You’ve seen it in the news, especially during an economic depression. A man loses his job, gets into a big pile of debt, runs out of options, and then kills himself. In more tragic cases, he takes his whole family with him. If you think having a job is stressful, try not having a job when you have a family to support.
People in their 50s are especially vulnerable. They’ve worked long enough to tackle the job they are well-suited for but only end up discriminated against during job searches for being too old. And when they can’t bounce back into a career that they’ve defined themselves with, they lose their identity, and consequently, their hope. Losing their standing in society is a big blow to their ego.
I wrote the same paragraphs in this blog a year or so ago, but I never thought a similar tragedy could happen in my community.
Familicide strikes my community
A family of four was found dead last week in the basement of their home in an apparent murder-suicide. The victims were identified as Deepak Kulkarni, 50, Arti Adya, 47, and their two sons, Shubham, 14, and Sharvil, 7. According to police reports, they all sustained gunshot wounds.
Their bodies were discovered after Arti Adya’s brother from out-of-state went to a neighbor’s home— the Kulkarni’s landlord— who asked the police for a welfare check. The relatives said they had not been able to reach Arti for several days.
Evidence gathered at the scene points clearly to the 50-year-old father, Deepak Kulkarni, as the perpetrator. The gun, which he bought two weeks earlier, was found close to his body. So, this appears to be a case of premeditated paternal familicide in which the killer commits suicide.
Shubham was a classmate of my daughter, who was deeply saddened and upset by the news. She remembers him as a very smart, well-liked, and respectful boy. They’ve competed in the 7th-grade Spelling Bee, in which they both tied in 2nd place. I’ve even kept a video of the two competing. So that makes this horrific tragedy a bit personal to me.
The idea that a father can murder his whole family is something that is hardest to understand. It’s easy to dismiss perpetrators of this repulsive act as “monsters.” But the sad truth is usually more complicated than what lies on the surface.
The four types of suicide
In the book Le Suicide, French sociologist Emile Durkheim (born 1858) classified different types of suicides:
Egoistic suicide: When a man becomes socially isolated or feels that he has no place in society he destroys himself. This is the suicide of a self-centered person who lacks altruistic feelings and is usually cut off from the mainstream of society.
Altruistic suicide: This type of suicide occurs when individuals and the group are too close and intimate. This kind of suicide results from the over integration of the individual into social proof. Examples include suicide bombers and WWII kamikaze pilots.
Anomic suicide: This type of suicide is due to certain breakdown of social equilibrium. In other words, anomic suicide takes place in a situation which has cropped up suddenly. Examples include loss of a job, bankruptcy, or even winning the lottery.
Fatalistic suicide: This is caused by overregulation in society. A person feels hopeless because his fate is predetermined. Examples include the suicides of maltreated slaves or barren women pressured to start a family.
It’s difficult enough to pinpoint why a person would take his own life. But the bigger question is, “Why would a man take his entire family with him?”
I’m not a journalist, let alone a mental professional, but I did some research. With the little facts available to me, I can only speculate what is going on in the mind of Kulkarni when he decided to annihilate himself and his family.
The family must still be struggling financially
There were no indications that Deepak Kulkarni or Arti Adya lost their jobs before the incident. They both work in relatively lucrative Software Development industry, at least according to their LinkedIn profiles.
However, there were red flags that point to the mishandling of the family’s finances.
In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, the brother-in-law, Anand Adya, described Kulkarni as friendly, but also somewhat secretive. He struggled financially early in their marriage and often asked him for loans. Things seemed to stabilize about five years ago, but Kulkarni had asked for another loan last December.
Also, I find it unusual that a middle-aged couple with seemingly stable careers would continue to rent instead of owning their own home. Local real-estate records don’t show any deeds registered under the couple’s name. This is not to say that renting per se is a bad financial decision.
If I were broke, the last people I would ask for loans are my in-laws. That would be a big blow to my ego. It takes a lot of humility and desperation to borrow money from the brother of the wife that I’ve sworn to financially support.
Kulkarni’s brother-in-law, Adya, as it turns out, appears to be a successful entrepreneur. He’s the founder of Greenlight Technologies and was even awarded “New Jersey C.E.O. of the Year” by US Business News.
Could it be that Kulkarni felt like a loser in comparison and couldn’t cope with failure?
Whether the motive is to escape poverty, divorce, jealousy, or in rare-cases, revenge (to make surviving relatives guilty), nobody knows. But there’s a strong reason to believe that the family’s finances were in dire straights.
“Death is for the best interest of the family”
Among the four types, I believe this is a hybrid case of anomic and altruistic murder-suicide. Before committing this ghastly act, Kulkarni must have tried to self-justify two decisions: (1) whether to kill himself and (2) whether to kill his family. The first is anomic, while the second is altruistic.
Anomic comes from the word anomie (derived from the French word anomia or lawlessness). Anomie can occur when there are radical and significant changes in the person’s social, economic, and even political environment.
I believe financial insecurity due to indebtedness was the major contributing factor. Coupled with a lack of social interaction, the drastic changes to the work environment caused by the pandemic was secondary. The D.C. riots that caused some political instability probably didn’t help either.
Like what Durkheim wrote in his book, he must have felt a sense of futility, lack of purpose, emotional emptiness, and despair. Striving is useless because there is no accepted definition of what is desirable.
In Kulkarni’s view, he might have felt that their collective death is for the best interest of the family— whose members he all viewed as “possessions”—-than to live in shame (if him alone committing suicide), fear, chaos, poverty, and indebtedness. In this sense, the killing is altruistic.
Easy access to guns is a major risk factor
There is no denying, America has a gun problem. The numbers do not lie:
“Compared to Canada, the United States has three times more familicide; compared to Britain, eight times more; and compared to Australia, 15 times more.”
“More incidents of murder-suicide occur with guns than with any other weapon. Access to a gun is a major risk factor in familicide because it allows the perpetrator to act on his or her rage and impulses.”
“In 591 murder-suicides, 92 percent were committed with a gun. States with less restrictive gun control laws have as much as eight times the rate of murder-suicides as those with the most restrictive gun control laws.”
I’m not against the 2nd amendment, but effective gun control should be put in place.
America’s “cowboy mentality” needs to stop.