever could made me value our relationship so much. What frightens me the most right now is that there is a thought out there so terrifying and destructive that when it hit Nai, it convinced him to stop doing what he loved so much, learning and living. If that thought hits me someday, will I fare any better? I am scared.”

Ganguly also posted a link to a Web site that Surabhi, the Indian Students Association at UCI have set up: a “Send Mahesh Home” fund, requesting donations to raise the money to send Mahadevan home and cover his funeral costs.

For more information on how to donate money for Mahadevan’s funeral, contact Nithya Sambasivan at nithyas@gmail.com (978)-996-0231 or Bharath Rajaram at bharath.rajaram@gmail.com (281)-536-3370.