There has been news of so many dowry-related deaths in the last few years that yet another case on yet another day shouldn’t shock me anymore, but it does. Almost all of the deaths owing to dowry harassment have been either suicides of married women who just couldn’t take it anymore, or murders of trapped women by the very men they once loved and trusted. This time though, the victim is a 25-year-old PG student of surgery in the most prestigious medical college in Kerala – a bright, hardworking, gorgeous young girl, who couldn’t believe that the man she had chosen to be her partner for life was nothing but a leech who was marrying her for money, and money alone. I have written time and again about this plague called dowry that keeps taking life after life of women, and still continues as strong as ever. So no, I won’t write again about that, at least not now. What I will write about are the incredibly well-meaning posts and comments about such news where we think we are being supportive of the victim, but unintentionally end up shaming them for the drastic step they have taken.
You must wonder now if I am trying to condone or glorify suicides, if I am trying to say there is nothing wrong with someone committing suicide. No, I am not. What I am saying is that we can express our pain and shock in seeing such news without writing questions and statements like, “Why did you do this?” “Couldn’t you ask that guy to get lost and live your life happily?” “You should have proven how strong you are by living a full life without that jerk,” “How could you forget about your family and take your life for a guy who wasn’t worth it?” See, the thing is, these are all valid questions and statements for us, who are total outsiders, and even for the victim’s immediate family. But if she had answers to all these questions and if she was in a frame of mind to think about these things rationally, she wouldn’t have ended her life. She did, because she was broken, completely.
And to say that someone whose mind was failing them totally shouldn’t have ended their life of absolute agony and making it sound as if they knowingly committed a crime even when they had other options, is somewhat like saying that a person with a fatal disease shouldn’t have died, especially when there were treatments that could cure her. I’m sure you think I don’t make any sense and this comparison is stupid and irresponsible. But, so is our tendency to make such statements and ask questions to a person who isn’t alive to give us the answers we seek.
Yes, by all means, let’s try to educate our girls, and boys for that matter, that suicide is never the answer to whatever worries life may bring their way. Yes, let’s help all we can in making them understand that they will never be alone in their struggles, that no matter how bad the hurdles, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel. But let’s not use someone’s death as a case study for that purpose. Let’s not use them as “bad examples.” Not because they definitely deserved to die or the path that they chose was one to be lauded, but because we are not them, we didn’t go through what they did, we didn’t suffer the agony they did.
Let’s say we did, we went through the same kind of circumstances as they did, we still don’t know how they were affected by those. It’s easier for us to make sweeping statements like “There are so many people who go through worse, they don’t all commit suicide,” or make pompous declarations like “I have suffered so much. But I didn’t do what she did. I fought!” Yes, good for all who are still alive after going through horrific events in life. Yes, good for you that you proved your strength to the world. But that doesn’t make these victims worthless cowards. They were ordinary human beings like you and I, who deserve respect, not shaming after their death.
In this poor girl’s case itself, the most recurring comment I’ve seen is “Why die for a jerk like this?” What we don’t try to understand is that she didn’t die for that jerk. She died because of so many things that led to a crippling depression, that led to one moment of complete insanity where she couldn’t take it anymore. The sheer disbelief that someone she thought of as the most important person in her life betrayed her, the absolute horror in realizing that he wasn’t who she thought he was, the insult and unbearable humiliation in front of her own family for looking like a complete fool who brought home an asshole… These are all reasons that might look like things one can and should move on from. Yes, ideally one should. But put all these together and unleash it all on a person, you never know how they might react. Well, now you know. No, not everyone would do this. But just because she did it, she doesn’t become a fool who was blind in love or a coward who took the easy way out. She broke down, and sadly, at the moment when someone must have been there to help her up, she happened to be alone. It’s as simple as that. As simple and as sad as that.
So, the next time you see news of a suicide, please do refrain from making unintentionally judgmental comments, or asking a million questions to the dead person. More than anything, stop yourself from making derogatory comments like “If she had survived, she deserved a slap,” and “She was selfish and didn’t think of her family because some guy was more important to her.” Trust me, until it happens to you, you will never know why someone else did it. Just thank your stars that you aren’t that someone, and so isn’t someone dear to you, and pray for the departed soul.
Also published on Medium.