Lives of quiet desperation

She seemingly had it all—the vitality of youth, varied and interesting career choices, a vibrant life, a vivacious personality. Yet she is now no more, after allegedly plunging off a Bengaluru high rise to certain, violent death.

Her story is all over the city newspapers now. The question uppermost in peoples’ minds (as my own) is why? Why did this bright, beautiful girl feel she had to end it all? To leave behind loved ones who are probably traumatised for life. What spurred her on to do this terrible act? 

Today, we (at least most urbanites) live “always-on” lives. We are constantly chatting, messaging and posting on social media, tweeting, sending pictures. And yet, no one close to her knew that this young woman was seriously disturbed. That something was wrong? Why did no one pick up on her desperation?

A few years ago, a former colleague of mine—just as bold, bright and beautiful—killed herself. Those who knew her and those who worked with her, were devastated. I felt bereft too even though I was not good friends with her. I had lost touch with her years before. Yet, when we were colleagues, I had admired her spunk. She had sass and style. A ready wit and a winsome smile. A good life, a great career.

Yet apparently, it had not been enough. Not nearly enough. Why had she done this to herself? Afterwards, there were murmurs about pressures in her personal life. Stories of how she was often, visibly unhappy at her (then) workplace. Again I wondered, why hadn’t anyone spoken to her, asked her what was wrong?

Are we so self-obsessed that we fail to notice what is happening to those we care about? Or work with? Is it because our daily lives are now so superficial, there’s no inclination to plumb the depths of unhappiness just below the surface?

Because all we do now is:

  • Talk about super-awesome vacation—Take selfie, pout prettily.
  • Mention in passing amazing job/super awesome project—Take selfie, pout prettily.
  • Gush about glorious wife/husband/children—Take selfie, pout prettily.
  • Or, is it that we now demand too much of ourselves? Because our list of aspirations is never ending.
  • Get a job, a super awesome job
  • Get married—to impossibly good looking people
  • Buy a house, no, scratch that, a villa
  • Buy a car, no, an SUV
  • Acquire an endless array of the latest smartphones
  • Produce the requisite number of children
  • Flash in-depth knowledge of designer wear, wear bespoke clothing
  • And finally, take a selfie

Why is it not okay today if we don’t tick all the right boxes? Wouldn’t it be great, if loved ones and friends said instead, we love you just the way you are. That something else will work out. That being happy with what you have is equally important. 

Without that kind of support, unconditional love and total encouragement, it is hard to come to terms with not making that list, to overcome personal or professional disappointments. It is incredibly difficult to look at other super-happy people and their super-awesome lives, if you don’t seem to be living a similarly spectacular life.

And guess what, it is even harder to talk about it. Unless there is someone who knows you so well that he or she picks up on that hidden, yet growing desperation, that secret all-encompassing belief it’s better to end it all.

How I wish my former colleague had someone like that in her life.

And how I wish that young woman, smiling at us from the newspapers, had someone too.

Someone to tell them nothing is worth this. Nothing.

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  1. Balasubramanian A. says:

    Most unfortunate. Had she sought the help from an understanding person or the holy book Gita, she would have found an answer for the query “why things go wrong”. Happiness or unhappiness is just a state of mind, it can always change with circumstances. All we need is a guide to show the path.

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