Hardly a few weeks back, I happened to watch a viral video of a 7 or 8-month-old baby who was being rescued after she fell off the balcony of her 4th floor flat in Chennai. It took 15 minutes of coordination from people across flats from different blocks before the baby was rescued and everyone heaved a sigh of relief. The entire time I watched that video and for a whole day after that, my thoughts were with the baby’s mother from whose arms she fell off. I could imagine the absolute horror that struck her when the unthinkable happened, the 15 minutes of pure agony that she must have felt as she faced the uncertainty of whether her baby would make it or not, the unforgiving guilt that she reeled under for “letting this happen.”

As I heard the hurrahs and yays of victory as the baby girl was taken to safety, I was worrying about how the poor mother would ever get over the trauma and guilt that she must surely have been crumbling under. I could very well imagine the kind of “rubbing salt on the wound” she would face not just from those who knew her, but also from absolute strangers who watched the viral rescue video. And just like I thought, the online crusaders ripped into her, the neighbours and residents from her building basked in the two-minute limelight they found by giving interviews to jobless media houses – most of them branding her a failure for “letting this happen.”

Yesterday, when I read through news of her suicide, I knew just how much more brutal than I imagined was the soul-crushing bullying and shaming that she went through – from faceless and soulless cyberbullies and many more. So bad as to push her off the edge right into the abyss of deep depression from where there was no return. I don’t know what her immediate family, her immediate support system told her or didn’t tell her, for that matter. I don’t know if she really had a support system. For all I know, she might have had a highly supportive husband and immediate circle. I sincerely hope so, so that in the last few days of her life, she found at least a shred of comfort. But even that was probably not enough to negate the absolute hatred and lack of compassion that was thrown her way, I don’t know.

What I do know is that a mother who was still in a highly vulnerable phase post-delivery, navigating uncontrollable and often highly negative emotions was thrown into her worst nightmare in a split-second of freak accident. Yes, that was what it was – a freak accident. Anyone who has held a baby would know that no matter how careful you are with them, they can try to get out of your grasp with just one kick and a shove in full force. And anyone who knows this also knows that knowing this is absolutely useless at times. But I can imagine the trauma that this freak accident created in that poor mother’s mind. I still jump up from my sleep hearing the loud THUD with which Vedu fell to the floor from over her bedrails when she was just one and a half years old. If that fall has made such a deep impression in my mind, I know how unbearably bad the trauma of an incident 1000 times worse must have been.

She would have needed a lot of help from mental health professionals for her to slowly come out of this trauma. Even with that help, what she would have needed more was constant reassuring and comforting that what happened was an accident, that she needed to go easy on herself and that she was an amazing mother. But what did she get instead? Constant jabs from people who knew her and even from those who had no clue who she was or what kind of a mother she was to her two little kids – accusing her of neglect, calling her a careless, irresponsible mother, making her feel like a complete failure. I don’t know if she read all the cruel comments online, if she heard all the jabs from the useless TV interviews – in her frame of mind, blaming herself in the harshest possible terms, I know she would have aggressively followed these and hated herself more. And even if she did shut herself out from the cruel world of social media and the glaring eyes of the unforgiving acquaintances, I don’t know what else she faced – the gentle reprimanding, the sly digs, the angry outbursts from “well-meaning” relatives and friends. Did anyone ever pause to think of what she was going through? About what their words could do to a mother who was already grappling with postpartum depression?

What did end up happening was what should never have happened – a life lost, only because the poor thing couldn’t forgive herself, only because she wouldn’t believe that she didn’t have to be infallible as a mother, only because she couldn’t find the comfort that would tell her that she was more than just one goddamn mistake, that her kids would forget the mistake, but grow up loving her for all that she did for them. I wish she knew… Wherever you are, I hope you find peace now, dear girl. I hope the tears turn to smiles and you find joy in another world. And I hope you get to look down and see your little ones grow up, making you proud.

Also published on Medium.