Viveka Babajee, Nafisa Joseph, Jiah Khan. What makes such young, driven individuals abruptly give up on life? How does one find happiness when faced with sadness, devastation, and depression? Nisha JamVwal provides some insightful solutions on surviving sadness.
I clearly remember the day attractive model Viveka Babajee had planned meeting me on a Tuesday for a swim. Fun, always smiling, slim and attractive Viveka. I never saw any expression of sadness or pain in her, even though we spoke often and were fond of each other. She did confide her breakup with me, but never did she sound defeated. In fact, she started her own event company and decided to work alone. The day of the appointed swim she didn’t show up and a few days later I was horrified to learn that she’d hung herself to death. Before that fellow compere Nafisa Joseph – self-assured and composed, and I compered many corporate evenings, before which I would be backstage looking at my cue cards. Nafisa would chatter ‘happily’ on the phone. Not long after one such event, I heard of the eerie incident of her hanging herself.
TEACHING THE RIGHT LESSONS
Not taking away from the sadness of their tragic end, one has to say there is an unfortunate element of self-absorption here, where the person is so enveloped in his own woes that all else is another universe. What of the parents (for instance) who nurtured you and spent three-fourths of their life caring and sharing and lauding your little or big achievements, and having heartaches over your trifling woes. A thought spared for them would’ve have been the red signal that should’ve braked the devastation express! I have this pet peeve that education systems need to change their fundas.
As Calvin grouses to Hobbes, “For some reason, they’d rather teach us stuff that any fool can look up!” Yo Calvin! We need lessons on living life, EQ, communication, and a real-world perspective that would slash the narcissism quotient out significantly. Not to mention, it would instil values such as caring and empathy for those around.
Apart from which they might also learn to reach out when tormented and clinically depressed and unable to cope with the pressures of education, urban competitiveness, social pressures and especially when one is barraged with troubles in the glamour world. Counselling is mandatory in many schools in America, and if one seeks guidance and help and is not ashamed to reach out, one’s troubles shrink.
MORE THAN A SOURED ROMANCE
Jiah Khan had tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists. Should not her mother and peers have enforced counseling and intervened at that time? Perhaps we don’t take depression and being suicidal as a malaise in our country. Sadly, those closest to us who miss the signals. I just feel that while the world feels it was a soured romance, it is a deep-seated loneliness, an inability to cope with the social pressures of fame and wanting more fame and recognition, the feeling of fear of performance in the world of a glaring public and media and one’s own fears of failure that push a person already suffering depression to take such drastic step.
My mind goes back to Alexander McQueen. What made McQueen, the acclaimed creative genius said to be worth twenty million pounds, commit suicide at 45 at his stunning two million pound flat in Mayfair, central London?
He was doing work he liked, achieved recognition, success, money, fame, adulation and was one of the greatest creative geniuses of our times. Not enough reason to endure living? Are there further barriers to the elusive state called happiness? Did he see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on the other side from life? Perhaps!
THE ONLY WAY OUT IS WITHIN
The ostensible reason was that the fashion designer – high on cocaine – slashed his wrists with a ceremonial dagger on the eve of mum Joyce’s funeral in the grief of her parting. But we lose people through life.
Life is a series of losses, from the day we are born. What then is the way out to grapple with sadness, pain, loss, and suffering? I’d say the only way out is within. A famous quote about happiness comes to mind: “Chasing happiness is like chasing a butterfly in a garden. Try to capture it and it evades you. Sit on a bench and close your eyes – it will come and rest on your shoulder”.
McQueen’s psychiatrist shared with the inquest that the designer felt constantly let down by people: by friends whom he had felt exploited him and taken advantage of his fame. He had also felt let down by some long-term relationships. And this only highlights the points that could have been made for Jiah and even Viveka and Nafisa before her, that the very elusive happiness does not come from relationships, or even from material triumphs. You cannot force love and longing. It has to emanate from within.
When it didn’t materialise for these lovely girls, they ended their lives. Sadly, because the men have moved on. But the families of these lovely women suffer a wound that may never heal.
REMEDY FOR TURMOIL
One cannot be obsessive about money, house, friends and faithfulness from those friends, because these wants and expectations prevent peace. Friendship, companionship and bonding, like the forests and animals, are getting denuded in our fast age. Relatives and brothers and sisters are materialistically dismantling each other.
Relationships and friendships are mere causalities to man’s material and technical evolution. One can only do what comes one’s way and try to be serenely absorbed in that. Remember Fountainhead’s, Howard Roark? His greatest joy was the journey, his creation, his obsession with his perfection. Sorrow comes from resisting reality and from discontent. One has to flow with life and accept the letdowns as teachers – to grow with the good and not so good. That is the only way to equanimity.
Sorrow is what we allow ourselves to reach in and wallow. Please let us live life one day at a time. I’d have said that to Jiah, Viveka, Nafisa and McQueen. Let go of your sadness, because you can’t change people and boyfriends, you can’t cling and you can’t change the past. People are what they are.
What is the route to happiness then? I believe that there is no permanence in any state, not even in happiness. But one can snatch happy times, learn to savour the moments, and, like Wordsworth so aptly put it, stand and stare. Do we really ever stop to enjoy nature (whatever little of it we have left)? Greenery is a great healer, and walking barefoot in the grass is therapeutic as hearing music one enjoys.
The good life is not a place you arrive at, it is a lens you bring to the place you are at right now! Snatch happiness and enjoy the journey, because there is no destination at all. Happy moments create a bank balance of fortitude and delight that you delve into when the going gets tough. It makes you into a survivor than a quitter!