READING KABIR BEDI AND M.J.AKBAR TO UNDERSTAND THE MIND OF A DEPRESSED YOUTH.
As I go through ‘Ramblings on a Beach’, a memoir by Mr. Kabir Bedi, where he describes spending time at the shores where baby waves run to kiss the sand with fascination and the mother waves run after them to pull them back, I get transported to my past visits to a beach; and stand in my mind with my feet sinking into the sand and the waves kissing them gently. No doubts about how relaxing those times were! It doesn’t seem the same though for children who are taken to a beach today. The school children in the memoir, who had been brought there by their teachers were not allowed to simply loiter around and take in the beauty of the water dance but instead were made to race on the sand which would hold on to their footprints, however only till a wave would come rushing in to erase them. The writer then sees two girls run the race where one obviously wins and the other loses. What he goes on to describe further is worthy to be noted.
“I look at the girl who has lost. In her eyes, I see shame, I see fear, I see despair. Shame at not being able to win, fear of what others are thinking, despair at not knowing what to do next. I see the face of a child that has been hurt and humiliated. I see a soul that is slowly being bruised and brutalized by comparison: being forced to compete with the physically stronger on the beaches and playgrounds. In the classrooms, the same game will continue. She will be compared to the more intelligent, the ones with better memories and those who can write faster than her.”
One such depressing story happened recently when a twenty-three year old jumped off the 19th floor hotel window at the Taj Land’s End hotel in Mumbai, and shook the city of its complacency.
Who would have thought that such a young student from a reputed institute would have done this? Life suddenly appears to have become so cheap that at the slightest distaste and feeling of uselessness, it can be flung out of windows. What was more to come was that he didn’t murder himself in secrecy but went live on Face book video and tagged the hotel’s location; seeing which, his friends contacted the hotel staff, who then ran to save him but were just a few seconds late.
Such self murders today are indeed a loud and clear bell ringing for attention. Many a youth and the young at heart, in spite of all the joys and facilities of living at their feet, don’t seem to be close to happiness and joyful about the fact they are blessed with the miracle of life. In fact, they are grieved with several pressing forces which bleed their cheerfulness. They even face restrictions in matters of love. Our religions compartmentalize even this basic need of men and women. Often, we have heard of stories where a Dalit youth has had to face terror if he has erred to love a Brahmin girl. Even our education system fails them. In fact, it frustrates them to the extent of losing faith in life. The knowledge of equality remains enclosed in the pages of the text books and men and women continue to be ostracized. Mr. M.J. Akbar, a veteran journalist, calls such love, visions of a sleeping mind in his short story ‘An Indian Dream’; where he kills his hero in a posh hotel room. “Ashfaq’s suicide in a posh hotel room in the early hours of the morning on January 21 (as the newspapers said) did cause a few minor ripples.” An Urdu medium graduate, but heart-broken because of his poverty, falls in love with a rich girl and dreams of getting a job. “He would get a job, get a flat, get Ayesha and live happily ever after.” But dreams are not real and Ashfaq is not equipped to face reality. However, life moves on and Ashfaq is sadly forgotten. “After the funeral they talked the whole thing over. ‘What a goddam coward, what a weak person!’ .....In the course of fruitful time, Ayesha married a foreign-returned wealthy Muslim businessman who danced very well, spoke English with an excellent accent, and was after a fashion, intelligent too.”
My country India ranks 122 out of 155 countries on the World Happiness Report. It’s time to give deep thought regarding the reason for such placement. Ironically, foreign seekers of emotional fortunes come searching for it to India; leafing through her philosophies, her yoga, her temples, her family values, her traditions, her culture and her spirit filled ambiance with a lot of faith to return fulfilled. Little do they know that a majority of her citizens have only residual values for all these and are more focused and influenced by power, wealth and pleasures of the body and mind.
A country that should be overflowing in joys of body, mind and spirit and in fact, one which is successfully selling it to others, has its youth dying under pressures of material achievements and fears implanted right from the kid zone times. Mr. Bedi expresses his sorrow of the same when he talks to his daughter, “Now, at three and a half, you’re a little lady. You have your own friends, you own stubborn opinions. All this is super. But I’m sad because now you come and tell me about the Buddhi Mai coming to get you, and ghosts in the dark, and you’re afraid of the water because you’ll ‘doob’ in it and a hundred other fears.”
Giving undue attention to such demands of the world and fear implants, only ends up in the break-up of a peaceful soul. Frustrations, disappointments, anxiety and stress don’t hesitate to follow. “And I am sad because your mind will be wounded even more over the years. Your schools will use fear to make you behave: fear of punishment, fear of ridicule, fear of humiliation. They don’t want you to behave, baby, they just want you to conform. Bit by bit they will try to kill what makes you different from others, the differences that made you so distinct as a child. They’ll tell you......all good children go to heaven. And good children are children who think like other good children. The best children, of course, win races and come first in class. Try to be like them. If you question their stupidities, they’ll throw you out.” The free spirit of the children with time gets stiffened by their anxious family members, their ‘rule of conduct’ following teaches and a fearful world that often foolishly believes that holding on to fears in secret is the best. These are the people who in their timidity give up on life and instead hold on to their miseries in secret; and secrets often become heavy burdens weighing down on the person like a hangover. What we need now more than ever are good Samaritans who have listening ears, who can help by lifting the weight of such emotional baggage with their ears. Private Ponderings over disturbing issues rather than sharing them with family or friends has often proved crucial to the well-being of the secret holder. Unresolved issues have never solved matters but only made them worse. In fact the Confession Box at the Roman Catholic churches is a perfect cost free idea of making light, heartbroken individuals.
However, all may not be church goers and for them the confession box of nature can become an open air field of healing. Nature is a great stress buster. Therefore long walks under the shade of trees, or near rivers and ponds can get unimaginably helpful. Nature lifts up depression caused of secrecy. The stressful burden of secrets is blown off by the winds at the sea shore. The sea too holds back no secrets. You can throw anything into it and it throws it back cleansing itself to remain light from any burden of filth. At the end of the day, it is the letting go that matters.
It is very common to be unhappy; a large majority of the human tribe are trying to hide their unhappiness under their smiles, failing to accept that happiness is a ‘State of Mind’. This uncomplicated emotion is not dependent on the climate outside or the timely arrival of a flight or a reasonable availability of a holiday package.
It’s our ignorance that traps us in negativity. Instead of being conscious and aware of the beauty of our lives, we allow its charm to be destroyed by accepting the coloured glass vision of others. Instead of appreciating and enjoying the things we have to do, we endlessly and most of the time search for things which we will appreciate and enjoy......and the moments slip by.
“Children are Masters of Zen. Curious about everything. Adults are serious and boring. What happened?” The worst is that these solemn adults are digging graves for the youth with spades of great expectations.