I am writing this post straight after reading the book, ‘The Story of a Suicide’ by Sriram Ayer. No, this is not a plain book review post. Yes, I shall discuss about the book but there’s more to it.
Teenagers are vulnerable; vulnerable to love, sex, addictions, abuse and attention. Any of these can incite anger, frustration, revenge, fear, anxiety, depression and perhaps other emotional and psychological disturbances in them. Characters Sam, Charu, Hari and Mani are four such teenagers in the book, ‘The Story of a Suicide’.
What’s the Book about?
Among the four characters, we have a victim of child sex abuse, gays, a student with difficulty in coping in a English-medium college, a preposterous feminist, a financially poor student and a love-longing and revengeful techie. In other words, all the four characters are burdened with one or the other misfortunes of today’s young generation. And the book takes us into the depths of the raw psyches of such youngsters and their resultant behaviour, one of which becomes intense to the extreme of committing suicide.
The Purpose of the Book
‘The Story of a Suicide’ is an online novel (yes, open to the whole world to read and absolutely free of cost) which can be read here. The author, Sriram Ayer, is the Founder & CEO of a NGO, NalandaWay Foundation. The organization works with children from the poorest districts in India, helping them to become creative, build self-confidence and learn life-skills. This book was released online on the 31st of July, 2016 in association with Youth Ki Awaaz, to raise awareness around mental health.
Said that the book carries no monetary motives, as readers we all have the responsibility to understand the message from it, to help several of such disturbed youngsters around us, including ourselves if we are one.
Essence from the Book
The plot begins with a relationship break-up between two people. The girl grieves that the guy is unable to understand the little girly things that she’s fond of. The boy is frustrated about the ever-moody, never-happy specimen in her. Being one of the major issues breaking a romantic relationship, this episode of the book, though brief, shall help youngsters gain insights into what both the parties undergo during a break-up crisis. The scene where Sam looks at himself on the mirror is specifically realistic.
None can take child sex abuse lightly after reading Hari’s flashback. It is intense and powerful. It is quite different from how we read it as news in the papers. It is real! It is detailed as it is happening – the fear, the hate, the helplessness and the long-term psychological disturbance it leaves behind.
Of the number of flaws in our education system, the expectation from a student of a regional language-medium to fare well in an English medium higher education is indeed a cruel demand. Mani’s story begins with this difficulty though I felt it didn’t get highlighted enough. The pressure of scoring marks combined with the pressure of a poor family to take care of is certainly a huge burden for a 18-year-old. Suicide attempts by such students have been increasing lately. And Mani’s background does justice to this subject.
The perspective of carrying a character like Charu is unique. From the Caesar-Draupadi scene to begin with till the end of the plot, she is shown as an outrageous teenager who detests male control over women’s freedom and body. The letter from Vagina to Penis is by far the most intense thoughts of a woman I’ve ever read. Charu is a character for learning. Young girls who resonate with Charu’s thoughts need to slow down to analyse the better and off side of her personality. Men shall reconsider if their attitude towards women is rightful or not.
Attraction towards a woman’s body is a natural instinct in a teenager. Men may know it better. However, for a girl to understand this part of a man’s psyche, Sam’s thought process is open to public reading. The raw sexual cravings which also has a tinge of longing for love in it is depicted through his character. The disappointments and frustrations he faces after rejection poisons his mind with vengeance. In spite of playing the villian character, the goodness in him of feeling guilty has been justly brought-out. The sharing of his intimate moments with a girl, to his friends through tweets and images might come a shocking warning to girls who blindly get infatuated towards modern-day boys.
Homosexuals are not different species. They are humans with different feelings. You might agree to this after reading the book. How men fall in love with each other is written as natural as their love is. They do romance and earn for each other’s love as a heterosexual would do. But the constant fear of facing confrontation from the society kills them from inside. This part of the book deserves an applause.
And the suicide at the climax! One of the main characters we’ve walked with, breaks finally. The climax is unexpected and shall sure make us feel sorry for what happens.
What’s unique about the book?
One point the author has maintained strictly throughout, is the openness in explaining embarrassing and private matters. Initially, it made me think if this approach is necessary, but I gradually realized that a louder personification is in fact critical in bringing out the seriousness of certain unspoken social subjects. The language, style, narration – the literary aspects were good enough and what actually sweeps is the content; the message that the author wants to put across to youngsters.
Speaking about the book will be incomplete without mentioning the illustrations by Ghana, the CEO of The Yellow House and Co-fonder of ArtCompaassion. Most of the prominent scenes in the book are given a visual imagery with water colour paintings. All the images in this post are taken from the book illustrations. Art indeed adds a strong impact to what we read through words!
The book can be seen as two books combined into one. In addition to the main story, the right widget of the reading page includes a ‘How Do I?’ series of messages for wellness and benefit, pertaining to the social aspects dealt with, in the book (written by Mansi Mehta, a writer and editor). For instance, it has answers to questions such as ‘How do I cope with a relationship break-up?’ and ‘How do I know I am in a depression?’. Check the entire list of How Do I? series here.
As said earlier, the author’s work will be only half done unless readers imbibe the responsibility the book intends to.
I could relate stories from my own life with that of the characters in the book.
When I recently heard one of my close acquaintances narrating how he was abused as a child, I was shocked to witness the anguish he had carried even after years of the incident. When another friend narrated how a cousin of her’s used to abuse her in childhood, I was surprised by the way she has coped with the situation. Similarly, in the case of relationship break-ups, I’ve known of people who remained, in fact a few who still remain, depressed and those who could move on steadily.
Many of us might have gone through or going through one or more difficulties discussed in the book. Many of us may know family or friends going through, as well. First of all, this book can form a base to understand the emotions underneath such difficulties. Second, we must take the responsibility to help victims we know to come out of their situations.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in India (aged 10-24), as per a Lancet report. And 50 million people in the country suffer from stress and depression, both major reasons for suicide.
The decision to suicide might either be a momentary reflex or a long-thought plan. Most of the times, it is difficult for friends and family to even guess that a suicidal thought is brewing in one’s mind. Practically, most of us cannot prevent a suicide unless we closely follow the speech and behaviour of one. However, let’s all take a pledge to be open and sensitive to people who seem to be in a depression. Sometimes, two ears to listen to their woes are what they need to change their decision. In case you have a suicidal thought, first, speak out. Seek help and never stay alone.
Relationship break-ups can be a highly emotional phase of life. It does take time to gain acceptance and move on. And it’s this time gap that we might become vulnerable to several misdeeds. The best to do in this phase is divert our energies in to something creative or innovative. If your close friend or a family member is going through one, give them their time and space to recover and at the same time, insist them into something creative. Personally, I’ve seen art bring a change in such situations.
Child sex abuse, most of the times, happens within close family circle and neighbourhood. We don’t live in a nice world. Sexual abuses are more ubiquitous now than ever. Please protect your children. Prioritize your children before wealth and career.
The neighbour uncle may seem nice to you; the school security guard may seem nice to you; your cousin visiting your home may seem nice to you, but be aware one of them might be secretly targeting your child.
Be aware that boys can be victims as much as girls can. As parents, especially as mothers, do not ignore what your child reports or hints to you. If at all Hari’s mother in the book could have listened to him as a child, a lot could have been saved in his life. If you are being victimized of abuse, shout aloud so that someone can hear, even if not your parents. It’s your life, not of your parents’ or the society. If you know a child being abused, again shout aloud. It’s your responsibility.
When you discover that your son or daughter has a different sexual orientation, it might be unacceptable at first. However, allow yourself some time. Remember it’s your responsibility to back them with moral support while everybody else might condemn them.
If you or someone you know are being stalked with your photos or videos, report it to the police or a supportive NGO. The sooner it is done, the better it is. Remaining quiet might seem safe but it actually isn’t. Unfortunately, girls need to be extra cautious about the ‘whos’ and ‘whats’ of the happenings around them. Being outrageous might feel good, however, may it be within the limits of sensibility and safety.
I am not a feminist but to all men reading this post – many of you are the culprits behind child abuse, rape, stalking and much more. Not that all women are divine beings but higher percentage of men does all this – please rethink about your instincts. If something hurts you emotionally or psychologically, seek help and speak to someone. Taking revenge or pleasure to camouflage your own inadequacies at the cost of another’s life isn’t good. Please realize your responsibility.
Of several duties and responsibilities we carry along, let’s pledge to add that of looking around people with open eyes and ears. ‘What’s my problem?’ might seem safe but remember it’s not right.
Let’s all, please, Wake Up!