OPN 190920  VG Siddhartha-1568979431706
Coffee baron, VG Siddhartha, the founder of India’s biggest coffee chain, Cafe Coffee Day, ended his life recently … a tragic end to a hugely successful existence. Image Credit:

Sohini, a teenager, tossed a coin up in the air, it gyrated in the sunshine, twirled mid-air and fell on the floor as it nonchalantly rolled towards my feet. She asked me, “Have you ever contemplated suicide?” This question felt like a cold, sharp, draft of wind, cutting against my being. I answered, “No, not even in the wildest of my nightmares. Not even when I dreamt that I had scored a few zeroes in my grade twelve board examination or I was being fat-shamed and being isolated by my classmates.”

What shocked me about the question was that it came from a child so young. She was “stressed” because she was worried about her grade 12 board examination results. She wondered whether she would be able to fulfil her parents’ dreams of becoming a doctor. The worse thing was that very recently another classmate of hers had killed herself in the washroom of the school itself.

A life is more precious than a degree in a prestigious college or debts that need to be repaid or unreasonable expectations

- Navanita Varadpande

It pained me to observe that the bubbly, little girl that I had seen since kindergarten, has been reduced to a mentally frail, depressed spectre! Deep in her eyes there was a solemnity that sobered the usual sparkle in them. She whispered softly to me, through her tremulous lips, “If it is ‘head’ I get into a good medical college and if it is ‘tail’ I would rather die.” Sohini needed counselling, she had to be told that there is much more to look forward to in this world than to perceive it just as a ‘rat race’.

A lot has happened over the ‘business of coffee’ or the inability to live up to the expectations of one’s parents or failure to keep up with the Jones’. ‘A lot’ often pertains to the abetment to ending one’s life, instances of which we see around us. Coffee baron, VG Siddhartha, the founder of India’s biggest coffee chain, Cafe Coffee Day, ended his life recently … a tragic end to a hugely successful existence. It makes us ponder over the multiple layers of feelings that could be shrouding a helpless heart, goading a person to kill oneself.

The severed torso and head of a brilliant student was found on the railway track recently, near Kolkata, as he jumped to a gory death. The suicide-note in his pocket mentioned how frustrated he was with city life as he left his village to study in a reputed college and that he was unable to follow the education pattern in college and feared his parents would get angry if he failed to deliver. He had told his school and college friends that he was unable to follow classes being taught in English and that he always wanted to study mathematics but was forced by his parents and teachers to take up physics.

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Expectations have soared to dizzying heights, expectations from ourselves and from others. Channels of heartfelt, honest and love-filled communication have given way to shallow, filtered conversations that go on to making one feel like a hopeless failure. Sharing one’s bare, undisguised thoughts is assumed to be a sign of weakness. Are we forgetting that we are human beings and it is just fine to have our happy times interspersed with fragile phases?

A life is more precious than a degree in a prestigious college or debts that need to be repaid or unreasonable expectations. Hence, live it, because “What you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine. The fear that you have built up in your mind is worse than the situation that actually exists.”

The donning of yellow outfits to symbolise suicide prevention, the colour that depicts the message — “give life another chance”, is not a remedy but a slight touch of balm. Negative thoughts could arise from a loss of faith in oneself and the world. It arises from the gathering clouds of despair. The deep burning sigh ought not to be ignored by near ones. We need to pump that life blood into people during their frail moments because there is always a tomorrow, to soar above the soreness that’s pulling one down.

— Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @navanitavp