Musings for a responsible society




Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my life...in vain!
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A few birthday thoughts: The suicide of a 'skinny' boy


On every birthday, a day before or a day after, I used to scribble some birthday thoughts. Some were introspective, some were evaluative, and some were too philosophical. 

My readers asked me, ‘why don’t you say something more mundane?’ I said, ‘It is difficult, because that is what I do for the rest 364 days!’

As one more birthday fast approached, I thought of writing something on gratitude. Now, you would ask me, ‘To whom?’ That takes me to the universal ‘chicken-egg’ confusion.

Someone wanted to know this: ‘Should I thank God or should I thank my mother for my birthday?’ There are mothers who keep reminding their children every now and then about how they saved them from getting ‘destroyed’ within the womb itself.  One smart son asked: ‘Did I ask you to give me birth?’ That is a wonderful question indeed!

Who can take credit for our births? Parents? You would argue; parents can’t take credit as it is because of their parents that they were born and then grew up and committed an act which led to procreation. The ‘credit search’ continues and finally it would invariably reach the Creator of first human being. Thus, the ultimate gratitude for every birth is towards the Creator.

Let me have a look at myself: My body, my education, my profession, my family, my achievements, my misadventures, my omissions and so on.

Yes, I have been blessed, guided, and shaped by the Creator and His creation, in spite of my infirmities, incongruencies, and inanities.

I was shocked to read the following news item in the paper the other day titled ‘Taunted, ‘skinny’ boy kills self’. It was reported that the boy was ridiculed by his classmates for trying to be a volunteer in National Cade Corps (NCC) of the School because he was underweight. The boy, who was studying in a school in Bangalore, reportedly hanged himself to death at his house using his mother’s saree. Nagvinay was only 14 years old. He had told his parents that because of his ‘skinny frame’ he was frequently a subject of ridicule at the school. He was being mocked at while doing his NCC parade. Whom to blame for his ‘figure’? : Himself, the Creator, the parents, or the nutritionist of the pregnant mother?

For a moment, I went back to my own student days. I was very lean when I was in my childhood and teen years. I hated my English teacher in Class IV just because he always explained the word ‘thin’ by giving an example that ‘Sibichen is a thin boy’. But he never used such examples referring to anyone to explain the words ‘thick’ or ‘fat’. That made me furious. Why only the weak are targeted?

I wanted to join NCC like Nagvinay. But fearing ridicule from the friends, I never applied for it. When I reached the college, I joined the National Service Scheme, as they never checked my height, chest, weight or waist. I was always kept as the goal keeper during football matches. Whenever I played forward during the lunch hour matches, the number of times I fell on the ground was more than the number of times the football hit the ground.

For several years, I couldn’t sit comfortably in any bus because there would be a third person asking me to sit on the edge of the two-seater so that he could also sit comfortably. When I walked with my mother, her friends used to tease her asking, ‘Are you eating the entire food at home without giving him even a bit?’ In fact I tried to eat well as I had only one ambition during my childhood and that was to become a fat person. For this, I made it a routine to have an extra meal everyday on the way back from college. I used to eat at my favourite restaurants on various days: Chapati and Curry from the Milk Bar, Parota or Dosa from Brothers’ Tea Stall, Semiya Payasam (a type of Milk kheer) and vada from Dhanalakshmi Vilas, or three big bananas and one large glass of lemon juice from Maniyan Pillai Chettans’s shop. But the pointer of the weighing scale refused to move ahead for several years. 

Someone had told me, ‘when you visit a church for the first time, whatever you pray will be fulfilled’. I had only two prayers always: First, I should become fat. Second, I wanted a few hairs above my upper lip. That was the time when I saw a newspaper advertisement about an ayurvedic oil for curing baldness.  I used my entire pocket money to buy that oil and religiously applied it every night. But nothing happened. During that time, the Bishop of the Diocese, Rev. Dr. Sebastian Vayalil came to inaugurate a function in our institution (that admitted only boys). In his address, he quipped while explaining a point made by him: ‘By worrying, you can’t get even a single hair above your upper lip’. After reaching home I threw the oil bottle in an abandoned well.

I never thought of doing what Nagvinay did. What would have happened had I ended up my life out of frustration and inferiority complex? People would have forgotten a boy called Sibichen K Mathew in no time. Of course, my mother would have lit candles at my cemetery on my death anniversaries.

But what did I gain by not attempting to toe the route of Nagvinay? Yes, I gained weight as I grew up and started going to gym to shed the extra kilos. I got an attractive moustache like any other elderly Malayalam film stars. Picked up a few outdoor games and played them fairly well. I could enter a reasonably good career arena after successfully passing a medical test and rigorous physical training. Nagvinay could have become like me or much better than me had he not taken this escape route. Where were his teachers when he faced insults from his friends? Why did his parents fail in providing emotional support to him? What were the omissions and commissions of the NCC officers that pushed Nagvinay to this extreme step? Were there no counsellors in the institution?

These days, there is unprecedented increase in the number of incidents of suicide among children and teenagers. Life is not and can’t be always rosy whether you are a lord or a servant. But there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. We do not know what great moments are in store for us. Every milestone in our life should propel us to go further with fresh hopes.  Jeremiah (1:5) says ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart’. Every creation is unique. Each one of us has a unique role to play in this beautiful world. Even in moments of despair, disappointment and disillusionment, one should understand that there are people, events, things, memories, and wishes that can rejuvenate our minds, rekindle our spirits, and restore our lost hopes. But we should take the step of finding out and reaching out to them. So, don’t live in an island. Shed your ego, get rid of your anxieties and fear, humble yourself and be strong in your faith.


Happy birthday to me! 

                                                                        © Sibichen K Mathew

See my earlier birthday thoughts below





23 comments:

  1. Many-many happy returns of the day Sibi...
    lovely post... :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Presently suicide among teens are increasing exponentially. Despite he telling his parents, they ignored the warning signs. They teach moral science in nursery/primary schools in routine way. Why not teach life skills about how to face problems/ criticism in high schools/colleges. It is a fact that such incidents are on the rise Counselling is absent in schools. family support system is absent. There is no monitoring system about what students do in schools. Life's pressures/peer pressures/teasing are on the rise. Teens' ego/self esteem gets hurt quickly. Students with low esteem hurt others. Parents do not look at warning signals. Present days parents need to study a bit of child psychology. sir, it is paradoxical that the NCC activity which was supposed to help build and mingle for getting involved in team work and fighting for a cause , became the very 'ROOT CAUSE' for the suicide of the unfortunate teen. Many suicide cases point out bullying is becoming a life threatening problem. Sir, please develop your random musings / thoughts into workable practical system , by taking and talking/ corresponding with psychologists/doctors/social scientists with the govt at the highest level so that some system can be designed . Your initiative will have the potential to thousands. A down to earth practical person like u with empathy and deeper insights on life and concern for life, can take the first step on this problem . A life saved is more than the life given. On your birthday's eve you remember the death of a teen boy and go into flash back mode identifying your experiences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot Ashok ji for your excellent analysis and suggestions. There should be systematic effort from the school authorities and also form the educational administrators. Education has become a formal institution that manufactures degrees, not anymore aiming at the development of personality. Please see my articles in Cyber Diary. http://sibi-cyberdiary.blogspot.in/2013/04/the-institutional-child-abuse-what-is.html and other articles linked there.

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  3. A great post...worth reading it :-)
    Happy Birthday to you dear .. :D

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  4. happy b'day dad once again............ i love u

    ReplyDelete
  5. Belated Happy B'day :)
    nice space you have and really loved your birthday thoughts. It's definitely a day of introspection and retrospection.

    Suicide is growing so fast. Within last month only I heard around 7-8 cases of suicide in Bhopal itself. All were youngsters taking the fastest possible escape. But, as you said this is no escape.

    Proper infrastructure for counseling and helplines should be developed. Little intervention at right time is of vital importance.

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    Replies
    1. Very good suggestions Jyoti. Thanks for the good wishes

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  6. Excellent article
    happy b'day dad once again... i love u

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very Nice Post indeed...And very relevant too in the current era where we see an increasing trend in suicides amongst our youth..I would be happy to support any initiative we could collectively initiate to help curb this .
    As a start ,let me share this article at least with the youngsters whom I know ...!

    Hope you had a wonderful Bday...May God continue to shower his blessings on you and your dear ones.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot Gudiya. Very happy to hear that you would be willing to involve in creating an awareness on this to the youth.

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  9. Birthday greetings to you.

    It's a nice, thought-provoking article. I'm not a religious person and don't believe in god(s). But I have learnt to take life as a challenge. Existentialist philosophy is my best inspiration.

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  10. Thanks for your thoughts. Well written.

    I am tempted to say that if we parents are "close enough" to our kids, suicides will never happen. In this day and age, the need is more than ever for parents to befriend /guide their kids; unfortunately, how many of us can afford to do it? If you really think of it, the answer is ALL.

    Assuming we do not confuse our needs with wants and desires, we ALL can be close enough to our kids.

    Let us remember that children ARE our priority; not that piece of land/ apartment, or that elusive promotion, or that foreign vacation, or that fancy car.

    While we do not want our kids to take us for granted, let us also not take them for granted; after all, they are gifts from God, and as custodians, we're answerable to God.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very well written Paul. I liked the last sentence: 'While we do not want our kids to take us for granted, let us also not take them for granted'.

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  11. Comments received through e-mail from C Abraham, Cochin

    Dear Sibichan,
    The Birthday musings reminded me of my younger days and in a way I was relieved to know that there is one more person in this world who had the same experiences and experiments during the school days. I had , being a very lean person , had harrowing experinces even after my college days. I applied fora job and I came out successful in the test and 2 interviews. The third interview was with the CMD of the company who asked only one question to me That was " Do you have TB?". With that question my interview and the prospects in that company ended.That day I took a decision that I will marry only a stout and fat woman so that my children will not meet with the same fate like mine. Rest is history
    Thanks for the write up and I really felt as if someone was writing on my behalf. Looking forward to more such interesting thoughts. Warm regards,

    C Abraham

    ReplyDelete
  12. Comments received through e-mail from Wg Cdr K J George (retd)

    Hi Sibichan,

    Thank U for the article "A few birthday thoughts:The suicide of a skinny boy"
    Though a simple story, it carries a great message that every human child is born with great potential to grow big in some field according to his/her talents.It is sickening to read news item like:"A teenage girl committed suicide as her mother did not allow her to watch T V:"

    As a school student I was one of the smallest in the class, probably the smallest, as seen in the matriculation photograph. Also I was a stammerer. In the college, being from a rural background I felt very inferior. Later grew up, did P G in Physics, got Air Force Commission, though I was an average student in the school. So i am convinced that every child is born with great potential to grow. we have to somehow convey to them.

    I am forwarding your article to all in my list

    With regards and wishing ' U MANY HAPPY RETURNS OF YOUR BIRTHDAY'

    Wg Cdr K J George (retd)

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  13. Belated Birthday Greetings Sir.
    It is an excellent and thought provoking article.
    My memory went back to my convent school days
    where my Sister(teacher) said 'Life is not a bed of roses; face the challenges', which was strongly imbedded in me.
    I also remembered 'To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” by Oscar Wilde and another by famous person '“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Life is a miracle to live. In between, some good persons like you(liked by all) come who not only care about others but also encourage, educate and spread goodness.
    I really felt happy to read your article sir. Thank you.
    Regards,
    A.G.V.Prasad.

    ReplyDelete

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