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.
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.
Next February it will be 40 years since Yasmin gave me this card.
May all those troubled souls rest in peace.