A disturbing headline about a 17 year old girl jumping to death in Kota caught my attention off lately. What could possibly drive a 17 year old girl to take such a drastic step? Was life so unbearable? Was life so wretched? Was destiny so mean to her? Did life held no hopes for her? Was suicide the only solution, the only respite? What was she trying to leave for ever by putting an end to her life? What problem was she trying to escape? What were her final thoughts when she took the drastic step? Was the momentary impulse so strong that it completely overshadowed the many prospects that life offered? In order to better understand her situation, I read the whole article available on the below link:
Every word of the story was disheartening, to say the least. From the news article, it appears that the girl committed suicide because she was not happy with her results! The girl scored 144 in her IIT entrance exam which was well above the qualification cut-off of 100. The news article further states that in her suicide note she mentioned that she did not want to pursue engineering. It is probably due to pressure from her parents or maybe peer pressure that she was preparing for engineering entrance exam. I would not like to comment on the latter piece as this is just a news article and the matter is sub-judice. Hence, it would be wrong on my part to jump to conclusion as regards the role that the parental or the peer pressure played in abetting her suicide. Nevertheless, as a practicing education counselor, I could so very well identify with the issue. I could so deeply empathize with her situation. I felt so sorry for the girl. I felt equally sorry for the parents. It is difficult to imagine the extent of pain that the parents of this girl would have to live with for ever.
With the opportunity of professionally advising hundreds of students day in and day out, I get the chance to delve into the student-parent psychic almost on a daily basis. And my encounters and experiences leave me worried, at times. I am worried for my students and I am equally worried for their parents. I would never want any of my student, or rather any young or old person to suffer the same lot. How I wish I could make them understand that marks and admission are not the be all and end all of this world. How I wish I could beseech them with my humble request not to give such narrow interpretation to life? How I wish that my students learn to value life in its full glory. How I wish that the parents learn to understand and appreciate the limitations of their kids and do not make their children into a wish fulfilling factory. I know that my wish list is very long indeed. But the wishes are meaningful. The simple and only purpose of me writing this article is to fulfill my wish of helping my students and parents in any and all ways I can. One of the way that I intend to help them is to do my bit in ensuring that they never take the dreary path that was taken by this unfortunate girl in Kota.
To begin with, it is imperative to understand why does a person commit suicide? To quote the University of Cambridge Counselling Service, “Suicide is the second most common cause of death in young adults and the incidence is rising, particularly amongst young men. Yet most people who attempt suicide are ambivalent about killing themselves – frequently what they seek is to put a stop to unbearable feelings or a situation that seems intolerable. Someone who is suicidal may well be feeling frightened, trapped, hopeless, helpless, confused and distressed – and desperate to escape from his or her suffering rather than actually wanting to die. But at times like this suicide can feel like the only way out.” (A Guide for those who are responsible: http://www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/staffcouns/leaflets/suiciderisk)
From the above valid observation, it appears that students feel hopeless and trapped when they fail to score and meet the targets of the various entrance examinations. This indicates that the students work on the premise that a particular course or a particular college or a particular degree is the only solution to excelling in life and that their life is doomed if they fail to score and consequentially get into a specific college to take up a particular course. I must say that this indeed is the narrowest and the most restrained academic view that is the reason for the agony and suffering of millions of students. Unfortunately, a lot of parents as well as certain friends, unknowingly and unintentionally aid and abet the formation of this opinion into the impressionable minds of their child and friend since a very young age? What is the outcome of this blinder mentality? The moment you fail to reach the finish line, you decide to pull the gun and press the trigger for the simple reason that you feel that your life is over. A lot of students are driven by social compulsions and standings and are driven to take the drastic step on account of being viewed as a failure by the society.
We all have our moment of weaknesses where we feel like giving up. I too had life altering moments which were inexplicably painful wherein things didn’t go ahead as planned. I didn’t bow down. I fought on and I am happy with what I am doing with my life today. Life and destiny showered severe blows on me and drove me to the point of despair and no return. With all my dreams shattering time and again and after having suffered the worst kind of physical, mental and emotional abuse, pain and torture, I could have chosen the easier path of ending my life for putting an end to all my miseries. However, those dark moments led me to contemplate about pain and agony in general and the temporary nature of the problems in particular. I chose to live life and take the bulls by the horns and face life heads on. People need to learn to completely disregard the public opinion and chose to rebuild their life by focusing on those life values and people which mattered in the long run. The reason why I am giving my example is because if I could survive, so can you.
It is essential to remember the following all the time and in every passing moment:
- Marks/degrees/qualifications do not define you: Under no circumstances judge and rate yourself by the marks that you score. Life is beautiful. It has many facets to it. It has many colors to it. It is mysterious and worth every breath that you are gifted by the providence. Do not waste you precious breath just because you did not scored well. Do not do injustice to life by giving it such a narrow meaning. You are a precious being. You are valued and cherished. There is a reason why you exist in this world. And that reason does not disappear just because you scored less or failed to get admission in a particular college or degree. Do not limit the reason for your existence. You exist to live, love and laugh your way off through all the pains and troubles. Be a bubbly and joyous companion to life. Life and love is what defines you.
- When one door closes, other door opens: I make this statement with full confidence from personal experiences. Counselling was never my first choice from academic and professional standpoint. Nevertheless, education counselling defines me today and gives me the highest level of satisfaction. I am actually thankful to all those people who prematurely judged me and rejected me. I did not let those rejections affect me. I may not be earning in dollars but let me tell you that the million dollar smiles on my students’ face when they get the admit they desire and when their Visas get approved is much more valuable than all the dollars that I could have possibly earned. The success of my students is my real bank balance. Am I not the richest person in the world for the gains that I make by contributing to those around me cannot be quantified? The point that I am trying to make is that when plan B could work so well for me, why can’t it work for you? Why despair? Remember that whatever happens, happens for a reason. You deserve another chance. Do not be so unfair to yourself. If one plan does not work, there may be a reason for it not working. There is a chance you may not be happy eventually with Plan A. There is no harm trying Plan B.
Finally, I have a humble request for all the parents. Please do not make your children into a wish fulfilling factory. Understand their limitations and let them live their life by honoring and supporting their goals and aspirations. I am personally conscious of the fact that many lives would be saved if only all the parents verbatim follow and understand the following advice of the great philosopher Khalil Gibran:
“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”
― Khalil Gibran
I hope and pray that my students and their parents take my advice in the right spirit…