Do or Die?

Yesterday, a social networking news feed showed the link containing the news about an actress committing suicide and I was mentally transported to this meeting with a friend last month whose teenage son had committed suicide. And another whose nephew, a bright, well-liked and admired young chap who was doing his Engineering in Manipal, did the same not more than a month ago. One a bright and promising child but judged and criticized for everything he was and did, which finally made him do what he ended up doing. The other committed suicide by consuming pesticide just after his exam result came out, after his father criticized him severely for not doing well. I heard of a third – within the month – an exceptional student from my son’s school who died and his parents and relatives have no idea and are still trying to find a reason for the child having taken the step. The friends from school, though, all seem to know he was a drug addict. And, really, through the last few years, we must have all known, or known someone who does, who has committed suicide and died at an age when life should have just begun. 

It is a scary thing to encounter, to know about, even if it’s not anyone you know. As a parent of a teenager, it is like a soft dread that resides in the pit of my stomach all the time, something which jumps to become a panic every time one hears of these instances.

The actress, barely 25, having tasted adulation barely out of her teens, thrown out into the dog-eat-dog-and-humans-definitely-eat-humans world by the overarching ambitions of the mother, must have been a lonely girl. A young beautiful girl. She was called overweight, (and I cannot corroborate that because I don’t know anything about her) her boyfriend was fooling around, her career was going nowhere and her mom – yes, the same mom who threw her to the wolves, was not around. Alone and dejected, she committed suicide.

In an increasingly lonely world, the only vaccination is inner development. The world will reject a young person many times. Many resistances will come their way. What the young need is an inner compass and faith in themselves, without the nonsense of adulation and celebrity life. I shudder when during my very infrequent channel-hopping, I chance upon dance programs where kids, – yes, I choose the word advisedly – are made to wear clothes which look ridiculous and revealing even in adults – gyrate and do pelvic thrusts to cheap Bollywood music as their adoring parents look on.

Parents need to understand a child is not a foil for the success they do not feel. Let the young be, care for them and let them have a normal life. Recognize the child as a person and guide them gently and lovingly. Girls should not be made dependent on “hotness” “gorgeousness” and “male attention.” A girl’s life is more precious than just that. The world will objectify your little girl anyway, later on. Please do not be the one to cast the first stone of objectification. A child’s sense of self-worth will be measured by these terms and when, as it must sooner rather than later, the adulation goes, they will be left gasping for air, as the world will suffocate them, no one providing succor, no one being the proverbial shoulder. The break-up of the joint family into single or double-child nuclear family means the child will not have any favorite aunt or uncle or even cousin to whom all the family secrets can be spilled – a sense of shame stopping them from reaching out to friends. And mostly there is no grandparent they are close to – I realize now that when my grandparents passed away, an entire library was burnt to the ground. Most kids these don’t read quite enough, and even if they do, they are the weird, half-sci-fi-half-fantasy books of not much merit and they don’t thus know of the miracle of fruitful communication in the midst of solitude.

Success is such a fleeting thing, really. It doesn’t anchor you, especially when you are in choppy waters. The actress must have thought that if even the career does not work out – with the rest of her life mired in hopelessness, with mediocrity its main theme, – she had nothing to live for. And no one to tell her otherwise. There was no one to tell any of these kids that becoming a whole person was an important tool of survival in the real world, something good looks, money or drugs can never offer permanently.

You see, there is this loneliness and sometimes it eats them all alive. The home becomes just a house – not a place to laugh loudly, make mistakes, apologize, cry heartrendingly.

Youngsters need to be told that it is important to have a mind of their own. That chasing after a dream was important, but to realize which dreams can be realized and which were to be rejected was crucial. Teach them to identify and find the right people, that life is about meeting the right people and creating the right dreams, living those dreams and wearing their passions. They have fragile thoughts which should not be broken and explosive ideas which should be nurtured and not allowed to blow off on their faces.

Reading is the panacea I advise for all ills, and is an advice I can safely say I live by too. Reading gives a person’s mind both provocation as well as privacy. In our fast-paced digitized world, with our kids on the cusp, it is the only way a child can get his/her mind to grow. Dreams and imaginations are restricted by computer games and movies.

Do the news of suicides and attempts mean that we parents stop disciplining them? I think we would do our children a huge disservice if we went that way. We need to educate our children to be happy, so they learn the value and not the price of things. We need to make them intelligent enough to know that there is always a lot more to learn, so that desperate thoughts of suicides or such acts do not get a chance to even peek into their minds. We need to teach them to find humor in the most difficult of situations, because nothing redeems as much as humor does


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