By Mustafa Kamal
“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”_Bernard Williams, a philosopher and teacher
What does compel you to take away your life? Snuff out that bud of a promise? Scuttle that hope?
Is it destiny? Is it others? Or is it you -yourself? Is it the social circumstances, alienation from society, suppression of freedom that drives one to suicide?
You can’t fight with the system. So you fight with yourself. You can’t get justice from the society. So you attempt to do justice to yourself. A justice that is painful. A justice that is remembered for long. For long after you have gone.
The parents are coward. They are also authoritarian. They mould you in their own image. They are people with old ideas. They want to make you doctor, engineer, army officer or banker. You are a modern man. You want to become photographer, artist or sportsperson. They come face-to-face and shatter your dreams. They force you. It gives you pain. You can’t endure pain. You want to force them. You want to fix them. But you are weak. You can’t give enough pain when you are alive. You take a novel approach, a shortcut. You kill yourself. By killing yourself, you make their life miserable. You think it will make them go through the hell. You take revenge by killing yourself.
In cases, you pass this stage. You go well with the family. But outside the family, a wider world is waiting. You are a young girl. You make friendship. You exchange gifts. Your friendship grows into love. You cherish your intimate memories. You record them. You film them. You think life goes like this, always. Suddenly your relations turn cold. Your boyfriend ditches you. He is no more the hero of your dreams. He becomes a desperado. He approaches you in harsh ways. He exploits, blackmails and threatens you. You have fears, suddenly grown fears, unforeseen consequences. You can’t share it with anyone. You try to adjust the situation. You can’t handle it. It makes you restless. You don’t muster up the courage. You succumb. You hate yourself. Your ego is hurt. Your confidence is jolted. The world grows darker. You want to find some peace. Some light. You think it is not here. You think for alternatives. You opt for the easiest way – you commit suicide.
You are a young person of a remote village that has recently seen modern technology. You suddenly become obsessed with these tools. You force your parents to buy you one. They are poor. They can only manage your two-time meals. You insist. They persist. You leave home in anger. On the way a scoundrel gets to know your situation. He is now your new friend. He connects you with other like-him people. They give you free smoke, free wine in the beginning. But gradually, they demand money. You are by now addicted. You can’t leave your new life. You steal money from your parents. Gradually you demand more money. You grow enmity for your parents. Without money, your new friends don’t let you in. Life stifles you from all sides. You are suffocated. You want a release. You take the nearest way going to the river. You take one last glance at your home. At your fields. At the roads, you grew up walking. You hate them. Each of them. You jump into the boisterous waves. You commit suicide. You die.
You are a spoiled child of good days. Your parents are not well educated. They bring you up well as a child. They abandon you when you grow due to their busy and tough labour. You don’t understand this sudden change. You think your parents abandoned you. Neither of you have medical facilities. The government hospitals are deserted. You can’t consult a psychiatrist because you don’t have one. No psychiatrist lives in the remote area. They live in big city. Big cities bring huge money. You turn to local healers. They open their old books handed over to them by their parents. They tell you to follow certain action taught to them by their parents. You both – the victims of your parents collide. You collapse. He earns money, at the end. Collapsing is a dangerous thing. You don’t think of yourself as a fitted individual. You lose your inner strength. You are demoralised. Words fail. Thoughts collapse. You commit suicide.
You are a student from a lower-middle class. Your parents can support your books and school dress only. You walk on foot to school. You see some of your class fellows coming on motorbikes. You go back and demand a motorbike. Your father reasons to convince you. But you don’t get his point. You only want to get a motorbike. The arguments turn into heated debate. You leave the house in the evening. There is a rope in the haveli. You go to the nearest nursery. You hang yourself with the rope.
“Over 300 youth including both, boys and girls have committed suicide since 2000. Although the number is alarming, the issue has largely gone unnoticed.”
You run a small general store in town. You and father had used the bank to finance it. The store gives you good money in the beginning. Gradually it becomes a burden. You are not able to pay back the bank-profit. You can’t save to feed the family. The bank summons you. Police frequent your house. You approach your political representative. You appeal him to intervene. You ask him to pay your debts through public funds. He says he has no means. He is helpless. You run to an NGO. They say they are busy preparing micro financing plans for the town. They can’t finance you. They can only mobilise people. They argue you can become rich once you are mobilised. You think. These NGOs have been mobilising people in your town since the 80s. But poverty remains. You lose patience. You think both the government and NGOs are fraud. They will not help you while they will spend millions doing what they do best, mobilising people. You don’t have an option. You take that old pistol you had bought when your business was running well. You load it. You place it in your hand. You push the trigger. You are gone. MNA is there. NGOs are present. But you are gone.
These and many more stories find resonance in my district – Ghizer – one of the ten districts of Gilgit-Baltistan. The trend is on the rise. Only in May this year, seven young people committed suicide. A newspaper report: “over 300 youth including both, boys and girls have committed suicide since 2000. Although the number is alarming, the issue has largely gone unnoticed.”
Can we afford to lose our best, our future? Who needs to grow, and live to their fullest potential. Suicide is not an individual failure in the face of circumstances, but a collective failure. We, the state, the society, the parents, the elders, need to galvanise our efforts to give a better future to our youth.
The writer holds a masters degree in Muslim Cultures from the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, The Aga Khan University, London. He is interested in social anthropology and oral history. He can be reached at: [email protected]