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My endeavor is to delve into certain issues to give you some perspective, help you understand the world better, attempt to understand why we do what we do, and maybe in all of this, make the world teeny-weeny better! 

Disclaimer: It may be a tad bit opinionated!

So, let's get to it...

When the mind chooses death over life!

In a small town, a journalist of a local daily newspaper is unsuccessfully trying to make a mark by publishing blatant articles exposing corrupt politicians. Consequent to a management change, she is on the brink of losing her job for her fearlessness and has to finally resort to writing column in the newspaper about a fictitious letter received by the local daily from a fictitious man who threatens to expose the politicians. The fictitious letter is anti-establishment, openly criticizing and exposing some uncomfortable truths and loopholes in the current political system. The fictitious man in the letter claims to be willing to go to any extent, even sacrificing and killing himself on the upcoming Republic Day, as a stand for truth, and against corruption and that creates a huge uproar. Thus the owner of the newspaper, with the design to further increase its circulation by tapping on the sensational response the letter has caused, devises a plan with the journalist to give life to this fictitious character she invented, by searching for someone who can become this man, should they ever reach a point where the true identity of the man needs to be revealed.

A man from another town, who happens to be passing through this town, stumbles upon this journalist, and for earning a quick buck, agrees to imbibe and role-play this fictitious character himself. However, he accepts only on the condition to take this game to a certain point and then disappear from the scene. However, slowly and steadily as time progresses, based on what he sees, he realizes the rampant corruption and the intricately entwined manipulative political system that exists. Feeling for the public at large and disgusted at the apparent system failure, he decides to stand up and protest. Thus invoking hope in the public who connect and identify almost instantly with him. He rises to a cult-like sensation across the nation, backed by the whole propaganda machinery of the journalist who writes even more articles under his name to further incite the public. Now, being perceived as a threat, the politicians plot out to defame and eliminate this man clandestinely. The choice that now lies in front of this man, is either to run and disappear altogether or to stand by the hope he has given to the nation under this false identity he assumed. But out of some misplaced sense of righteousness and to expose the truth, this man who happened to be just a passerby, chooses the latter and jumps off a 30-storey building on the Republic Day, as committed in the first letter to the newspaper that he had not even written.

I am sure that by now you or any fan of Amitabh Bachchan would have guessed that this was the plot in his movie ‘Main Azaad Hoon’. Though this plot is from a fictional movie and that bombed big time at the box office, it brings forth a distinct but relevant thought as to – why is it we humans do, what we do? What made it so important for a jobless guy, to assume a fictitious identity and take his own life, for a cause that didn’t concern him, abiding by a letter he hadn’t written? How could he find the act of killing himself less painful than living life? It’s hard to fathom why people do things they do, and we can only speculate what their mindset could be.

Something similar happened a few days ago, when a notification popped on my WhatsApp chat, in the form of a shocking message from a friend saying that ‘Sushant Singh Rajput committed suicide by hanging himself’. What makes a 34-year-old, young, dynamic, and candid individual with a ‘humble background’ and an upward-pointing-life-graph, do something so savage, like taking his own life? I don’t think we humans are random creatures and firmly believe that everything that we do, we do for a good reason. Jeremy Bentham in An Introduction to the Principals of Morals and Legislation, says ‘Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters - pain and pleasure. 'Everything that we do in our lives, every action that we take is either towards avoiding pain or to gain pleasure. Epicurus, the famous Greek philosopher, further broke it down by stating ‘By pleasure we mean an absence of pain in the body and trouble from the soul.’ And ‘Even when we think we are seeking pleasure, we’re actually driven by the desire to free ourselves from the pain of wanting.’ Wrote Nir Eyal in Indistractable.

And so, one stands at a juncture, feeling all the pain weighing like a crushing force, in the moment where the choice is either to free the mind of the mental agony or free the soul from all the trouble. This moment of indecisiveness, causes one to spiral into a continuous anger-sadness infinite loop oscillating between bouts of anger and sadness – you are sad with yourself or angry at the world and then switch to being sad at the world and angry with yourself. On and on your mental state swings to and fro like a pendulum and you hope for a solution to emerge from this continuum. This anxious wait for some solution to emerge, paralyzes you leaving you mentally crippled. The mind loses its capacity for any external or internal stimulus to cause it to think. At this stage, one begins to feel like a Buridan’s Donkey – from a thought experiment conducted by Jean de Buridan where he talked of a peculiar situation in which a hungry and thirsty donkey is caught in the middle of the food, on one side, and water on the other. Metaphorically, the situation is such that the donkey is both extremely hungry and thirsty to the point of death, and the weight of this decision incapacitates the donkey to such an extent, that the donkey is unable to decide what to go for first, He thinks if he goes for the food first he will die of thirst and if he goes for the water first he will die of hunger. This thought paralyzes him to the point of inaction and the donkey eventually dies of both hunger and thirst.

The pain and the pressure constantly mounts in the mind incapacitating anyone caught in such a situation – either to ‘reach out’ asking for help or to be ‘reached in’, wanting to just be left sequestered trying to find a trigger to take any form of action. But sometimes, even though we decide to free ourselves from the pain, we still do not act. It’s because we haven’t yet reached the pain threshold. Once the threshold is breached and the valve burst, we say “Enough!” and that’s when we act. Sadly, in the case of Sushant Singh Rajput, he acted once the threshold had breached, but acted by taking his life. He was in such a state of mind that for him choosing death was lesser painful than living life itself.

Despite not knowing anything about him, I still feel deeply saddened by the fact that one had to act so adversely upon oneself, as probably the whole system around failed to give him any speck of hope. The system – his peers, his colleagues, his close ones, his fraternity et al, failed to give him any hope for a better future reality in that one moment. Unfortunately, this is how when the system fails us, we get pushed to the extreme. And what do we do? The system’s response to such an adversity is only limited to mere hashtag trends like #MentalHealth & #Suicideisnotthesolution that begin to trend on social media. This is the Bystander Problem, which I have talked about in a previous article (‘The Value of Human Life’), at its peak. By only tweeting hashtags for now, which will eventually get lost in some other random noise after a few days, we are being no different from those thirty-eight people who witnessed the murder of Ketty Genovese in New York in 1964 from their respective homes, but not one of them made a phone call to the police. We suffer from an illusion that the catalyst leading to the extreme mishap (like a suicide) is the real cause of the mishap. We ignore all the pent up, suppressed, and the constant mental turmoils that one might have experienced over a long period of time continuously, eventually making him lose hope in that one moment. If we do believe that the catalyst is the cause, then this death should be a catalyst for all of us contributing to the growth of humanity to re-jig the entire system, shake it from its very core, and discard out the nasty weeds that cripple it from within.

I quote my friend that - hope Sushant has found his peace and hope he has found that better future reality in the afterlife, which he couldn’t find in his life.

But the bigger question on us is – ARE WE DOING ENOUGH?

ARE WE NAIVE to expect people in such a vulnerable mental state, to reach out to us?

IT’S NOT ENOUGH to host webinars on ‘how suicide is not the solution’.

IT’S NOT ENOUGH to merely send forwards on ‘how to stay happy’. (Give me a break!)

IT’S NOT ENOUGH to make 15-sec TikTok or 3-min Insta videos on ‘Mental Health’.

IT'S NOT ENOUGH to merely shout out 'be positive'.

IT’S NOT ENOUGH to merely post that – ‘coffee can be prepared in minutes and there is food in the fridge and that they are willing to hear out anyone feeling low anywhere, anytime, suffixing it with ‘#mentalhealthawareness’. (This is ridiculous!)

It’s time we realize that labeling people as ‘depressed’ or ‘weak’ and shuv-ing the overall issue under the carpet is – JUST NOT DONE.

My friends, this is the time for us to reach out to – in our own meaningful, non-superficial way to our peers, our friends, our families, our loved ones and vociferously telling them that “I am here whenever you need me.” Because the sad reality is that - we don’t know where, when, why & how a certain mind will find death less painful than living life!

Stay healthy.

Stay Sane, and I am here whenever you need me.





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