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They ended their lives and I wondered why? When I was a kid, I witnessed two women committing suicide under my vicinity. One of them, my neighbor’s wife, simply ended her life because of the embarrassment she felt out of her in-laws making fun of her. She was being blamed for wooing her husband and distracting him of his studies. Embarrassed, ashamed and distressed, the new bride consumed poison and ended her life.
My immature brain then, could not understand this reason nor could I digest it to be taken over life. In fact, nothing is more valuable than life— be it, unsuccessful love, traumatic relationships, social stigmas, economic problems or any other such moral, social or personal issues that tend towards keeping one’s life at stake. I have seen many cases of suicide in my 48 years of life, most of them being of women, traumatized and pressurized by family or society. And, I was prejudiced with the thought that only women are prone to suicides for their being too emotional and vulnerable.
But I was proven wrong the day I came across that fateful incident about my father’s senior (boss). He was a senior advocate, having a noted law firm, where my father was learning law practice in his initial days. A well known and reputed advocate, he was being honored as a respectable citizen of society. He worked hard in the field of communal peace and harmony too, and was even proposed for Padmashree award for his Hindu-Muslim-unity initiative. But people whispered about him being a gay. One midnight, when he was returning from a seminar, a rickshaw-puller assaulted him sexually and the next day people found him lying in a drain. Out of shame, disgust and distress, he ended his life hanging himself on a fan.
In most of the suicide cases, I have found society playing the key role. No doubt, mental stress, anxiety and depression are vital reasons but the fear of social boycott, neglect and disgust no lag behind. The failures of life lead to depression when the victim fails to get attention, sympathy and empathy from his/her loved ones.
Acceptance Heals & Negligence Kills
“I am a failure.”
“No one loves me.”
“No one could ever accept me the way I am.”
“I won’t be forgiven for my faults.”
“I don’t deserve to be loved as I have committed sin.”
— Such states of mind lead to fear, anguish and ultimately depression. The only way to help depressed people is to accept them the way they are.
A Parent’s Perspective!
“My daughter didn’t top her boards because she is not the daughter of a genius.”— is my approach of looking into situations. But still, there are some areas of life which are beyond my control. Being a parent, I have faced such situations in life, where kids, teenagers, just grown adults are prone to be exposed to such people and situations that hamper their mental and emotional being. You can neither alter their surroundings nor mend them if they get damaged. Despite all my efforts, I cannot control my kids’ lives, their emotional being and their mental state being affected by unwanted external forces.
Yes, I have seen the devastating demon of depression in my life. I have experienced the destruction. I’m still fighting with the devil each moment. I have witnessed suicide attempts, cried the whole nights, begged God to give me super powers so that I could mend all the damage, and ultimately left helpless. I got support and rejections both during my efforts. Sometimes, I ,too, feel to kill myself for an escape to the suffering of my loved one. But the other moment, I gather courage, multiplied to the quadruple to fight even more. And the journey goes on…. Sometimes, I curse those people, the reason behind these sufferings, but the very next moment I forgive them to save my energy for the damage repair.
Professional Help is Mandatory!
Initially, I used to think only love, care, support and explanations are enough to get things sorted. But there comes a situation, when damaged mind fails to understand the difference between true emotions and fake gestures. In spite of all the love and care, distressed people tend to take their lives. They, sometimes, do exactly opposite of what you suggest. The more you try to talk to them, the more they get irritated and try to damage themselves by shutting the doors of their mind, brain, mouth, ears and eyes. It becomes direly difficult to reach inside the damaged psyche. It’s the time when only a professional psychiatrist/counselor can help. It’s difficult to accept by commoners like us, but mind also, sometimes, needs medicines like other body parts. Despite being educated, most of the parents fear to seek professional advice/help just because there is social shame attached to mental illness and stress. Results— drastic steps taken by the youth— i.e., escape from life. And that’s the true story behind “The Story of A Suicide”.
The Story of A Suicide: Book Review
It hurt me a lot when I ended up reading The Story of A Suicide by Sriram Ayer. The story evolves with 4 of the central characters— Hari, Charu, Sam & Mani; whose lives are connected in a manner that they weave a web of from love and passion to affection and aggression to revenge and deception. All the 4 characters are the protagonists as well as the antagonists of this web of destruction called suicide.
While Hari being a coy and emotional boy, Charu stands a brave heart. While Hari dwells amid the grey shades of his traumatic childhood, Sam possesses grey shades of negativity despite the brilliance of his brains. While Hari is a personification of trust and belief, Mani is of betrayal despite being his confidante and best friend.
Charu is being cheated and Sam cheats on her. Hari tries to regain his faith, trust and love back but Mani crushes his believes. While Charu turns out to be a winner despite all the adversities of shame, distrust, cheating and deceit, Hari fails to survive against the odds of his life.
The storyline deals with the complex mind of today’s youth. But despite all the novelty in theme, language, diction, situations and scenario, the substance is eras old. That’s man’s ‘struggle for existence’ which ends up to the ‘survival of the fittest’! Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution proves true with the storyline of The Story of A Suicide.
The story blooms with love, trust, faith, humor and passion but ends up with distrust, betrayal, revenge, concealed plans, blackmail, heartbreak, molestation, child-abuse and even rape and suicide.
Sam and Mani portray the youth that is self-indulging, self-proclaimed winners of life who need not care for others in their path to self-contentment. Hari proves to misfit in his arena of life, as he couldn’t survive amidst his inmates. Reason— he couldn’t get his courage and vigor back after being abused by his uncle in his childhood. Here I come to the very same point I raised in the beginning of this post. Society, or rather say family is to be blamed for his being misfit in this world. If he had been heard by his parents, he might be someone else. If he was spared by his uncle, he might not die. If he was handled by his partner sensibly, he might live. If he was accepted by his father with different sexuality, the name of this novel might be “The Story of A Survival”, rather than being “The Story of A Suicide”.
Charu, the fittest of them all, turns out to be the ultimate survivor. She is balanced. She is neither Sam nor Hari in her approach of life. She neither uses people, nor is she being used by them.
Language of the book!
Kudos to Sriram Ayer for keeping the language of the book quite simple and easy to read! He has passed the flash reading test with a whopping 75% (distinction). The characterization is quite smooth and flows naturally with the storyline. But the thing that bothers me a little is the excessive usage of the social media lingo in the novel. No doubt, the twitter hashtags make it an interesting read but at times I felt over-dose of it. The narration is quite intriguing, the more chapters you go through, the deeply you’re engulfed into it.
Though the novel ends on a pessimistic tone, with horrifying incidents, traumatic situations, suicide, death, yet we could find overtures of optimism in the dialogues of the characters. Despite all the sadness, Charu’s last line fills the climax with positive note, that is, indeed the USP of the novel. Charu says to Hari when he’s dying—
“We can win their hearts, everyone, including your parents. Please don’t give up on life dammit. Well if everyone who has a problem decided to commit suicide, this world will be filled with only dead people. Stop being a whiner. There are people with problems far worse than yours but are still looking forward to a tomorrow with hope.Get up and prove that you are capable of something. Anything!Have faith. Have hope. Stop complaining!”
One more interesting feature of the novel is the beautiful and artistic illustrations by Ghana which evoke the soul of the story so aesthetically.
The Victim’s Perspective
To me, Sriram Ayer has successfully conveyed the ethos of the novel that is “how to survive in this brutal world if you are not meant brave by this world only”. And the question remains unanswered because a hurt mind indeed needs support. Charu got that support from Alex, Anwar and from many others. But Hari remained deprived of that support from this society, his partner, friends, and even from his family.
So, what I believe, if someone commits suicide, everyone around is to be blamed than the person died. Even I take the responsibility as a parent, if a son like Hari ends his life, just being unheard and unspoken.
Let time heal the wounds. It does…
Life is precious than anything else! Be it our prestige, social stature, honor, power, money, love or even family; life should be streamlined before all. So, it’s mandatory that we let our youngsters speak up and listen to them. At times, it gets too difficult for a parent to behave like a friend. And similarly, it becomes somewhat impossible for a friend to guide like a parent (if they are not around). So, to turn the prospective suicide victims into survivors, what we need to do the most is to LISTEN. Listen to them with patience and perseverance. Calm them and let the time heal the wounds. Time is indeed the greatest healer.
Here I’d like to share a stupid story of my teenage. Once, I felt deeply hurt and tried to end my life. I diluted antiseptic (Dettol) in water and thought of committing suicide by drinking it. But I felt bad for myself, and started writing my last “I bid adieu” poem for my parents. It took long to finish the poem and at the end, I couldn’t even dare the foul smell of Dettol to drink. That was the miracle of time, not of the smell that I decided to live, not to die. If Hari would have taken some more time to prepare the concoction of Vodka, Coke, Soda and sleeping pills, he might have changed his mind.
So many strings of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ are attached to the issue— But please, let’s pledge! Let’s not allow hurt minds to be left alone, unspoken, untold and unheard.
Let’s fill the void beneath the complex mind.
Let’s kill the silent demon of suicide.
Let’s not recreate The Story of A Suicide in our lives.
— Sangeeta Mishra