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Friday, August 16, 2013

She......and the rest of us!!


It's time for the last Guest Post on SuKupedia.  My previous two guests, frankly did not need much of an introduction, because of their visibility in the blogging world, most of you already knew them.  But today's guest needs a bit of introduction, because though in my opinion she is an excellent writer, her blog visibility is not much.   I must say that I am extremely proud to have in this guest with very good writing skills.  I have been following her blog 'Over a cup of tea' for a while, well I also hold the pride of being the first follower to her blog, ahem ahem!.  Her first blog about her academic life, Academic Garden, has been in existence since 2010.  This is one blogger who ought to be known to the blogging world.  You will have to read her blog posts to know what I mean.  Impeccable language, excellent vocabulary and wonderful thought process is what I feel when I read her posts.  You can read more about her on this profile here.  So guys please welcome Kaneenika Sinha, and hop over to her blog and encourage her ♥♥ If you like reading sensible stuff...you don't wanna miss her blog 

She.....and the rest of us!!

Let me tell you about a talented and ambitious young woman in her early 20s.  She was a few years into her chosen profession and showed great promise.  She had availed some great opportunities to work with leading professionals in her field and had learnt a lot in the process.  She was gradually building up her skills and her credibility in her profession.  Unfortunately, this is not how she saw herself.  Being very young, she herself had no idea of how well she was doing because her chosen career does not have sufficient and clearly laid out parameters to evaluate progress at such an early stage.  Therefore, she was continuously besotted with the feeling that she was not good enough.  She was also staying away from home in a fiercely competitive environment where she probably felt deprived of social and personal support.  It is very likely that she suffered from chronic depression.  She soon entered into a romantic relationship with a colleague/fellow apprentice/whatever you choose to label him.  She formed a deep attachment with her partner (like many young people of her age), but the guy (also very young himself) was "just not that much into it."  One day, she received a break up note from him.  She pleaded with him to continue the relationship, but it was not meant to be.  She also felt that she had recently lost out on an excellent opportunity for career progression.  There was some talk of an uneasy relationship with her mother.  Overwhelmed with all of this and in sheer despair, she decided to end her life.
  
Up to this point, this looks like the story of Jiah Khan, budding Bollywood actress who committed suicide in early June of 2013.
  
But, I am not referring to her alone.  I also have in mind a former student at a very prestigious STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) institute in India.  Let's call her N.  N had an excellent academic record from her school days.  She dreamt of becoming a scientist and despite stiff opposition from her family members (particularly her mother) who wanted her to pursue engineering or medicine, she decided to take up a five year programme in Chemistry at her institute.  Thanks to her good record, she got a chance to do summer internships at the labs of established scientists, who honed her skills and were very impressed with her dedication and abilities.  Unfortunately, she had started to feel "not good enough" due to the very  challenging and rigorous nature of her programme and because of the fiercely competitive environment at her institute, which takes in some of the best students in the country through a very competitive exam.  She was in a relationship with a classmate, who ended the relationship just as she started to dream of a happy married life with him (yes, same old! same old!)

On the same day, she realized that she had missed the deadline to apply to a very prestigious fellowship which she had a good chance of winning.  As she explained this to her mother over the phone, the mother lost her temper and accused her of letting her parents down and ruining her future by taking up science and not engineering/medicine/whatever.  Frustrated and in despair, N also decided to take her life that very evening.

 But, this is where the stories of Jiah Khan and N start to differ. N's "ex-boyfriend", let's call him V, after breaking up with her, did not break communication with her.  He kept receiving her phone calls, tried to console her and explained why getting married so early would be bad for both of them.  That night, as he was speaking to her on phone, she consumed an entire bottle of sleeping pills stolen from a hostel-mate's cupboard.  She mentioned this to him on the phone and collapsed.  This guy immediately alerted the medical clinic at the institute, the hostel warden and N's roommate who was sleeping at the time.  Within minutes, the institute ambulance rushed her to the nearest hospital and resuscitated her before it was too late.  What's more, N's roommate and V were present with her all through the night, caring for her and encouraging her.  After regaining consciousness, she realized the foolishness of what she had done to herself and what could have happened.  Soon, N's parents arrived on campus.  Her mother told the authorities that she had spoken harshly to her daughter that afternoon and would now take full responsibility to revive her daughter's spirits.  She was taken home for a few weeks where she received psychiatric counseling and lots of love from her family.  After she returned and rejoined her classes, her classmates, including V, extended tremendous emotional support to her as well as full help to make up for lost classes.  N's hostel mates also assured their warden that they will not judge (or nudge) N for what she had done, but would instead make her feel welcome and supported.  N's faculty mentors paid special attention to her academics as well as her overall well being.  People desisted from judging her or passing snide remarks at her.  Very soon, N was back on her feet.

N went on to do a PhD at an Ivy League University in America.  Today, she is a scientist at one of America's most prestigious research institutions and is happily married to another fellow scientist (not V!).  This happened because her friends, parents, teachers and institute stood by her without being judgmental when she needed them the most.  Had they not done so, she would have met the same predicament as Jiah Khan.

What did Jiah Khan have to endure? It is highly probable that she suffered from a depression problem that had most likely not been diagnosed before this fatal incident.  I cannot comment about her familial relationships because all our knowledge about them is based on media speculation.  On that particular evening, she found herself alone and unable to reach out to anyone in her moment of need.  After news of her passing away appeared the next day, some of her senior colleagues went on to post tweets or give interviews, questioning why this promising young girl had to take such a step.  But, this makes me wonder: did they ever express concern for her or give her constructive feedback and mentorship when she was alive?  I don't think so.  Not having done so, do they have any moral authority to judge her? That evening, almost all news channels discussed her in the news hour.  Young and successful professional women denounced her "cowardly" act on national television, passed strong judgements on her "mental weakness" and told the nation how "she should have been stronger."  This is routine response from most of us when we hear of someone taking their own life.  Within a few days, after police arrested the young man concerned, his mother went on to publicly state many deeply traumatic situations that Jiah had faced in her life and how these had turned her into a damaged individual.  "My son tried to help her, but....." she insinuated in her interviews.  Was it appropriate on her part to openly talk about these personal incidents (which Jiah had trustingly shared with her son) just to get sympathy for him?  Some people openly ridiculed her abilities, calling her a "failed actress", "one time wonder," "skin show and not much else" etc without stopping for even a moment to consider her early career stage.  At her age, most people are starting their professions and are little seeds that could potentially turn into giant trees if nurtured well!  But, we don't seem to acknowledge that this also applies to actors.

All this made me wonder why we make pronouncements about matters we don't fully understand or have enough knowledge about.  Before we write Jiah Khan off, let us think for a moment what she could have become, if she had received the kind of companionship, understanding and support from her immediate environment that N received (and eventually proved herself worthy of!) Young people like Jiah, irrespective of their profession or choices, don't need our judgement or sympathy.  All that they need are some good opportunities, some mentorship and some people to cheer them on and tell them, " You rock, dude! Just keep going."

-- Kaneenika Sinha






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21 comments:

  1. I try not to judge anyone but personally feel that taking your own life is very selfish but that's for another discussion. No one could really understand what was going on with Jhia at the moment but no one also knows if it would have gone differently even if she did have the counseling and the help she needed.

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    1. Yes, but it is much more useful to offer help (if one is in a position to help) to a depressed/suicidal person well in time than to judge him/her after the act is committed.

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    2. Yes, but it is much more useful to offer help (if one is in a position to help) to a depressed/suicidal person well in time than to judge him/her after the act is committed. Whether the help or assistance works or not is not in our hands - but, that should not desist us from helping.

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  2. I read this and I was wondering why even Bloglovin' is not showing me this post.

    We get so judgemental about others' lives, that we forget that all that person needs is a hug and a "I am with you, don't worry" gesture.

    Very well penned Kaneenika. :)

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    1. Thank you, Pooja. I agree - emotional support and concern from friends/family goes a long way when one is going through difficult times.

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  3. Thanks for introducing , 'over a cup of tea.'

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    1. Hi Kalpana, delighted to have you over for a cup of tea :)

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  4. Oh.. Even I was shocked to the news of jiah khan.. I was and will be always an admirer of hers.. I was very sad that day.. Because I looked upon her as a very confident person.. I never thought that such an young aspiring actress would end her life.. I don't intend to judge her though why she did it.. Cause no one can measure or calculate what exactly made her take that extreme step.. May her soul rest in peace..!! And may such people find the right kind of strength and support at the right time..!!

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    1. Totally with you on that, Priya K. Very well said.

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  5. Very well written Kaneenika. N's situation was handled remarkably. Wish everyone in depression had enough loving people around them to pull through!

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    1. Thank you, Reema. N's situation forced her institute to rethink its priorities with respect to the mental well being of students. Soon after, the institute launched a student mentorship programme in which each student was assigned a faculty mentor, who would offer the student any help and counseling through the difficult student years so that the student never feels helpless or alone in the system. This programme is now followed at several institutes of higher learning all over India.

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  6. Suicide can be prevented if there is intervention at the right time. There are helplines which one can call but unfortunately they do not receive the publicity they deserve! Today's world is a very demanding one and people have set for themselves very unrealistic goals in terms of what they want to achieve. Parents also play their role in this ( like N's mother) in being very insensitive towards what they consider "failure"! But overall, I think what we need in the Indian context is some way in which our youngsters are trained to cope with "relationships'. There seems to be sudden change in our social context these days - particularly within the urban scenario. We have begun accepting "relationships" like boyfriend-girlfriend. But our young people are not trained to deal with a break up! Both boys and girls react in a very extreme manner when a relationship does not work out! It is hard I know but you cannot force another person to accept a relationship they are not interested in. So we do the next best thing that we like - making a person feel guilty. We grow up seeing our parents doing this to us in subtle ways and we do it in the most extreme way possible by taking our life. I also find that suicide in India is perceived differently. Historically it is seen as a way to deal with difficult situations -rape, dishonor etc. There is some sort of a grudging admiration for those who take their own life. Instead if they can be shown as the cowards that they are when they opt out of life fewer people might go for it. I must say that you have raised a very important issue in your post and thanks to Sukupedia for carrying this!

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    1. Hi Meera, I agree. Learning to cope with relationships is a very important part of growing up.

      I feel that a break up is much easier to deal with if a person feels secure about other things in life. In the cases of both N and Jiah, they felt vulnerable about other things (most importantly, their careers, which they both felt insecure about)and that might have magnified the hurt caused by the break up.

      You have brought out an important point, namely that people also might be affected by the surrounding culture, which somehow glorifies (or at the very least accepts) taking one's own life as a means to overcome unrequited love, dishonor, rape etc. I had not thought about this angle at all.

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  7. beautifully expressed. N's situation was handled really well. it requires lot of sensitivity to deal with people going through depression.

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    1. @ simple girl, Thank you very much. Indeed, one has to be very sensitive in situations like this. My policy is that if I am in a position to help, I try to help and remain ultra sensitive about what the person is going through. Students, in particular, are very sensitive and one has to be careful not to utter such harsh words to them as would lower their self esteem - something that I am learning with more experience.

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  8. I'm not a big fan of people who judge those who have committed/attempted suicide or mock them for being weak. We never know how much they have endured and suffered in life and what the final straw was that broke the camel's back. As you rightly pointed out, if these people were there when Jiah needed them, she would probably never have taken such a step in her life.
    A true friend can make the difference.

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    1. Thank you, Roshan. I completely agree with you. We can never fully understand how another person has suffered. Having some good friends can make a significant difference. In the absence of that, I do wish that people suffering from mental or emotional problems which come in the way of leading a normal life would have access to psychiatric counseling and that consulting a psychiatrist wouldn't be looked down upon so much in our culture.

      I remember, in my college days, there used to be a programme on AIR FM in the afternoons in which Dr Aruna Broota, a psychologist would counsel unnamed people emotionally suffering from various problems like low self esteem, failed relationships, poor body image, isolation, career hurdles, addictions etc. She did it very sensitively and repeatedly emphasized that as a psychologist, she was non-judgmental - this encouraged people to speak very freely with her. I learnt what a big difference such guidance can make.

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  9. Helping a person who is "down" is something every human being has within himself/herself.
    Wish there were more Mr V in everyone's life.

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    1. Indeed, I have to admit, V displayed a lot of maturity and sensitivity in handling this situation. He was just 20 when this incident happened!

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    2. Indeed, I have to admit, V displayed a lot of maturity and sensitivity in handling this situation. He was just 20 when this incident happened!

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  10. Very nicely written! Women have to take care of the emotional abuses, etc. before they learn about "how to do well in their profession". Then only they can succeed in this "men dominated" country!

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