Humorous memories of Ananya Agrawal aren’t hard to come by.
Agrawal once told a friend he was attending a baseball game “starring the Cubs.” A gym enthusiast, he once bought a shirt of a buff Willie the Wildcat below the word “Northchestern.” And while living in an apartment for the first time, he filled the dishwasher with bubbles after mistakenly using dish soap.
“He lightened the aura of the room,” said Weinberg senior Ethan Roubenoff, a member of music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha who lived with Agrawal in the chapter house for three years. “He really had the ability to bring up the mood of the area. He made his presence known.”
Agrawal, a 22-year-old Weinberg senior, died Saturday night. A coroner has not made an official ruling, though the Evanston Police Department is investigating Agrawal’s death as a suicide.
Roubenoff and other members of PMA remember the Mumbai, India, native as caring, genuine and affectionate. After excitedly joining the music fraternity, Agrawal became a large presence in the house, often offering hugs to those he cared about, his friends said.
Agrawal joined the fraternity after hearing about it during his time in the Northwestern University Marching Band, where he relentlessly dedicated time and energy to the group, said Weinberg senior Rohan Shivde, his roommate of two years.
After changing his mind about playing the cymbals, Agrawal spent the summer before his first band camp learning an entirely new instrument: the alto saxophone. “He was capable, and he was one of the most dedicated people in that group,” Shivde said.
As his roommate, Shivde said he got to know some of Agrawal’s quirks: their room seemed to always be filled with shoe boxes and new customized T-shirts Agrawal bought online.
Agrawal would also start tickle fights, leveraging his long arms against his opponent, while knowing full well he was the most “ticklish” in the house, said Tushar Chandra, a McCormick senior and Agrawal’s close friend.
And recently, Chandra said, Agrawal had begun listening to a music playlist titled “frat rock,” or “frock.”
“That’s so Ananya,” Chandra said.
Although Agrawal seemed to always lighten the mood, he often took up more serious issues and cared deeply about his friends’ wellbeing.
Shivde said Agrawal worked toward breaking the stigma of openly discussing mental health, and even helped Shivde seek help for his undiagnosed depression.
“He was one of the biggest proponents of mental health that I know,” he said. “He was there for me the entire time. There was no point that I knew him in which he didn’t give his utmost support to the people he loved. I still credit him as being the biggest reason today that I am well and thriving.”
Chandra said because Agrawal tried hard to build deep relationships — often pushing for deeper conversations over small talk — his friends will conduct regular check-ins with one another in his spirit.
“That’s exactly what he worked for: being honest with each other, caring for each other and showing that care,” Chandra said. “Not just doing it privately, but being outwardly affectionate and thoughtful and telling people how much you care about them.”
Although he dabbled in economics, finance and engineering, Agrawal was ultimately a chemistry enthusiast and excelled at the subject, his friends said. Roubenoff said Agrawal spent much of the past year writing an honors thesis, one of the reasons he recently won NU’s Chemistry Department Scholar Award. He was also working in a lab at Northwestern, where he was in the process of filing a patent.
Agrawal was preparing for graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University, where he planned to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry, his friends said. But even with his busy schedule, Roubenoff said Agrawal still made time for his friends.
“His presence was such that it’s hard to imagine a world without him,” Roubenoff said.
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