By Ruku Taneja
Real talk: You and me still don’t understand depression. I don’t understand it because I consciously chose to treat my illness as a weakness that I will “snap out of” and you probably don’t because you hope I will, too. Unfortunately that’s not the solution with mental illness and sometimes people just snap.
That’s exactly what I thought when a friend of mine called with the terrible news that an ex-classmate of ours had jumped off a Bandra bridge last week. She said, “It’s because he was heartbroken over a girlfriend,” and went on to inform me of the wake that the family would be having later on in the evening. The information spread like wildfire in our group chats and in the media that spared no “tragic” details.
The newspapers called him “wealthy”, a “businessman”, a “young man” with a “sea view apartment”, a man whose “father had just bought him an Audi”, “another lover in the metro who couldn’t deal with a heartbreak” and another count to the deaths caused by the bridge. His 24 years of life were summarised into externalities such as wealth, business, apartment and an Audi. No wonder then that readers of these news items called him “selfish” in the comments or had a hard time sympathising with “so much potential”. They couldn’t understand that depression can be more than your situation. That it can creep in from nowhere, for reasons big or small, with little or no control of your own. It really didn’t have anything to do with the kind of car you drove or the kind of view you had at breakfast when you ate. Depression does not discriminate.
My ex-schoolmate was also someone who did not believe in the ideology of discrimination. He was a very handsome man with a very handsome heart. I’d remember him explicitly not chiming in with the big bad bullies of the school when they’d troll me or my nerdy kind. He’d go out of his way to say hello and/or give disapproving looks to his fellow popular peers and their unkind gestures. When I knew him (from afar), he was joyous. Not someone I imagined would ever contemplate jumping off a bridge. He was a group hugger, a peacemaker. More than the average person. But, depression and sometimes even just the labour of adulting, rob you of your innate personality. They can blur your identity even if those around you still see you as the light of their life that you once felt you were.
My classmate’s accomplishments are not the Audi or the business, it’s the small gestures he made for people like me who were suffering from loneliness, from sadness, far before the stigma now surrounding his sadness.
It’s been seven days since I heard the news. I guess I am okay with accepting that shift, that blurring, as a reality of the human mind. What I am not okay with is someone’s ending being sensationalised in the news as a sorrowful tale of one-sided love. I want his death to not go in vain. I want us to remember every tragedy as a way to recall the hard and soft outlines of sorrow and life to prevent future losses of loveliness, (a loss like the death of my once shining classmate).
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