A killer thought

ByShaunak Ghosh

Jun 19, 2020

Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide took me back to the days where I too slipped into depression and even thought of ending my life at several points of time

On Sunday, just as I finished lunch and grabbed my phone, a number of messages flashed on my phone screen. All of them had just one line — Sushant Singh Rajput had killed himself. I, like many of his fans, was absolutely shocked. Later we came to know that he was suffering from depression for the past six months.

Social media was flooded with posts questioning why he killed himself and raising awareness on mental illness. Everyone, understandably, felt sad about his passing. But what I felt was a sense of familiarity and to some extent, sympathy for what Sushant felt that pushed him to taking his life. It suddenly took me back to stages of my life where I too was on the verge of ending it.

I was 16 or 17. I had just passed my Class X board exams with somewhat decent results, and owing to peer pressure and to an extent my foolishness, I took up science. As I began studying in multiple tuitions — two for each subject — I felt lost and clueless. Physics problems looked like mumbo jumbo and chemistry formulas went over my head. Months went by and I couldn’t even fathom what was going on.

All my friends then always talked about marks, tuitions and which engineering college they would go to. And there I was, not even sure of where my career was headed. But what most had an effect on me was the harsh treatment I faced from teachers. My chemistry tutor (who, mind you was a doctor), never wasted a chance to humiliate me in front of the 40-odd people in the class, and everybody laughed at my ‘stupidity’ of failing to solve a chemistry equation. The irony is, that same man posted a long essay on Facebook on tackling mental illness after Sushant’s death.

Tui ekta asto gobet mota suor (You are nothing but a stupid fat pig)”, he used to exclaim, every time I failed to answer his questions, and as usual, the whole class laughed. Imagine a 17-year- old boy, who is anyway confused, being shamed by someone who is supposed to guide him. I was sidelined and given the nickname ‘Mota Suor’ (Fat Pig) by my tuition mates.

The same happened with my physics tuitions, where I was made to stand outside the classroom for no fault of mine almost every day, and in all other places I used to study. I got single digit marks in all my school examinations, and my parents were summoned time and again. I have lost the count of how many times they had to hear that their son is a good-for-nothing with a bleak future.

I used to come home and fall on my bed, not wanting to do anything. There were times I felt blank, like a rock, emotionless. Though I bore a facade of a happy person both at school and at home, I felt I was being battered brick by brick everyday, every second. I lost interest in almost everything.

Around six months had passed since all this began, and I still was expected to live this nightmare for 18 months — and that seemed like an eternity. A thought hit me: “What is the point of living such a worthless life? It’s better to just end it”. It was in the dead of the night, and my parents were asleep in the other room. I walked into the bathroom and picked up a bottle of phenyl. I was about to open when I thought I must look at my parents’ faces one last time. I walked into my parents’ room, gazed at their sleeping faces, the bottle still in my hand. And then, that was it. I couldn’t go ahead with it, kept the bottle away and went back to sleep.

Four years passed after this incident. I left science and took up English Honours. I gave my final year examinations, and Calcutta University running at its age-old snail’s pace, is always the last to declare results. By then, all the entrance examinations for MA had been done and dusted, and almost all results were out. And yes, I had made it into Bengaluru’s prestigious Christ University.

The thought of going to another state to study excited me. And 15 days later, there I was at a plush campus, going through admission procedures. As classes progressed, I became one of the most popular students there in no time. Film clubs, slam poetry competitions, creative assignments, Christ University was a dream place to be.

A month had passed since my MA classes began but my final year graduation results were finally to be declared. If I didn’t get 50%, my admission would be considered null and void. I was confident since I had an aggregate of 52% in my first two years.

But fate had other plans. I managed to score a meagre 47% in my final year, and my aggregate came to just a fraction shy of 50. In a second, a dream I was already living slipped out of my hands. I came to my PG room that day, switched off the lights and that blank feeling I had four years ago suddenly seemed to come back.

Thankfully, my father used to go to Bengaluru frequently on work, and was supposed to arrive the same day. But even meeting him could not deflect that sinking feeling inside.

Even though my father never discouraged me or scolded me during that time, the disappointment that showed on his face used to eat me up. When I returned home, the feeling that I was always a failure never left my mind. My extended family used to call me up and tell me that I shouldn’t have moved to Bengaluru without checking my results. Not a word of encouragement.

A month had passed and I felt lonely and alone. I had given other entrance examinations, but my emotions seemed to be dead. A voice inside my head constantly reminded me that I was a failure. I had entrance exams for Narendrapur Ramakrishna Mission the next day, and that night, again the same thought that crossed my mind four years ago came back: “I don’t want to live anymore. No point being a failure.” I decided that after the exam, I would just wander off from the campus and never return home.

But when I entered the campus, something inside me came alive, giving me a ray of hope. There was a sense of calm, with its lush green lawns and a  huge college building. I felt that if I could crack the entrance, I might get a chance to study here, and even live here on campus. This brought a certain peace to mind, and yes, I gave my exams diligently and earned the right to study at that institution. The two years there did change my life.

Cut to a few months ago in March 2020.I have a job, well settled in Delhi, great friends and a stable relationship. What could go wrong in this perfect life? Well, on 8 March, a bright Sunday afternoon, I visited my girlfriend with a copy of Patriot, which had my stories on the Delhi riots. I was extremely proud of my coverage and wanted to share this achievement with her.

“I’m sorry, Shaunak but I don’t love you anymore. We should go our separate ways.” These words still ring in my ears. I spent 2.5 years of my life with this woman, and within seconds everything was gone.

This time, my depression was different. I couldn’t get a single night’s peaceful sleep, I dreamt about her everyday and a strong sense of loneliness hit me. Every nook and corner of my house, and especially the city of Delhi, had her memories, and everything seemed dark. My distrubed heart wouldn’t let me sleep, and only a number of drinks could give me a peaceful slumber. My work was starting to get affected.

Again, I contemplated ending my life. I just couldn’t tolerate the loneliness. I heard voices inside my head, saying that I was a loser, and it’s better to end this misery than continuing living a hollow life.

But this time it was different from the previous two. I had two things — awareness of what was going on with me, and actual friends to talk to, which includes my parents. I wasted no time in seeing a psychiatrist, who after listening to all that I was feeling said that I was in the first stage of clinical depression, and I came to her at the right point of time. She counselled me and I told her everything, right from what I felt during my school days, to the Christ University incident to this breakup.

“In your subconscious mind, your urge to live is much stronger than your suicidal tendencies, and that is why you come out of it every time. You are a strong lad, Shaunak”, she said. Yes, I took medicines that she prescribed, but the sleeping pills that I had bought at double the price without a prescription just a few days back went straight into the dustbin. And then, the lockdown came as a blessing in disguise for me as staying with my parents for three months has now made me somewhat get over the heartbreak. It acted as a therapy for my depression.

Mental health is indeed a serious issue, and many people cannot cope up with their depression and suicidal thoughts. I have never revealed these stories to anyone, but now in this environment, when everyone is questioning why a person would want to take his life, I felt it was important to share my experiences with depression.

I somehow managed to get over my suicidal thoughts, Sushant couldn’t.