Death is inevitable but a life snuffed out at 21. Is that an age to go?
This story dates back to August 1986, thirty years ago.
Shankar was my friend, somebody I could talk for hours with, spout nonsense, laugh, argue… He was my classmate Shanta’s nephew, exactly a day younger to me (a fact that I always gloated about). Shanta moved away after grade 10, but Shankar became a great friend. He was almost 6’ tall, handsome with an outgoing personality.
Shankar was a year junior academically though not in the same school. I tutored him in Accountancy almost always a day before his exams and his requirement would be ‘just enough to get minimum passing grades’. This was a regular feature for all the semester exams during his B.Com degree. Accountancy was his Achilles Heels. He would drop in sometimes in the evenings for chatting and on his way out, we would hang out at the gate for another 15 -20 minutes. My grandmother who I called Patti would come out and ask us to continue with the chat inside the house instead of at the gate. That would be the cue for him to leave.
My grandmother passed away in June 1986 and we were a little busy with tying up family matters. I had not seen Shankar after May (his exam days). I did not know that in his final semester he had failed in accountancy or that he had gone to Jamshedpur to his aunt’s place for 2 months. I met him one evening when I was walking home from the bus stand. He was on his way home after seeing his parents off at the railway station.
We were as usual chatting by my gate for around 30 minutes and he suddenly asked me why patti had not come out asking us to get inside the house. I told him that I had lost her two months ago. We then got to reminiscing about her for a few minutes and he then left for home a little subdued. He told me about appearing for the accountancy exam again in two months and asked me to help him out as always.
Two days later, my maid came in to work and told us that Shankar had committed suicide the previous afternoon (the day after we had met in the evening). He had hung himself from the ceiling fan. Apparently he was studying in his room on the first floor. When there was no response from him when called repeatedly, his grandfather went up to his room. When he pushed the door open he found Shankar hanging from the ceiling fan.
I couldn’t bring myself to go to his house to see him. I was in a shock. I wanted to remember him as I had seen him last, in a navy blue tee, with a thin gold chain around his neck, wavy hair and his trademark smile. I couldn’t think of him as a dead body.
What could be the reasons for people attempting suicide?
A quick google search would throw up a million articles, stories and theories. Psychologists cite numerous reasons of which a few are easily understood.
- People attempting suicide may be suffering from depression. Depression is mostly treatable, if identified and accepted.
- They may be psychotic or schizophrenic, both of which are again treatable.
- It may be just an impulsive decision, which can be stopped if known.
- It may be their way of calling for attention to themselves by attempting suicide in the hope that they would be saved.
- Quite often we find people who have been diagnosed with a debilitating disease attempting suicide to end their suffering.
Classic examples would be that of the legendary Marilyn Monroe, Heath Ledger, and Robin Williams to name a few.
The urge to commit suicide is probably momentary and once curbed at the right moment may even leave the person embarrassed and ashamed. They may not consider taking a second attempt at taking their lives.
To this day, I wonder what pushed Shankar to take that drastic step. Was he upset about something? Depressed? Worried? I kept replaying in my mind the last conversation with him for a number of days to try and look for any clues. I couldn’t think of anything. Was it a pre-planned act or a spur of the moment madness? He left no note only broken hearts behind.
I wonder how his life would have turned out to be. Would we still have been friends? Or would the twists and turns in our lives have drawn us away from our bond of friendship? I am sure Shankar would have ensured that we remained in touch. I do not have a picture of him. All that remains is an image in my mind and a few memories.
September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and co-sponsored by WHO. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented.