LIFESTYLE, Opinions

When recent celebrity suicides trigger deep seated dark memories

His short white, curls, trademark dark jacket , long, slow, strides and a devil may care attitude , his deep voice and cocky stance made his food shows a spectacle to look forward to . Week after week I would follow him to different parts of the earth as he shared his discoveries in the laconic style of a swashbuckling adventurer .

There were none of those mmms and aaahs and sighs of contentment as he ate his way through cuisines known and unknown. Instead, he showed his appreciation with carelessly tossed words with just the right amount of punch, coming across as someone who knew each ingredient intimately,  in its rawest form , spinning irresistible food stories on full screen in technicolour. He was Anthony Bourdain , a man whose name leapt out of my television screen last night as news of his death flashed all over the world .

It’s strange how the news of suicide ended my day. Strange, because in a bizarre way, the  news of a suicide began my day. As I scrolled through my inbox at 6 a.m , I came across a headline telling me why Kate Spade’s suicide doesn’t matter. Written by a blogger whose identity I don’t know but follow all the same.

Who was Kate Spade ? And why should it matter to me whether she was dead or alive ? For that matter , I didn’t even know she had died let alone committed suicide.

Who was she ? The gold letters that caught my eye every time I opened my wallet? That pale pink and grey leather purse with her name imprinted in lower case,  so unobtrusively that you had to turn it to catch the light to read it . Was she just a fashion designer whose name didn’t really mean a thing to me but drew sighs of admiration from my millennial girl?

In gory fascination I perused through site after site, garnering more information about the life and times of Kate Spade, a name that I saw every day but never really knew.

And I would never ever have known either of them them because they came from worlds so far removed from mine. Yet by a quirky coincidence,  they came came together in my day, with news of their deaths . At different times and in different places,  their suicides marked the ends of my day- one in the morning and one at night.

And I asked myself why ?

Why did it matter ? When their living didn’t matter to me why should their deaths?

Both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were icons in a culture that was separated from mine by more than just oceans . Yet globalisation and television managed to make them part of my life. Powerhouses of creativity, they made ordinary people dream of lives they could never live but yet, somehow, somewhere their own dreams went awry.

So wrong that they were driven to embrace  death as welcome relief from this world of strife.

But their suicides reminded me of Yasmin.

Indeed every suicide I hear of,  brings to mind, the death my friend Yasmin.  I never saw her splattered body on the ground.  I didn’t have the nerve to see her body in a shroud. I preferred to remember her as the young woman I knew, a girl so full of life . A girl with whom I shared a countless bus rides, chit chatted with in the darkened corridors of our college, had cups of tea with in the college canteen, and had endless and even pointless arguments and discussions over trivial things that seemed so important in our unlearned minds.

My college friend who jumped to her death one sunny afternoon.

It was a Saturday  I think, when the family was home and resting after lunch. Suddenly a little girl came flying into her granny’s room telling her that her mom had jumped out with her little brother tucked under her arm. She too was grabbed and tucked under her arm. But miraculously, she managed to wiggle away. Unfortunately, she wasn’t strong enough to pull her mother back as she jumped out from the 18th floor.

So every time I hear of a suicide, it will remind me of Yasmin, a gentle soul with a wry humour, whose artistic hand drew pictures and designs, mystical and deep. She was God fearing too and knowing that something was going wrong with her life,  sought help to cure the loneliness and desperation that had set in. But that afternoon, something snapped inside her and she couldn’t help but give in to a force much stronger than the will to live.

A will so strong, that often it is stronger than the life force that sustains it. A will that wants to breath another breath, see another sight, smell another smell and feel another sense. A will that fights hard and grittily holds on even in a body wracked with pain and ravaged by disease. So what drives a person seemingly whole, to overcome this will that stubbornly resists the pull of eternal oblivion?

What is it that drives millions of people to suicide ? Is it desperation ? Depression? Despair? Hopelessness?

This is a mystery that will forever remained  unsolved, buried deep in the minds of those troubled souls thus departed .

Kate Spade’s death on 5 June was recorded as suicide as was Anthony Bourdain’s death on 8th June. 

My friend Yasmin committed suicide almost 30 years ago. 

According to the WHO

Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Many more attempt suicide. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.

Suicide is a global phenomenon; in fact, 78% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2015. Suicide accounted for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 17th leading cause of death in 2015. Effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts.

There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.

According to Wikipedia

About 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide every year, of these 135,000 (17%) are residents of India, a nation with 17.5% of world population.

Between 1987 and 2007, the suicide rate increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000, with higher suicide rates in southern and eastern states of India.

Image for Memories of a suicide

Next February it will be 40 years since Yasmin gave me this card.

May all those troubled souls rest in peace.

Image of Bellybytes

Author: Bellybytes

Proud Mumbai gal who always sees the humour in life. The mum who made banana fritters when all the other mums made cupcakes.

25 Comments on “When recent celebrity suicides trigger deep seated dark memories

    1. I often wonder if any one can really help prevent a suicide. One always likes to imagine that it could have been avoided but I don’t really think so. Souls often come to this world to live pre-destined paths . This is my personal view

  1. You spoke my mind with this post. I have not known the names of these international celebrities (except Robin Williams) and I also asked myself why should their death matter to me when their lives did not. The suicide figures are alarming. People say if only they had talked to somebody before committing suicide but the fact they were lonely or hopeless or depressed from within, wasn’t it due to nobody was there for them, to listen to them? Everytime a high profile suicide is reported, it serves as a reminder to us to keep a check how we are feeling, watch over our friends and their well being.
    Anamika Agnihotri recently posted…Gratitude list May 2018 #MondayMusingsMy Profile

    1. I didn’t think of it that way Anamika : thanks for pointing out that these were lonely souls who did not have anyone to talk to. You are right that it is up to talk to our friends regularly – especially those whom we are not in constant touch with….

  2. You know, Sunita, each time I read about suicides, I realise how ignorant we are about what goes on inside a person’s mind, however much close we may be with them. Are they struggling with some issues? Are they really as happy within an they seem on the surface? We never really try to scratch the surface even a bit to find answers to such questions and hence it will be always a mystery as to why a particular person decides to end his/her life.

    It breaks my heart to imagine how lonely and in pain these souls must have been, irrespective of the facade they put up for the world. And this applies to each and every soul around us. Is everyone as they appear? What ghosts are they fighting? What battles are they silently losing?

    Really pains my heart!

    May their souls find the peace they sought in their life.
    Shilpa Gupte recently posted…What’s your ‘poison’ ? #FlavoursomeTuesdaysMy Profile

  3. I have never really heard about this guy Anthony and it’s shocking to hear about Kate Spade too. Sadly there are no easy answers. I had heard a lot of people say that those who attempt suicide are those who have not achieved anything in life but this myth has been busted now. Depression and suicidal tendencies can affect anyone. I do wish we can talk to someone have a confidante to share our joys and frustration with

    1. Yes. Many suicides are committed by successful people who probably do have some issues they cannot find help for… that’s even more shocking to think that successful and rich people still can’t get the help they need. Do watch some of Anthony Bourdain’s shows on TV.

    1. Mental issues are swept under the carpet so not many people take cognisance of the fact. And suicide is I think an extreme manifestation of mental imbalance

  4. Of the many things I hope doctors find treatment or cures for in our lifetimes, mental illness is one of those (along with dementia and cancer). What makes me feel so sad about your story is trying to imagine the pain of those your friend left behind. I know a little bit about that because two of my husband’s relatives committed suicide, but not anywhere near the pain you felt then and still felt now. The real pity is that, after several weeks of social media attention, this will fade, just like it did with the suicide of the late Robin Williams.
    Alana recently posted…Just ThinkingMy Profile

    1. That’s true. Public memory is all too short and mental illness is a disease we prefer to keep under wraps. One gets sympathy when one has a headache but when one says one is feeling sad , you just say cheer up and get on with it !

  5. A well written piece that makes one sit and think of so many things. It was indeed sad to read about your friend. Often, the rich and successful are lonely in their life as they start to yearn for a “normal” life with genuine and real relationships. It is lonely at the top.

  6. I don’t know what to say, Sunita. This post is so poignant. We can never know why someone is driven to commit suicide; why the thought of taking another breath becomes unbearable. Depression is the reason we give; yet so many people who get treated for depression and overcome it, succumb to it later along the way. Anthony Bourdain was one such person. He overcame his demons, and yet, years later, succumbed to them.
    Modern Gypsy recently posted…How to tap into your inner wisdomMy Profile

  7. VEry sorry to hear about your friend Sunita. The message this posts brings out loud and clear is how we fail metal ailments that may often be deep seated, yet may be spilling venom onto Someone. We sure do have a large percentage of individuals year by year committing suicide. However when it comes to getting to the root cause of the problem, we seldom seem to be doing enough.
    .. For people around us… and amidst us too.

  8. This is one of your best posts. Yesterday, I also wrote a post on Tony. He was my idol and role model and it won’t be an understatement to say that I loved and worshipped him. I always felt he and his life was perfect. But I was so wrong. It is so sad to hear about your friend. I feel sorry for her daughter who must have been traumatised for the rest of her life. I seriously wish people never gave up.

    1. Thanks for your words of appreciation. It is a pity about Bourdain . He was quite the swashbuckling adventurer wasn’t he ?
      And I do wonder where Yasmin’s daughter is . She must be in her early 40’s somewhere in the world wondering why her mother jumped out.

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