“Eighty percent of comedians come from a place of tragedy. They didn’t get enough love. They have to overcome their problems by making people laugh.”Jamie Masada, owner, Laugh Factory.
I cried myself to sleep that night. I had just drank a couple of “caps” of Baygon Spray. I was 14 years old. I was very very scared. And sad. I thought I would not be able to wake up and see my brother or the love interest in school or the love interest in neighborhood anymore. I had two “crush” back then. You know who you are if you are reading this. I cried for you before I was apparently on deathbed, you guys owe me a plate of Biryani now!
I do not know if I would be able to finish writing this blog post. I am already crying. I am crying because this stirs in a number of dark gloom memories of my childhood which was basically a piece of shit. I never actually want to have a child lest I gift her the same monster in dreams. Not everyone can fight the way I did. I say this with no pride but fact-checking with friends and family. I do not have any data though. Do not ask me to back up my assumptions. I will just write about my lived experience. That is, if I can finish this blog post.
I woke up today with FB news-feed flooding with alleged suicide case of Sushant Singh Rajput, a Bollywood star. I initially ignored the news. Some of them argued, “Our jawans are dying no-one bats an eyelid.” I thought our farmers also often starved to death. This is personal because I grow my own food, at least I try and I know how it feels when that effort is wasted. And other whataboutery. Basically, I ignored. Until the dead-body pictures floated around and it opened a can of worms in my memory.
Mental health. Psychologist. “Pagoler daktar”, as they would call them back home. Doctor who treats the madmen. The crazies. A certain amount of stigma and hush-hush-this-girl-gone-mad were associated. Medication will do you no good. Meditate. Think good. All the enablers come screaming.
The fact that I am/ we are living is nothing short of a miracle, a miracle encased with blood and muscle and visceral emotions. This does not need to be confined to a monolithic linear flow of lived experience of a specific community.
Why did I drink those two caps of Baygon? I laugh out loud now!
I tried to fix my best friend with my favorite cousin and called her up from Bankura. This is early 2000. We did not have social media, smart phone, whats app. I called her from our Bankura house. STD rings were different than the local ones. She understood its me. She picked up. Her mother too picked up from ground floor. Back in those days landline usually used to have two connections.
“Hey hey! My dada is in love with you!” I exclaimed as she picked up! She tried to STFU me with updates on my crushes but I thought budding this love story was more pressing at this moment. Finally she had to spell it out. “My mother is hearing you from the other line.” I gulped down, “Oh shit, your mother heard it all!”
I knew it meant my life had technically ended! Kakima would now come to school, meet my mother and tell her everything, “EVERYTHING!” Everything included, 1. the boy crush at home 2. the girl crush at school, 3. the fact I do not eat tiffin sent from home and gorge of Alu Kabli instead, and 4. the most dangerous one, I am thinking of “LOVE”.
Now, in our households, back in that time, the idea that adolescent girls can be in love, fall in love and lust after a boy/man, a human being from opposite (and or same) gender was “un-thinakble”.
I was only allowed to be in love with SRK, and Sachin. But I did not love Sachin ever. I mean not the Love kind of love, you know! We were never taught what molestation is. We were never given a lesson on what period/menstruation is. It was assumed, “Boro meye” big girls in school will tell us! No-one did. We did not have google to look up either. We were just a bunch of naive stupid girls on the make!
My mother would usually not come to my school. A neighbor aunt would play chaperone for 5/6 girls of the neighborhood. My father would drop us to school. Another friend and I would sit at the backseat of a Bajaj Vespa and go to school at 10 am! I had a glimmer of home that I would be spared for a few more days and can negotiate with the aunty. Negotiate! She washed me out with humiliation and accusations the day she met me at school. “Go to Victoria memorial and sit with boys and move your legs!” I am trying to loosely translate what she meant, that I should meet boys and do whatever I want but leave her girl in peace!
Just FYI, we are still great friends and the Aunty remains a sweetheart, a loving caring woman who feeds me everything I love to eat whenever I am back home in Kolkata! Time heals everything. The friend and the cousin are married now, to different partners whom they had loved and had chosen. They never actually met. They might meet when I marry and throw a wedding party! We will again have a good laugh. we will probably skip the Baygon spray part.
But that one week was the longest time I have lived, threatened with the idea, lest my mother knows! Our relationship has always been strained. I was traumatized and anxious and had to escape. So I drank Baygon Spray. Thinking of an impending
death escape, I went to sleep in peace.
I remember the melancholy of an imminent end, and the entailing peace. I slept reciting, “Moron re tuhu momo Shyam Soman!” Rabindranath’s romance with death. This sounds dramatic but drama is all we had as little girls in sleepy town of Howrah, back in 2002/2003.
But, nothing happened! I woke up next day wide eyed and slight, very slight sore stomach, which did not need any medication for fixing. That Baygon Spray did not work. No wonder they never really killed the roaches in that old quarter. “I did not die”, I was disappointed. And I was amused that Baygon sprays don’t actually work! I told this to the friend. I think she did not believe me until long! “Sotyi?” She asked later! No-one in the class did. I used to exaggerate a lot and make up stories as a child!
Looking back, I am thankful they did not! Otherwise, that suicide attempt would have been a problem.
That was not the last time I actually wanted to commit suicide. The growing up period in my life was filled with tumultuous events, mostly originating from regressive orthodox world view that kept of colliding with my free spirited manners. I knew I had to escape, have my own house and live independently. I was just not sure how that is possible. Till the time, I did not figure that out, suicidal thought kept crawling up every now and then. They were not act of passion though. I wanted a rather peaceful, sublime, “safe” death. Say, a sleeping pill overdose. A poison. A blue death followed by an ice cold morgue for a resting place. Death is the ideal escape. I had seen humans peeking passionate outbursts, and embracing self immolation to show case their wrath and dismay over life, on a later date.
Things changed when I finally started with my tryst with all the loveslaborlost relationships, since I was 16 years old. Desperate to seek a refuge, to hold on to a source that would add a meaning to this meager emptiness of my life, I dared committing to several relationships from a tender age. They were uncanny, difficult men from varied strata of the society. Each one came with its own share of lessons. Despite all the abuse, violence, manipulations, I owe a lot of my unlearning to these men. Through those relationships, I have evolved to be the woman I am today, confidant in my own skin, ideology, resolve and politics.
16 years down the line, I am a well traveled and well read woman or so I would I like to believe. I have seen a lot and I want to see a lot more of the world, barring a third world war. The man I am in love with knows, sees and lives my crazy. I want to live and thrive in the Big Apple. I want to take a cruise ship to Antarctica. Together, with him! And you know what? Things seem to be surprisingly possible as fate would have it! Do I still think of suicide? I am tempted to say Nope, Nada, Nay but truth is I do think of suicide being the ultimate escape if I run out of all resources to fight.
What will happen if we can no longer travel? What will happen if I can not go back to a job? What if there is no money left in my account anymore.. What will happen if there is a war? … What will happen if India turns into a fascist state? What will happen if I end up in a jail for voicing my opinion? All the what ifs of an anxious mind.. I find sukoon in the thought, “Fine, I shall end it once and for all”. I would not, I would fight, hopefully. But I know the end is also an option.
I do not know anything about depression. But I had felt severely sick just before I had quit my job. The uncertainty of quitting a corporate job was more than what my mind could have processed. I gained more than 10 KGs in 2 months, along came crows feet under my eyes and sleepless nights! But the anticipated opportunity cost of what I was losing out on the creative field heaved heavy. Once it was over, I felt a lot better. What was that phase? Anxiety?
I have a friend, a practicing psychologist who works with Indian Armed Forces. Talking to her has been of great help too.
I am basically an introvert. I express myself a lot better in written words than I could ever speak out. I remember writing how I felt, how much I wanted to shout, and how I want to run everywhere.. even on the light paper that came in the fold of a new Tant saree.
Later, I discovered walking around in the old narrow dingy lanes of north Kolkata was therapeutic. Crossing meticulously those dead rats, dog shit and used condoms and being able to look up and exploring the old charm of North Kolkata was my first true fling with travel. Back then, I would have never imagined going to Zanzibar will ever happen in my life! I was a hedonist.
I am not writing this post to give you any information on how to deal with mental health issue. I am no expert but just yet another fellow woman who once in a while thought of dying at the most defeating moments of her life. Those moments still come floating, but I do not think of dying as much any longer. I do not think dicks who think mental health is “not worth discussing” reads my blog anyway.
This is just a way of reassuring that things eventually fall in place. You will be bestowed with several new lives in one lifetime, if you allow yourself some time to heal, and look up for resources. But for that, you need to acknowledge you need healing. I wish I could speak to more caregivers back when I was a child… To tell them about my worries, my fears and my anxiety. Instead, I would go all red in my cheek when faced with moments of insurmountable pressure.
Did that do me any good? Some of my friends think I am very strong! I do not know. I feel I have done all I could to save myself. I am happy that I could do it, luck had favored me, social privileges played out. So far. I know some of my friends could not bloom in all their might. The neighborhood girl who committed suicide when she was in 8th STD… her young brother would always paint a silhouette hanging from the ceiling fan… He is an engineering grad from one of the most prominent Indian institute today. Several others who succumbed to PTSD after surviving abusive relationship. It is a pity we have zero, ZERO, support system for unmarried women in India. This story will wait for a another day.
For now, I look back and feel pity for that 14 year old girl, who tried to end her life out of fear. An inexplicable fear that crossed every boundary and pity none could see through. I laugh today but this also happens to be one of my most vulnerable self and I own it.
I am grateful to know you, Madhurima. It takes a lot of courage to speak about depression, of wanting to die. I have fought my own battles. I have wanted to die. I have tried to die. Perhaps a part of me still does. And you are right, there’s no support. Not from parents, not from teachers, not from friends, not even from healthcare professionals. I went to see a psychologist at Ruby some 4 years back. She didn’t want to listen; she just wanted to tell me what she thought was “wrong” with me. I didn’t go back. We are a nation of people where even doctors and nurses lack empathy. We are a nation of people eager only to pass judgement, not empathise, not listen.
I do not know how to rid my own monsters but I am learning. Now I tell whoever will listen, I am here for you. I will listen to you. Tell me.