Suicide seems to infuse the Indian community here. The most recent suicide case that rocked our society is the 21 year old jobless One high profile suicide case that made headlines in local Tamil dailies is Sujatha, a Malaysian Indian actress who was supposedly cheated by a perum pulli in our society. The tale was later twisted that she died of terminal cancer.
Suicide in the Malaysian Indian community is mainly driven by 3 major factors:
1) Maanam, rosham, soodu, soranai
2) Failure in exam/love/life
3 suicides happened in my family. My granduncle hung himself when his eldest daughter eloped; he left a widow and 8 children behind and they struggled like anything to live on after the sole breadwinner left them in the worst lurch. My grandaunt drank grounded arali vethei when she got into a fight with her husband. She left a widower and 7 children; the youngest one was only 2 and was still breastfeeding and they too, underwent untold agony after her passing. In 2006, my aunt downed Roundup when she got into a misunderstanding with her daughter-in-law. She went comatose and lived on for another 2 years before passing on. Her daughter-in-law was the one who cared for my aunt when she was bedridden. All those suicides happened due to the veenapone maanam, rosham, soodu,soranai, sorakka, Sorna akka!
The second factor is one we are all too familiar with. Paata kude paaditangge.. Jaicha thali kayiru, machan thotha thooku kayiru.. Kilinjuthu. There are odd, unreported cases in our community where a student didn’t get satisfactory result in PMR/SPM and end up taking his life and another 14 year old kid who drank bleach because the girl he loves didn’t reciprocate his feelings. You will have many shots at exam and love but only 1 shot at life.
And then, mental illness too can lead to suicide – depression, hallucinations and bipolar especially as seen in Dhanush in the film Moonu. We generally don’t have the maturity to seek psychiatry help and counseling in the face of mental disorders, among which are affective, behavioural, cognitive and perceptual abnormalities. Even in the movie Moonu, Dhanush would ask his best friend, “Naa paithiyama macha?” The movie Sethu is also another prime example. At the mere mention of mental illness our makkal would immediately brand the person paithiyam and should be sent to the Tanjung Rambutan asylum. I was hospitalized for depression and there was this annoying Indian nurse who told my mother to close the windows of the isolated ward I was in in case I jump out of it. My eyes are naturally mundakannu and the nurse, as though she has a doctorate in Psychiatry would gush at my mother,”Athode kanne paarungge, epdi perusa irukku paarunge, athukku paithiyam than.” In exasperation, I opened my eyes even bigger and stared at her intently, freaking her out. Now, she is a medical personnel and even she behaved in such an errant fashion so imagine our ordinary Indians. Proper medication and help from a shrink will pull one out of any mental disorder and suicidal tendencies. I am alright now, see?
The infamous suicide contained in our Hindu Indian cornerstone is sati, the burning of the widow on her husband’s pyre. This tradition has its roots back to Rajput, India, in the epic poem, Padmavat. Rani Padmini was the wife of the King Rawal Ratan Singh. The Delhi Muslim King Allaudin Khilji developed a covetous eye on the beautiful Padmini and and wanted her in his harem so he waged war with King Rawal Ratan Singh. King Allaudin successfully captured King Rawal Ratan Singh and when the news reached Rani Padmini and the women of Rajput, they performed mass self immolation because they couldn’t accept becoming the property of the triumphant Muslim king. This act is known as Jauhar Rani Padmini and it is considered to be honourable by Hindu Indian standards – a woman would rather die than lose her chastity and be touched by another man other than her husband because in our culture and patriarchal tenets, a woman is expected to put her dignity and chastity above her life. Sita too, proved her chastity by walking into flames. At first, this practice was voluntary; later on, it got imposed where widows were literally pushed into the conflagration of their husbands’ funeral pyres. Of course this doesn’t happen in Malaysia but sati is still practiced in some remote parts in India like dowry, caste system and female infanticide although all of them were made illegal in the Indian constitution.
Tamil movies too portray suicide in heavy doses. If a woman is raped, she’ll kill herself. If her husband suspects her, she’ll pour kerosene on herself and light herself up not to mention some killing themselves to avoid rape. Indian actors too, have committed suicide due to various problems. The likes of Kunal, Monal (Simran’s sister) Jiah Khan (she essayed Nayantara’s character in the Hindi remake Ghajini) and the bombshell Silk Smitha – all of them had love problems.
Who doesn’t have problems? Everyone does but it is human nature to think that their problem is the biggest. If all those who have problems decide to take their lives at their own hands, no human will be alive around the globe. Committing suicide is not cowardly – it takes a whole lot of guts but why don’t we show that guts at living our life and solving our problems?
If you find yourself harbouring suicidal thoughts, talk to someone you trust. Seek professional help. Pour your heart at Befrienders or confide in a friend. Don’t be alone, always be with people. If anyone you love tells you that he or she is contemplating suicide, don’t take their words lightly – take prompt action to help them manage their distress.
Suicide is made unlawful by the law and by religion too but I don’t want to delve deeply into them because more than prohibition, self confidence prevents suicide effectively. Suicide is not an answer for our problems for in the wake of such unnatural deaths more problems will arise. Investigations will ensue and your family will be burdened with all types of formalities and legal matters. The after effects of the 3 suicides in my extended family were horrible; families got disintegrated and a perpetual sadness extends to this date. Life is precious, let’s live it to the fullest and prove to others that suicide is not an Indian tradition.