I held the blade close to my wrist. Its cold, sharp edge ready to slice my skin and spill my blood. It reminded me of cold winters. I tried hard to slash it, to end everything. My hands did not tremble but that was not courage. Courage is much more than that.
I do not remember my parents forcing me to become a doctor or an engineer. Maybe they were confidant that I will choose either of the professions eventually because I topped every year in my school. I, on the other hand had pretty much no idea. It is sad that we are asked to make important decisions of life at such a young age, when we do not know our mind and the implications of our decisions. That is why it is so easy to mold a person into thinking that what the rest of the herd is doing is best for him too. I did not prepare for the IIT entrance exam with much zeal and failed. My parents, teachers and friends felt bad. They always thought that I was destined for bigger things, like I was supposed to be the Prime Minister.
During my stint in Delhi University, I saw everyone prepare for the GATE exams conducted by IIT. Yes, the mammoth was again in front of me and I was supposed to tame and ride it. Everyone in the college believed that our best shot at a decent job was to somehow get into an engineering stream, otherwise you would end up being a PhD student which a lot of us abhorred. My parents were silently observing my moves. They had too much faith in me. And so I started preparing for the GATE exam.
I gave it a year and put my heart and soul in it. I would study for hours and lose track of time. I would study travelling in the bus to college. I would study late at night till I would realize with a start that I was drowning the book in my drool. I believed that there was no college mate of mine who was putting in so much hard work as I was. I found out later that everyone had the same notion about themselves.
I took my entrance exam with half of India. Thousands of us were fighting for a few hundred seats. When you see such a rush of students who sit with you and solve those questions, you are always hit by a wave of doubt. Maybe you should have prepared more. Maybe you should have prayed harder so that God would have sneaked in an extra one hour in your daily routine.
I was at a friend’s home when the results were announced. Both of us immediately went to an Internet cafe near her house and checked the results. My name was not there. I checked again and again. Maybe there was a mistake. My friend looked at me with pity and rubbed my shoulder. I checked the result for another friend who I believed had studied very little. He was selected. I got up from the seat and told my friend that I was leaving for home. She ran after me and called my name but I was not listening. I kept walking towards the bus stop. I felt desperately lost. It was as if my life had come to a grinding halt.
On my journey home, I thought about various ways to commit suicide. I thought of jumping off the terrace but I knew I would never be able to do that because of my fear of heights. Drinking poison was also out of the question because that might turn extremely painful. Finally I came up with slashing my wrist at night when everyone was asleep. I thought that I would bleed to death by morning and no one will know.
When I reached home, I did not disclose the result to my parents. After dinner, I sneaked into my parent’s room and took out a blade from dad’s shaving kit. That night, when everyone was asleep, I held the blade in my hand and tried to cut my wrist. I tried for almost the whole night, building up courage again and again and then failing like a coward. I imagined the scene in the morning. I imagined my mother crying after seeing my corpse and the bedsheet stained with my blood. I imagined my father and sister going in an uncontrollable grief. I imagined their world crumbling to pieces. I imagined their life ahead.
I was not able to slash my wrist that night. I was awake when the sun arrived, when the birds started their morning rituals, when people started coming out of their homes for a morning walk. Then I got up and kept the blade back in my father’s shaving kit. It was not worth it. My death would not have been an isolated incident. My family would have died with me.
It has been 10 years since that incident. Now when I look back, I understand what a fool I was. I was about to kill myself because I did not pass an entrance exam. Had I done that, I would have missed everything that happened in my beautiful life in the past ten years. The bonds of friendship that I created during my stay in Kurukshetra (where I did my M.Tech and finally became an engineer) would not have existed. All those amazing memories of the time I spent in Bhubaneshwar and Chennai would not have existed. I would not have visited Kodaikanal, Rameshwaram, Munnar, Pondicherry, Konark, Agra, Amritsar, Goa, Manchester, Paris, London, Scotland and Switzerland. I would have never seen snow falling like soft cotton from the sky. I would have never got married and fallen in love (yes, it happened the other way round). My daughter would not have existed. I would never have seen those tears in the eyes of my parents when they held my daughter in their hands for the first time.
When I think of all the beautiful memories of the past ten years, I shudder to think of the consequences if I would have slashed my wrist that night. And then I burst with happiness that I didn’t. I have realized that our life is too important to lose it over such minuscule hiccups. It is more grand than any of us can imagine. It has so many unknown twists and turns that it can leave us breathless.
Trauma hits everyone of us and we do certain things in the heat of the moment that we later repent. For better sense to prevail, it is a good strategy to allow things to cool down. Maybe I would not have taken the drastic step if I would have thought about it for a day or two.
Nearly a million people commit suicide every year. They leave behind a trail of destroyed families who might never recover from the shock. I wish everyone is as coward as I was that night. They would then know that Forrest Gump’s mother was right. Life is indeed like a box of chocolates.
[image from here]
USC’s MSW Programs Blog Day.