‘for all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘“it might have been”’

-John Geenleaf Whittier

India and her entertainment industry Bollywood were left shell-shocked for words on the afternoon of Sunday 14 June 2020.Upcoming and promising actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his Bandra residence. I will dwell no more on the tragedy as initial investigations point to Sushant having taken his own life. I don’t intend to jump into the bandwagon of ‘experts’ queuing up to dissect events that led up to his death and speculate possibilities.I don’t want to render forensic experts jobless in these difficult times of layoffs and pay cuts! Sushant was handsome. A six-packer.

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He was gifted and talented to play a hugely talented and larger than life M S Dhoni, a vastly accomplished cricketer.Dhoni had carried 1.3 billion dreams on his shoulders with aplomb, responsibility and grit to restore the game’s World Cup to India in 2011. Sushanth had it in him to play Dhoni through a biopic. In India cricket is religion, andcricketersGods. Doing a biopic of ‘God Dhoni’demands the grit, talent and equanimity of God Himself. Sushant was only 34. That is no age for someone to leave the world and tinsel town in a hurry. Hearing about his untimely demise, his friends were effusive in recalling his pleasant, helpful and cheerful qualities. His Amour pour la vie. His handsome and infectious smile will be etched to memory. But that’s no substitution for his presence among us. No compensation either.

India and Bollywood he belonged to must stay away from pointless public autopsy and theorizing through mass media- exercises in vain which end in the dark cul-de-sac of emptiness, disbelief and helpless loneliness to those who attempt to do so, and the dear and near of the person who chose to slip away. Such efforts amount to transgressing privacy of the departed, and the dear and near. They result in a stack of unpleasant questions that defy answers.   The shattered family who also must be fishing for answers to inevitable questions; ‘why’, ‘how’, and ‘what’ must be allowed space, privacy and consideration to come to terms with the loss, by itself an exercise easily said than done.

Sushant is gone. He, in a short span entertained us. He will be thanked for that, and remembered too. Till time, that ‘great healer’ will tuck him in the shadow of past tense. Is there a point in indulging in autopsying the premature exist of a promising youth? If it helps others like him who might be toying with intensions to ‘give up without a fight’, incapable of handling what life has in store, such an effort is worth it. If not, it will only add to the pain of Sushant’s immediate circle of dear and near.

Psychiatrists blame depression for its notoriety to push a person over the hill into the dark and bottomless abyss of self-harm. To add to its vileness as harbinger of ‘premature exit’, it sometimes masquerades normalcy. Depression, a disease like hypertension, diabetes and cancer often has an uncanny ability to have its victims to overtly appear ‘normal’. That the victim is in the throes of an eroding pathology is often camouflaged in overt normalcy. The victim might not be playing the chameleon on purpose. Feigning normalcy too might be the symptom of a corrosion underway most expediently, and silently. To his friends wasn’t Sushant ‘cheerful, helpful, outgoing and positive’?

That’s why an ending so abrupt and unexpectedly seem ‘unbelievable and shocking’. There’s other side of the coin of depression that has the victim expressing flashes of subtle symptoms. Indications suggesting that ‘all’s not well’. It’s these subtle flashes that must be given attention they merit, and professional help sought. Hintsdropped along the way by people who seem to have lost the poise and control they once possessed must be taken as warning signs by those who have close proximity, lest the bus be missed at a huge price.

Depression could be hereditary, or secondary to stress. Whatever, there’s that dearth of innate ability to weather storms of life. To face them head on with equanimity, grit and courage. Science would pin the blame on ‘imbalance of neurotransmitters in the dysfunctional brain’. But, why do school- going children chose to give up in the morning of their lives? The blame has to be placed at the doorsteps of skewed parenting. Children these days are a spoilt bunch. They are denied denial, andshielded from rejection and dejection and even failure. It is strangeness to the last commodity that leaves them most ill-equipped.   They are foreign to want. Their every request and wish are placed at their doorstep by ‘loving parents’. They are denied that important exercise to break sweat to achieve their dreams. ‘NO’ is foreign antigen to them. It sets off a violentanaphylaxis that annihilates them. The National Crime Records Bureau reports a student suicide every hour in India. Parents need to let their children eat the fruits of labor. To lay their hands around things yearned for only if they deserve to, through effort. Chains that bind today’s youth to materialism and lure of technology and the World Wide Web must be broken, or at least shortened. Impressionable minds must be bolstered withwholesome friendship, sensible spirituality and the habit of reading. Wholesomeness under the sun, amidst the flowers, breeze, butterflies, and birdcalls at mountaintops must be allowed to infuse their veins, far removed from the virtual and lifeless world of gadgetry.

More relevantly, the evidently ill-equipped, and overtly at the receiving end of the vagaries of ‘the mind that’s no more at their command’ must be encouraged to open up, shed tears and offered shoulders to cry on. Afterall, haven’t Sushant’s numerous colleagues on the silver screen bravely owned up their ordeals with their minds’ vagaries, had themselves threated, and are still moving on, worthy of emulation?