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2

Suicide is a taboo subject for conversation. Particularly what makes a person want to commit suicide or what to say in the face of their pain.

“A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future.”
― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

Suicide is a subject almost everyone has thought of at some point or the other. Almost everyone has wondered what it would be like to end our own life or how it could be done without confronting the great fear - pain, suffocation or other discomforts. Yet suicide remains a taboo subject. The feelings behind suicide. What makes someone commit suicide. We can talk statistics or prevention or helplines, but in the face of actual pain that drives a person to suicide, we have no skills. There is a difference between contemplating suicide and planning to commit suicide. An important one. The first is a fairly common and natural response to unbearable negative emotions. The other is an irreversible action.

I admit I have often considered suicide. I have written about suicide before too. From a perspective of statistics, from a perspective of understanding widespread distress needing political answers, from a perspective of empathy when I read about suicide, from a perspective of failing to support and grieving when someone I know commits suicide and I have also considered suicide as an option to end my own life when I was very sad. Yet, whenever I have tweeted about the subject, I have immediately got responses that amount to stopstopstopstopstopstopstopstopSTOP! It is so immediate that it would be hilarious if the subject were not grave. I have got helpline numbers as replies, I have got advice to not let dark thoughts enter my mind.

Hello! I write and tweet and comment and contemplate issues of human rights abuse. How in the world can one do that without having any dark thoughts? If I were planning to commit suicide, why would I be tweeting instead of finding myself a rope? I understand that it can sometimes be a cry for help by a distraught person, but if the rest of the words are perfectly normal, where is the harm in reading to find out what is being said?

Because here is the thing. Even if a person were tweeting about suicide publicly as a last ditch call for attention and help, the last thing they'd need is to be told to shut up or a sea of platitudes. What they would be needing is an empathetic listener who cares.

What exactly is this fear of talking about suicides?

“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

I admit I have spent a great deal of time contemplating committing suicide over the years. As in killing myself. I have been in unhappy relationships involving heartbreak, I've been in an abusive marriage with an alcoholic, I've been a broke single mother of a disabled child. Despair and depression are no strangers. And yet I am here, typing this post.

I have actually found thinking about suicide in great detail helpful. Instead of fearing the pain of death (and thus possibly taking a rash step "while I have the courage" maybe after a glass or two of vodka), I've gone and researched methods of suicide. What would cause the least pain? What are the consequences of failure? What is the best method so that it causes least pain and least risk of failing and living with permanent damage? And anyone who knows me knows that when I say research, I mean obsessive information finding till I am convinced I know the subject in and out without actual experience. Enough to make a very well considered decision. On and off, when I'm in utter despair, I've gone and rechecked all the information. And yet here I am, typing all this.

Is this a guarantee I will never commit suicide? No. But it pretty much guarantees that I have given it thorough thought and not found it a better tradeoff for now. It guarantees that if I do it, it will not be a thoughtless impulse, but a decision I take about my life after considering all options I have.

So how has contemplating suicide helped me?

By giving me an option. By giving me an exit from the pain. By giving me the concrete information that if all this gets unbearable, I still have the option to exit. In the process, a miracle happens. I am no longer cornered by my despair. I always have the cheat route out. And because I know that, I am never out of options. I lose the fear of making attempts to change my circumstances that could fail.  Just allowing myself to spend time thinking about ending myself is a catharsis. If no one else, at least I am acknowledging how bad things are. I am listening to myself. It helps me feel heard. It gives me a vocabulary for describing my situation when asking for help. No, I don't mean "I am suicidal, help me or else." I mean "This, this and this is the reason for my despair. I am not able to see functional ways out. I need help." - because hello, I've gone through all the reasons in my contemplation and have them now sorted out in my head.

And sometimes, in a very cynical way, the contemplations have saved me. If I don't care whether I live or die, why not try this one last thing or the other? If I hit a dead end, I can always die.

“Killing myself was a matter of such indifference to me that I felt like waiting for a moment when it would make some difference.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Here is an example how. When I was younger, my emotions were more volatile. Taking what I felt seriously and giving it serious thought helped me see things more clearly and invariably, I ended up thinking that if there was any hope, I could use it and if there wasn't, well, I could always die. But the well thought out option being there and not at any threat of being taken off the table gave me the confidence to know I could opt for it any time and there was no need to do it right now. I could afford to wait and see. I am truly grateful no one immediately tried to stop me at such times, or I'd have been tempted to use the opportunity before someone blocked it from me.

Now I am older. I have a young disabled child. Whoever knows me knows that I'd chew my arm off before I allowed anything to harm him. Well, losing a mom would definitely harm him. So suicide is totally not an option any more. At least while he is alive. He needs me. Period. Again, if I hadn't thought this through, I could have been at risk of giving up without considering the impact.

In some of my more selfish and melodramatic ways, I've even thought "What will be, will be" If I am not there, someone or the other will care for my son, though I can't imagine who, right now. But then, in such a melodramatic moment, the desire is also to leave a lasting mark on the world when I die. And oops, it is not "orphaned kid in moment of despair". I'd like to be remembered for something better, thank you very much.

Whatever it is. Others may have their own reasoning. Still others may come to a well considered decision that suicide is actually a good choice for them, When my father was dying of Parkinson's, he had the option of looking forward to an indeterminate bed ridden existence with little control over his body, being bored out of his wits and too exhausted to do anything about it but to wait to die. He begged me to kill him almost every week. It is illegal and I have two more dependents, or I would definitely have arranged for him to be freed as per his will if it were legal. Others do it out of poverty. Starvation. When the alternative is to live in debt and watch your family suffer with no hope of ever providing for them in sight, it can be a brutal life to look forward to, and death may simply be a matter of running out of the ability to fight.

“Let them think what they liked, but I didn't mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank -- but that's not the same thing.”
― Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer and other stories

Whatever it is, however it plays out, a suicide is not about dying or exiting the world, it is about escaping unbearable torment. A person who feels unheard and uncared for, is unlikely to respond to a panicked flood of platitudes that s/he has heard a hundred times that drowns their voice all over again, even in the contemplation of death.

How agonized we are by how people die. How untroubled we are by how they live. ~ P. Sainath

My suggestion is that we all examine what this fear is that stops us from listening on hearing that word. Because the lives of many around us could depend on how we respond to their pain. If someone has made a well considered decision to die, there isn't much we can do about it, but if someone is screaming into a void of despair, perhaps us offering a listening ear will give them the space to be heard, and in the process get a clearer view of their situation.

What do you think?

9

There was a interactive panel discussion in Mumbai WTC on the 29th of January 2015 organized by World Trade Centre (WTC) and All India Association of Industries (AIAI) in collaboration with the Indo-France Chamber of Commerce and Industries (IFCCI). It was to discuss ‘Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making’.

Dignitaries on the stage included Mr. Sanjay Sethi (IAS) (Additional Metropolitan Commissioner-I, MMRDA), Ms. Laura Prasad (Secretary General, IFCCI), Dr. Laveesh Bhandari (Founder and Chief Economist, Indicus Analytics Pvt. Ltd.), Mr. Vijay Kalantri (President, AIAI and Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC), Mr. Shankar Aggarwal (IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development Government of India), Mr. Dilip Shekdar (Chief Architect, Naya Raipur Development Authority), Mr. Ravi Kant Malhan (Director, Head Business Development:  Smart Cities and Special Projects, Schneider Electric India), Capt. Somesh Batra (Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC) and  Mr. Abhishek Lodha (Managing Director, Lodha Group).

A journalist, Shruti Ravindran who had attended it, tweeted a photo of a shocking quote from a brochure 'Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making' released during this event.

Smart cities that exclude the poor
Smart cities that exclude the poor

 

The quote in the above photo says:

...There are only two ways to keep people out of any space - prices and policing. In other words, the prices will automatically be higher in such cities - the notion that they will be low cost is flawed. Even if possible from a cost provision perspective, they cannot be low cost from a demand supply perspective.

Even with high prices, the conventional laws in India will not enable us to exclude millions of poor Indians from enjoying the privileges of such great infrastructure. Hence the police will need to physically exclude people from such cities, and they will need a different set of laws from those operating in the rest of India for them to be able to do so. Creating special enclaves is the only method of doing so. And therefore GIFT is an SEZ and so will each of these 100 smart cities have to be.

(excerpt from an article by Laveesh Bhandari, Founder and Chief Economist at Indicus Analytics Pvt Ltd)

So let me get this right. The government will be used to empty land to build smart cities in the name of developing the country. It will be called "inclusive development". And the smart cities built on this land will be for the rich - by design. And we are talking of a hundred cities, displacing god knows how many people. The police of the land will be used "on the tax payer's money" (as these hotshots like to call it) to keep the poor out of these cities using laws OTHER THAN INDIAN LAWS.

Am I the only one being reminded of Arundhati Roy's infamous quote that earned her the anger of the oh-so-innocent middle classes? Here it is, if you don't remember. And she said this in 2007.

We have a growing middle class, being reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing western countries which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in Independent India. The secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country.

~ Arundhati Roy

This could be considered the impractical fantasy of rich men (albeit very rich men and sponsors of the ruling party behind this government), but the brochure also carries an introductory message from Shankar Aggarwal, IAS, Union Ministry of Urban Development, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, not to mention him being personally present there and meeting journalists on the sidelines to announce the Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February.

Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife
Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife

Here are some relevant excerpts from the brochure including the message from Shankar Aggarwal, the program schedule of the event, including names of speakers, the profile of the author Dr. Laveesh Bhandari, the article itself, and another article on GIFT, which is referenced in this article as a model. Excerpts from Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making

Given the opaque manner in which this government operates, as well as dramatic undermining of protections of local interests and environment through ordinances, such views should be a cause of alarm for citizens, if the much heralded development is going to actually be displacement on a massive scale, disenfranchisement of local populations and their explicit exclusion from the "growth story" while the rich use the country's power to get land for their shangri-las, use the country's resources "24/7" (can this ever be promised to those who will be displaced to create these "enclaves"?) and use the country's police force to protect what will essentially be elite facilities barred to the common masses through special laws created to protect the elite.

I imagine, the elites will also only be paying for their actual residences and the cost of creating these havens for them will also have to be borne by the country.

Is this development or colonization of India by the rich? The Gujarat model is all set to exploit India as well. All we need are new signboards, "Poor citizens and dogs not allowed"

5

A collection of interesting quotes by various people and from a wide range of sources ranging from books to speeches and even Twitter on occasion.
misty idyll forest ukraine
misty forest in Ukraine. Image: Balkhovitin

More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity. — Francois Gautier, French writer and journalist

So, my position is just that it would be immoral of me to preach violence to anybody unless I’m prepared to pick up arms myself. But I think it is equally immoral for me to preach nonviolence when I’m not bearing the brunt of the attack. — Arundhati RoyFebruary 2011 interview with Guernica

This cocktail of religious fundamentalism and a crazed, irresponsible, unaccountable media is becoming a very serious problem, in India as well as Pakistan. I don’t know what the solution is. Certainly not censorship! — Arundhati RoyFebruary 2011 interview with Guernica

Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about. — Prof. Randy Pausch,Last lecture: Achieving your childhood dreams

What other people think of you is none of your business

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. — Martin Luther King Jr

You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea. — Benazir Bhutto

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty! — Che

You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that caused the problem — Albert Einstein

Well, I would like to tell you the rat race is over. The rats have won. — P. SainathLecture: The Importance of Citizen Journalism

Growing insensitivity is often the baggage of deepening inequality. — P. SainathDregs Of Destiny

If we draw a baseline in the last Ice Age, everyone’s conditions have improved. — P. SainathDregs Of Destiny

Read the press on rural India. You’ll be struck by the fact that—in the press—the rural poor almost never speak. They invariably ‘lament’ or ‘plead’ or ‘cry’ or ‘beg’ for attention. Sometimes, they even ‘wail’ or ‘weep’. They rarely just ‘say’ things the way the rest of us do. Because we have decided that that is the way they are. — P. SainathDregs Of Destiny

How agonized we are over how people die. How untroubled we are by how they live. — P. Sainath,Globalizing Inequality

As famous last words, those rank along side the Tarzan’s “Who greased the grapevine?” — P. Sainath,Globalizing Inequality

Then there are the ideologically insane. The members of the sect have no interest in either farmers or agriculture. Only in upholding their Gospel.For them, farmers are dying because they have not been reached by free market reforms. If more of them keep dying after they are reached, it’s because the “reforms have not gone far enough.” It hangs a halo of righteousness around wanton ignorance. — P. Sainath

Always speak, write, live your highest truth. That is how you grow. And if you get lynched for it, at least you have that glow. — Vidyut

None of us can do curing. We are not medical people, we don’t deal with curing. And by the way, they can’t cure either. — Moshe Feldenkrais

No matter how ruthlessly you curb free expression, truth survives breathing in between those bruised lines. — A S Raghunath @asraghunath

The death of our civilization is no longer a theory or an academic possibility; it is the road we’re on — Peter Goldmar

i like my people like i like my coffee ~ rare beans in broken cups — Angad Chowdhry @angadc

MEDIA is a crime scene – ALWAYS take screenshots — @barbarindian

Individual victims get vilified and denied justice in a macabre tug-of-war when elephants fight comprehensive battles in the courtyards of puny mortals. — Vidyut

The opposite of consumption is not frugality, it’s generosity. — Raj Patel

When the man moves on, the woman is the slut. — Vidyut

“media objectivity” seems like a fictional concept, like the Yeti. — Srikanth R,https://twitter.com/_R_Srikanth/status/156806745061203968

Democracy runs on public debate — Subramanian Swamy

With a sudden gush of mist winter arrives, streetlights ogle with sodium eyes — Madhavan Narayanan

In a democracy if two people agree on everything then one of them is redundant. So we have to learn to agree to disagree. — Subramanian Swamy@Swamy39

You see her body. I see her courage. You see her morality. I see her priorities. — Madhavan Narayanan,@madversity https://twitter.com/madversity/statuses/138134884668542976

Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires. — Re

Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires. — Rene GirardViolent Origins

My soul would have no rainbow, if my eyes had no tears — Aisha ChaudharyThe INK Conference

My suspicion is that we as a society didn’t want any change, and didn’t have the guts to refuse to change. So we put in systems that wouldn’t work. — Vidyut

Violence in the home normalizes violence in the street and in foreign policy. — Gloria SteinemGloria Steinem on Rape in War, Its Causes, and How to Stop It

It’s been said that the woman a man most fears is the woman within himself. Men are punished by being cut off from human qualities denied to them as “feminine.” — Gloria SteinemGloria Steinem on Rape in War, Its Causes, and How to Stop It

Because we genderize the study of childrearing as “feminine” and the study of conflict and foreign policy as “masculine,” we rarely see that the first causes the second. — Gloria SteinemGloria Steinem on Rape in War, Its Causes, and How to Stop It

No society is beyond reproach or beyond repair. — Gloria SteinemGloria Steinem on Rape in War, Its Causes, and How to Stop It

We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will. — Whitney Houston

There are always alternatives. We like to pretend there are none, so that we can blame someone for our inaction. — Vidyut

Nations are composed of societies. Societies are made up of families. Families consist of people. The human being thus becomes the determining unit of life. — Vijay SimhaA Nation without mentorshttp://tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ws060711VSinsideout.asp

The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were. — David Brinkley

There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it — Bertrand Russell

If you can conceive of morality without god, why can you not conceive of society without government? — Peter Saint-André

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. — Albert Einstein

Man is certainly stark mad: he cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen. — Michel de Montaigne

Civil disobedience, that’s not our problem. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem. — Howard Zinn

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich, as well as the poor, to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. — Anatole France

When you philosophically oppose an entire power elite, you cannot help but sound like a conspiracy theorist. Social power is by nature a conspiracy. — Tom N

Our world is faced with a crisis that has never before been envisaged in its whole existence… The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe. — Albert EinsteinBulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May, 1946

To reach a port, we must sail – sail, not tie at anchor – sail, not drift. — Franklin D Roosevelt

The job of the editorial writer is to go down into the valley after the battle is over and shoot the wounded.— Murray KemptonNew Republic

Opinions founded on prejudice are always sustained with the greatest of violence. — Francis Jeffrey

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. — Isaac AsimovSalvor Hardin in “Foundation”

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. — John F. KennedyIn a speech at the White House, 1962

There are always survivors at a massacre. Among the victors, if nowhere else. — Lois McMaster Bujold,Ethan of Athos, 1986

A “reality” that is unjust needs to be changed, not accepted. It should be no one’s fate to be taking abuse and giving care. — Vidyut

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. — John Lennon

Everybody pities the weak. Jealousy you have to earn. — Arnold Schwarznegger

I have been in a heterosexual world all my life and I have not been influenced by heterosexuality, how do heterosexuals get influenced by my sexuality so easily? — Harish Iyer

Never mind that the British decriminalised homosexuality 46 years ago, we’ve still stuck with their ancient law with the dogged enthusiasm of an engineer on his fourteenth IIT attempt. On the bright side, the corollary to that is that it must also mean that it’s still okay to call Mumbai Bombay. — Rohan Joshi,http://www.mid-day.com/columnists/2013/dec/141213-idiot-penal-code.htm

I measure the progress of a community by the degree of freedom which women have achieved. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set in the preamble of the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion denies them. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

If I find the constitution being misused, I shall be the first to burn it. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

 

On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality.

In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value.

In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value.

How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions?

How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life?

If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.

— Babasaheb Ambedkar 

I do not want that our loyalty as Indians should be in the slightest way affected by any competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises out of our religion, out of our culture or out of our language.
I want all people to be Indians first, Indian last and nothing else but Indians.
 — Babasaheb Ambedkar

 

In the Hindu religion, one can[not] have freedom of speech. A Hindu must surrender his freedom of speech. He must act according to the Vedas. If the Vedas do not support the actions, instructions must be sought from the Smritis, and if the Smritis fail to provide any such instructions, he must follow in the footsteps of the great men.
He is not supposed to reason. Hence, so long as you are in the Hindu religion, you cannot expect to have freedom of thought.

— Babasaheb Ambedkar 

Lost rights are never regained by appeals to the conscience of the usurpers,
but by relentless struggle…. Goats are used for sacrificial offerings and not lions.
 — Babasaheb Ambedkar

Free speech includes freedom to talk randomly and sound knowledgeable while being clueless. There’s a whole tribe that specialises in this. — Madhavan Narayanan