Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Understanding suicide

They killed themselves over such trivial things. One died because her mother confiscated the mobile phone she got from her boyfriend. Of course, these people, now dead, all found themselves at the edge of the cliff. They thought they had no choice but to jump off.

Of course, we can't judge them. But here's the thing. We are looking at the wrong reasons. These acts that are blamed could have been what make them drink that poison, let the rope tighten or slit their wrists. It could have been what gave them that final push after months of being bullied, being under so much pressure and stress and of course depression.

I'm not one to Romanticize death. And I'm not one to say you should kill your self when you still have time left. However, there are two things to consider here. There is a thing called ayu kalaya which basically is how much time we have to live. One could have an ayu kalaya of sixty years while another has an ayu kalaya of twelve years. So it could just be that the 'victims' reached the end of their ayu kalaya.

Further we must look at how much strength one needs to commit suicide. Once, in school, a few friends were discussing their means of committing suicide, if it came to that. We all had some way, pills, blades or rope. However, something held us back and even during the darkest moments we couldn't bring ourselves to end it all. Something or someone stopped us. However, sometimes, you look around and you see no one. You are utterly alone, you are scared and you are lost. There is only one way to go and that path leads to death. Murder of oneself. Suicide.

And while everyone argues they were just fragile or weak, weren't they the complete opposite at that moment of death? Let me tell you that hurting yourself isn't easy. It's not easy to watch the blood flow. It's not easy to decide the issue was big enough for you to let go of everything.

Does this however, mean suicide is justifiable? That it is okay to commit suicide just because your lover broke up with you?

Look at your life. Think about all the good things that happened. The people you love. The people who love you. The happy memories. The nice people. The gifts. Then look at the darkness, sorrow and anger. The bad things that happened. Are the good things out weighted? Do they not make you want to live?

There are people out there dying of illness. They go through so much pain and fear. They finally die is such pathetic states. There are people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They didn't know this. They died because of their ignorance. There are people who had no say in their future. They were killed, some for no reason, some for terrible reasons, others even before they could be considered a person. There are people dying every second. And in their dying moment, they wish for a few more seconds to love. A few more hours.

Think about all those people. Think about their families. Think about how much longer they could have lived.

Do you still want to die before it's your time? Do you want to be just another dead soul? Do you want to let pain win?

We all have our share of sorrow, fear, pain, hate and anger. Kids are abandoned, disowned, raped, abused and threatened. I did use the word trivial, but I shouldn't be calling another's problem insignificant. We all matter, and our problems matter. It may seem small, it may seem like others have it worse. But you deserve to be heard. If you are depressed, talk to someone. If you have an eating disorder, talk to someone. If you want to give up, talk to someone.

Sometimes, there will be a shoulder to lean on. There will be someone to listen. But sometimes, there is no one. And then, you do jump off the cliff and some will cry while others insult. But let me tell you that they shouldn't.

You are perfect. You are beautiful. You deserve to live.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Waking up when it is too late

Somewhere during the end of December 2012, I visited Sigiriya for the first time. The climb threw me into an ocean of feelings that confused and suffocated me. It was a journey that made me realize how easy we are to replace. It was a journey that made me realize how terms like Amma, Thaththa, Duwa and Putha are special. I’ve only called one person Amma, one person Thaththa and so on. In fact, I’ve never called more than one person Athamma, Seeya, Mama or Nanda. Others who were also my grandparents, aunts or uncles, were either addressed by their names followed by Seeya, Athamma, etc or were addressed by synonyms, for instance Achchi instead of Athamma.
Background pic by Kevin Fernando

However, I’ve been called Duwa by many people, not just my parents. My grandparents, uncles and aunts and a few other grown ups call me Duwa. There are also the strangers I’ve met, friends of my parents and teachers, to whom I will always be a daughter.

Somehow, while I don’t give much thought to being a daughter to many, I want to be the only daughter of my parents. This isn’t an issue since I’m the only girl in the family, and since my cousins aren’t a threat to the love my mother shows me, I have never been bothered when my mother called them Duwa or Putha. However, last year, during the trip, I realized my father called his niece Duwa, and I certainly didn’t want to share him with people I don’t even know well.

However, this wasn’t the only thing that bothered me about the trip. What hit me the most was how my father chose that Duwa over me, his own daughter. Sure, she’s years younger than I am, a kid, and needed more help than I did. However, it hurt that I had to climb Sigiriya all alone, and when there was nothing to hold on to, I knew that girl had my father’s hand to hold. It was then that I felt the most abandoned.

We went on another trip recently, and went for a short walk in Sinharaja. This time, especially during the walk back, my father and I spent a lot of alone time together. We spoke about various things, and this time I knew I had someone to hold on to. I knew he would help me through the rocky areas. And he did help me through certain areas. But most of the time, I didn’t need him.

That’s when it hit me that we truly do fly away from the nest our parents create for us. They work hard to give us everything they never had in life; luxuries that often end up doing more harm than good. In most families, both parents work. Thus children see very little of them.

There is a story of a little boy who asks his father how much he’s paid for an hour of work. The father tells him, and the son then asks for 50 dollars or so from the father. The boy is told he has no need for money. The story ends when the son tells his father that he needed the money to have enough to buy an hour of his father’s life, just so the boy could spend some time with him.

Who do you remember the most from your childhood; your parents or the person who took care of you? Most of us are fonder of our grandparents because they were there for us when we were small. Who wiped our tears when we bruised our knees? Who made us dinner and let us stay up till late? Who made pillow forts for us to play in?

We are birds who will fly away, and as we leave our teens and slowly take steps into adulthood, our parents wake up. They realize they spend very little time with us, that they don’t really know us. So they make time. They show us they are there. They take us out for meals, movies and other outings. Sadly, they choose to be there when we no more have a need for them.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

This Star Won't Go Out

Like most, I didn’t know of Esther’s existence until after she passed away. I watched a few videos where Esther was mentioned, I wrote a very short post on one Esther Day and besides that only knew that Esther was a nerdfighter who died of cancer. It was sad that such a young and beautiful girl was dead, but she wasn’t someone I knew, and so, I never showed much interest in her life.

Then I ordered This Star Won’t Go Out for some unknown reason. I thought it was a small book with lots of pictures and didn’t really want to pay Rs 2,300 for it. Then I got a call that the bookstore was to deliver the book, and I again asked my self if it was worth it.

So on Wednesday, I finally got my copy of TSWGO and I was over the moon. The book is heavy and lovely and just perfect. You know they worked hard to create this, designing each page so beautifully.

There are enough pictures, letters and drawings by Esther to know the book truly belongs to her. And there are enough words from her family and friends to know she is loved.

Don’t give much thought to tenses here. Sure, you need to talk about Esther Grace Earl in the past tense; however, she doesn’t seem dead, maybe because I never knew her when she was alive anyway. Or maybe because I often forget people are dead.

Now I started the book with a lump in my throat, thanks to the introduction by John Green. The words following his didn’t make things better. However, a few pages into the book, it was easy to forget Esther was no more. Her writing made you her friend, her writing was so honest that you saw Esther for who she really was.

Now I won’t go on to talk about the book itself, because there’s only one word I have for it; perfection.

Looking at Esther, she is someone you could easily love. She was just a few months younger than me; both of us were born in 1994. For this reason, I can’t help constantly thinking of her as someone who would have turned 20 this year. And I can’t help comparing her life and mine. We both have wild hair and we both love to write. However, I wish I had more in common with her, not because I could then, be like her, but because I could relate to her.

So Esther’s story isn’t this happy story where she was always strong and happy and accepting of her condition. She writes that she wishes could live longer, that she sometimes just broke down in tears and disliked how lazy she had become. Esther’s story shows us that one mustn’t always glorify the dead. A person doesn’t suddenly become this strong person who didn’t give up just because they are dead. In her diary, Esther is honest about life. Of course, she was honest because she wasn’t writing for thousands of people. She wrote for herself.

These are her most private thoughts, and while I’m still debating if it’s fair on Esther to have her private thoughts published, I’m still happy I can read at least some of her words. They changed how I looked at life, they reminded me that while people had bigger problems, my problems, as insignificant they are, still matter.

When my friends at work asked about the book, what two people said really hit me. One asked me what made Esther’s story worth being published. You must understand that we are people who choose what to publish and often ask the question, why does a story deserve paper-space? My coworker went on to ask me what made Esther special, when there were so many others who had it worse. And suddenly I felt defensive of Esther, a girl I didn't know. I wanted to tell my coworker that Esther deserved to have her story published because she was so beautiful, so amazing and so human. But most of all, she deserves to have her story published because she wrote it. However, I knew my coworker wouldn't understand that love felt in nerdfighteria, where you don't need to 'know' someone to love them, and be defensive of them the way friends are.

However, it hurt to think that some day if I publish my story, she wouldn't think it was worth a read simply because my problems aren't as big as the problems other people have. It hurt to think our significance is marked by how bad we have it. And if the pain a writer goes through is what makes a book worth a read, well, This Star Won't Go Out is worth it. Esther goes through so much pain and yet, she talks about it as if it shouldn't matter.

Another coworker told me that Esther's story was special because she actually wrote it. And some how she said she should also maintain a journal in case she dies. And my first thought was, "You are going to die." I actually said this to her, but she didn't hear me. We do live ignoring death, we pretend we aren't dying. We think we have been promised an old age. And Esther too, at times writes about turning 60 (or some such age.) And you realize that even though she knew she would die, she still wanted to live. We don't accept that death could be just around the corner, so we go on in life, living as if we have a promised 'full life.' But does this imply that someone who dies at sixteen doesn't live a full life?

I love This Star Won't Go Out. I love Esther's story. And I love Esther. 

And this star won't go out.

“I feel very lucky to know you—and as far as I have seen, to know you is literally to love you.” -Esther Earl, This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Forever Alones on Valentines Day

Valentines’ Day is now of the past and you may no longer be suffocated by stories of gifts, cards, candy, chocolate and dates. You can now breathe because all your friends who are in relationships are also now tired of talking about just how cute their gifts were. The status updates and tweets about Valentines’ Day are safely buried under more important matters. However, happiness is still not yours if you are yet to meet your Valentines’ Day celebrating friends since Friday was a holiday.

Now there are those who celebrate February 14, and there are those who don’t. The latter consists of those who believe that one shouldn’t celebrate love just once a year, and also those who are labeled as ‘Forever Alones.’ Forever Alone is a title given to one who has been single for a very long time, and who could safely look forward to a future with no special someone. Of course, it’s a label that is used in a funny manner, although it could also be used as an insult.

When Valentines’ Day is just around the corner, Forever Alones go into hiding. They avoid people because of the pressure society puts on them. ‘How is it that someone like you is still single?’ or ‘don’t lie to me, who was your Valentine?’ and you keep telling them that you aren’t hiding your amazing love life from them, but they just don’t believe you. Then they start pitying you. It’s almost as if not being in a relationship is a curse. As if your happily ever after can only be achieved by finding someone to share your happily ever after with. This makes Forever Alones have low self-esteem and doubt themselves.

Of course, no Forever Alone will ever admit he/she hates his/her single status. They would laugh it off and say they are happy being single. And the perks are many. You can enjoy all the eye candy without feeling guilty, you have more freedom, and you save a whole lot by not making so many phone calls or sending so many messages.

However, when Valentines’ Day rolls around, once a year, Forever Alones are reminded that they are alone. While their friends get gifts and cards and are asked out on dates, you end up staying at home, snacking on potato chips, watching whatever is on TV. And due to how considerate they are, TV channels only broadcast romance movies on Valentines’ Day. Thus Forever Alones are given a gentle reminder that while the likes of Ugly Betty can also go on dates, they are home alone, waiting, in vain, for their Prince Charming to knock on the door.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Oblivion is bliss

I dislike kids. And even more than dislike, I’m scared of them. However, when my mother told me she was taking the kids she teaches, six years olds, to the zoo, I wanted to go. I’ve wanted to go there for years and finally the golden ticket was in my hands. I wanted to go, even if it meant I had to spend time with some kids.

Sitting in their classroom, everything was okay. Of course this was the calm before the storm, because a few minutes later two boys came to me and told me another boy was crying. And there he was, crying away. The kids kept waiting for me to do something, and all I could do was quickly walk away to my mother. This was a clear indication that the day was about the get worse.

During the bus ride to the zoo, I couldn’t help smiling at the innocent remarks of the kids. They were so excited to see the outside world. What was even nicer was how, even though they had just had breakfast, their main concern since getting on to the bus was eating. They happily opened lunch boxes and packets of biscuits and soon their tiny hands were covered in crumbs.

Getting to the zoo, it was so difficult to keep them from shouting, walking about and running away. Throughout the walk around the zoo and the sea lion and elephant shows, the kids kept eating. They had been given clipboards to take down anything they found interesting. Some kids wrote down a few names, others took down most of the names of the animals they saw, while a few actually drew some animals. One little boy kept holding his clipboard away from him, sketching the way artists do. During the elephant show he suddenly shouted, holding up his clipboard, “Look at my picture, elephant!” While everyone around him laughed, he wasn’t embarrassed. For him, it was a completely normal thing to do. To show an elephant his drawing.

Then came my moment of fame, when three kids told me to draw elephants for them. I told the first child that I can’t draw. And the elephant I drew was something I’m not proud of. However, after drawing the elephants, a girl came up to me and said, “You were lying when you said you can’t draw.” That, I think, was one of the most honest compliments I’ve ever received.

Something that amused me the most was how the kids were so excited to see the iguanas who were roaming about. Forget the Komodo Dragon and crocodiles, they wanted to see the iguanas!
Of course, the zoo was in a dismal state and yet, the kids were still so excited to run around. I remember seeing a black panther and many other animals during my visits as a kid. Now, the lions, bears, tigers are simply a pathetic sight. And yet, these kids, they didn’t see how underfed the animals were. Even when a teacher told them the animals were unhappy because they didn’t have food, the kids didn’t understand that it is a serious situation. For them, the empty cages were just empty cages. It didn’t mean the animals were dead. Maybe they thought the animals were on vacation.

Nearing the end of the trip, the kids were standing near the entrance/exit when there was a purple-pink flower rain. The kids danced around, trying to catch the flowers. It was a moment of innocence. Of  happiness.

While the kids learnt a lot about animals that day, I learnt a lot about life. Being with kids for that one day, I felt younger, lighter. Life’s worries and barriers didn’t matter. For those few hours, running behind these kids, life was simple. It was amazing.

When people say they love and miss their childhood the most, what they actually love and miss is the oblivion that comes with childhood. These kids didn’t know about death, injustice, neglect. They didn’t know the zoo was trapping these animals. For them, the animals were happy. The kids were happy. And their happiness made me happy.