Sushant Singh Rajput died today due to the alleged suicide at home. He was 34 years. He came from a small town in Bihar, and his family was well to do! He had the looks, acting talent, zeal to succeed in life. The thought processes behind his smart and attractive face were not understood by anyone. The thinking of the people who unfortunately succeed in suicide is never known to anyone. In that sense, family and friends never have closure. The cross has to be borne by all others till the end.
Sushant Singh Rajput had scored an All India Rank of 7 in Delhi College of Engineering Entrance Examination in 2003. He then pursued Mechanical Engineering from Delhi College of Engineering (now Delhi Technological University) but dropped out in the third year of college to pursue acting. He was also a National Olympiad Winner in Physics. He cleared as many as eleven engineering entrance exams, including that for the ISM Dhanbad.
Good looking, decent family background, enthusiastic, successful career what more do you want. “joie de vivre” was the term used by an interviewer about him. What more do you ask from life? Life is never a bed of roses. There was a painful breakup with his fiancé. He had given up his engineering degree halfway to pursue his first love, acting. Or was it? Is it that he secretly wanted to become a software engineer? Was the loss of his mother, when he was 16 and appearing for his 12th board exam, an event that had a lasting effect on him? None of these questions will even be answered, and as I said, there will be no closure for near and dear ones. What an unfortunate way to go! After such an event, the question always remains WHY?
The human mind is impossible to predict and fathom. What happens behind that “happy happy” façade, none, even the spouses or close friends or parents are many times not able to judge. It appears as if everything is hunky-dory, and then suddenly, the downward spiral starts. It seems that he was facing depression since last six months. So there is no point in blaming the lockdown for the act. But friends, the lockdown is an unprecedented situation which can cause anxiety and depression amongst people. Close ones need to handle this aspect delicately but firmly too if required. There is a stigma attached to psychiatric treatment in our society. In the US they are a little more open about it, and people talk about their “Shrink”. It is an accepted norm that when we are physically unwell, we go and see the doctor. We perform the testing suggested and keep on taking regular treatment. But this does not happen so openly in case of mental illness- in fact, we do not want to use the term.
What should society do? Three things that everybody must try and follow. Be kind, show empathy and do not be judgemental while being a good listener. How should we handle if we find that someone’s behaviour has changed? There are telltale signs that we ignore. I will share a couple of incidents that I have handled. One was when I was under thirty and the other two when I had (hopefully) matured into a fifty-year-old.
I have changed the names in the incidents that I am sharing with you. I used to work in a factory in the late 70s of the last century. Ibrahim Bhai was our transport contractor, and had a couple of tempos and was a good businessman. He was very reliable. Ibrahim would chat with everybody in a friendly manner, and we had a good working relationship. Over a period, we observed that his demeanour had changed; he always appeared hyperactive. I felt that something was going wrong with him, as our relations were formal, I could not act beyond a limit. He started chatting only with me, as others were making fun.
I sent a message to his family that he needs some treatment, through another colleague, who knew his family. Next day his wife called and said, “My husband always talks about you at home, and I got your message. Whatever you suggest, we will do.” I told her that Ibrahim Bhai needed psychiatric treatment. To the credit of the lady, she immediately accepted it. I made an arrangement for an appointment with my psychiatrist friend. Over a period, Ibrahim started returning to normal. He once came to my office and thanked me profusely. He promised that he would continue the treatment as long as it is needed. Later I changed my job and lost touch with Ibrahim. I met him twenty years later. He looked older and tired but appeared to be mentally under control.
In my software business, we had hired an engineer, Dilip. Dilip was raw but willing to work; he appeared to be an introvert. I realised that he could not handle even the slightest work pressure. He would start stammering, brooding and sometimes crying. I suggested that he call his parents to my office. They both confirmed his behavioural pattern and were worried too! Again the help of the same doctor friend was taken. The engineer was not even 25 years of age. He improved over six months and slowly started taking responsibility. The first time I sent him alone to a customer, the customer’s team had to hospitalise him as he began to shiver and sweat profusely. He was released the next day. But slowly, he started managing work independently. When I closed my office a couple of years back, he was an ok performer and could take responsibility. But all through my senior colleague and I had to continue hand-holding. I hope he manages his life in future, but he just managed to improve about 40% of what he should have. I am glad that I was able to support him all through his tenure. But I always had my three-pronged strategy to help him.
Another example I had shared in a blog was about a brilliant friend, Ashok. Ashok had an anxiety attack and once came home to discuss it. Honestly, we were friends but not very close. He had felt like committing suicide during that attack. He and his wife felt that somehow I was the person who could help. After a long chat on the bank of a lake for about three hours, he was visibly relieved. He acted as per what we had discussed, and then his career simply took off, so did his life. My contribution was to be around, to listen to what he had to say; and hand-hold for a couple of months to help for course correction.
I had shared some thoughts in a blog below.
All of us have that Personal ATM in our life. We should look for that person and try to find the PATM. We go to an ATM when we need some cash. But the money we can withdraw is limited by bank rules and the balance in your account. Friends, do not forget that Personal ATM has an unlimited balance, and you have an active card ready to withdraw. Look around, and you will find yours.
I have written about the three things that ALL of us should follow. Be kind, show empathy and do not be judgemental while being a good listener. While living life, you find a troubled soul, do not go by outside façade, imagine yourself in his shoes, then you will be less judgemental. Empathy and being judgemental are inversely proportional. Show more empathy, you will be automatically less judgemental. Let us all try and prevent somebody becoming a Sushant Singh, the unfortunate, smiling and rising star!