[flashback] considering a shortcut

flashback = old memory. In this case, something that happened over twelve years ago (when I was a teenager)… and nothing to do with me today! If you read this article, please read it completely – do not jump to any conclusions and abandon it midway!! 🙂

——

Sitting in stillness may at times bring up all kinds of long forgotten memories, stored somewhere inside us. The idea is not to get caught up with them. However this is one particular memory I decided is worth putting down, especially after looking at Nipun’s notes – especially his question “But why in the world do people want to kill themselves?”

So this is one thing that nobody ever knows and I myself had forgotten – and hopefully it isn’t really as macabre as it may initially appear. That in 1991, Sanjay-1991 had attempted to kill himself. [I can hardly recognize myself as the same person, so I feel more comfortable writing in the third person]

———

———
Now to begin at the beginning.

This was after his second PUC results. He had scored “only” 77% in PCMB (physics, chemistry, maths and biology – the four key subjects) and that simply wasn’t enough to get into engineering. His whole career was ruined. His life was gone. It was the end of the road.

Perhaps his expectations were quite high, he had thought very highly about himself, and then when the exam results came out and he got his score, he simply found it hard to accept. He doubted whether he would have any career. He never even thought about discussing his depression with anybody. The only thing he wanted to do had been engineering, and now with this score he wouldn’t be able to do it.

There was no other option. Suicide came up as a passing thought initially. Over a few days, it looked like the best, most elegant solution. Eventually it became the only possible solution. It would solve everything.

So he planned. He spent many days together thinking about its execution. He used his intellect to justify it in every possible way, and then think about different ways to kill himself. Definitely it has to be the least painful. Also the least messy so that other’s wouldnt have too much trouble clearing it up. It may seem amazing, but he used all his knowledge of science to consider and evaluate different factors like conductivity of electricity, chemical poisoning and laws of gravity and height required to do the job (Public Utility building – tallest in Bangalore – enough?) and what not. He was sure he did not want to end up being crippled, failure was out of question. He concluded that a gun would be the way to go, but he couldn’t quite figure out where he could get one from. So he decided on the train – it would be the fastest and surest way – he better compromise on the messy part.

So he first decided to thank all those whom he knew in his life. He took a 300 page empty notebook, and started writing what each and every person meant to him. He was surprised to find that he’d filled up more than half the book, which he kept hidden carefully.

Finally he decided to do it. He first decided to grant his own last wish. He went to Medhinis – a supermarket on 8th Main Road, and started eating ice-creams. All his favorite flavors plus a few he hadn’t tried before, one after another. After around 3 double scoops (each scoop a different flavor) he had enough. Now he was happy, and ready. He crossed over to the railway track near his house, behind Cluny Convent School and started walking alongside it. He wasn’t quite sure if he should fling himself into the path of the train or lie down on the tracks. He kept walking slowly for a long distance… no train came.

He started walking back. Eventually a train did come. He kept walking. Watched it whizz past. Walked home. Took out his 300 page notebook, tore it up and burnt it. He was no longer depressed.

———

———

I can’t remember exactly why he changed his mind. He probably chickened out – definitely a clear case where blind fearlessness dosen’t apply – where it was actually useful to protect him. But I’m really glad about it, because he eventually turned out to be an extremely succesful man – succesful not that much according to external conventional yardsticks, but more in terms of happiness and self-contentment. Incidentally he did end up getting into engineering and went on to get a job directly on campus in the third year itself. And he was even sent abroad many times from work, something that may seem ordinary for most people, but he considers a very special priviledge [because he went free and even got paid for it, while its a lifetime dream for others who invest what they’ve saved for several years just to go on a 15 day tour]

Now that I think of it, I’m quite surprised really. He was actually quite well to do, has always had a very affectionate large joint family – everyone loved him a lot especially since he was one of the youngest. His parents encouraged him to work hard, but had never put any pressure on him to score high marks or compared him with others or downplayed him. He had excellent friends – occasional healthy competition among them and they motivated each other to study, but never really pulled each other down or had any inferior or superior complexes based on scores. Every single common reason for such tendencies was ruled out. Yet the idea was there. Then what about people who have more serious problems? But what is more serious?? More serious only for others! But for him, his problem of a “low” score was extremely serious.

Let there be no doubt about this: even if a problem may look trivial to an outsider, for every person his/her problems are very serious to him/her. [The trick is to try and develop objective thinking – and start living one’s own life as an outsider. As Einstein has commented “A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.”]

But however now as a real outsider, the only thing I can say about the real reason for him wanting to kill himself is a statement in Kannada – “thika kob jaasthi itthu” – loosely translated as “he was too much of a smart-ass!”. What a pity – he did not really know the value – of his own life.. It does not come for free – this human birth – it is priceless, and no one can simply afford to waste it and throw it away, no matter how compelling the circumstances!

I read somewhere [cant remember source] that suicide is something a lot of people (maybe everybody) contemplates at some point or the other in their life. For some, its idle speculation – a kind of intellectual entertainment – “wow, how wonderful it would be if I just died, all the crisis I am facing would be gone! What a relief it would be!”. Some get over it and leave it at this, some take it to different stages and some take it all the way.

The hard fact is that killing oneself is no solution, simply because – though this fact seems to be far too hypothetical – death is only an intermediate phase – a momentary transition in space and time – like one changes clothes. One continues to carry all his misery with him. But this isn’t something that’s easily understood – or even if one understands or blindly believes, it may be impossible to remember it when circumstances are rough.

But anyway, consider the root cause behind his decision to kill himself – here what I see is a misuse of intellect. While intellect is a valuable gift – to be valued, it it is ridiculous for any man, however intellegent, to be proud of it. Because its like a deadly sword. He can try using it to do something useful, but also end up using it to hurt himself or others as well. Its possible to intelligently use logical rationalisation to justify anything to ourselves, even destroy ourselves. Look at this article on fallacies – the bizarre thing is that a fallacy does look like a perfect truth until one recognizes it as a fallacy.

The nuclear bomb that caused endless suffering and not just once but for so many generations of people, was a product of pure genius. So was the elaborate precisely executed conspiracy behind the September 11 attack. And a never ending list of atrocities on the planet. A great deal of our problems are due to misuse of our intellect. Whether its harming of others or ourselves – to the person doing it, at that particular time atleast, it always looks like its the perfectly correct and logical thing to do.

So it may be useful to keep the intellect aside once in a way. We hear about some philosophies expounding complete surrender. But such a thing cannot happen easily to everybody esp in our modern society. Right from school we have been brought up and trained to rely on our intellect for our very survival in a highly competitive world. Hence by suddenly trying to consciously reverse this process and trying to forget about our intellect, I believe we only are fooling ourselves by devaluing it. This letting go of intellect, and getting more in tune with our nature can happen gradually – if we only give it a chance! 🙂

19 Responses to “[flashback] considering a shortcut”

  1. narasimha Says:

    This is very true indeed:

    “I read somewhere [cant remember source] that suicide is something a lot of people (maybe everybody) contemplates at some point or the other in their life. For some, its idle speculation – a kind of intellectual entertainment – “wow, how wonderful it would be if I just died, all the crisis I am facing would be gone! What a relief it would be!”. Some get over it and leave it at this, some take it to different stages and some take it all the way.

    The hard fact is that killing oneself is no solution, simply because – though this fact seems to be far too hypothetical – death is only an intermediate phase – a momentary transition in space and time – like one changes clothes. One continues to carry all his misery with him. But this isn’t something that’s easily understood – or even if one understands or blindly believes, it may be impossible to remember it when circumstances are rough.

  2. Leonid Mamchenkov Says:

    Excellent article. Once again. 🙂

    I’ve heard that a lot of people think about suicide indeed. Many do so at teen age. They outgrow the children’s world, but adult world is not yet accepting them. I find this easy to agree with as I myself though about suicide when I was a teenager. It wasn’t as serious as yourself, but scary non-the-less.

    I found this perspective very interesting: “The hard fact is that killing oneself is no solution, simply because – though this fact seems to be far too hypothetical – death is only an intermediate phase – a momentary transition in space and time – like one changes clothes. One continues to carry all his misery with him.”

    On the part about intellect – somehow your article reminded me about Andrei Sakharov. I don’t know if you’ve heard about him. Here is a quote from this site

    Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989) was a Soviet physicist who became, in the words of the Nobel Peace Committee, a spokesman for the conscience of mankind. He was fascinated by fundamental physics and cosmology, but he had to spent two decades designing nuclear weapons. The acknowledged father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, he contributed perhaps more than anyone else to the military might of the USSR. But it was his top secret experience as a leading nuclear expert that was instrumental in making Sakharov one of the most courageous critics of the Soviet regime, a human rights activist and the first Russian to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He helped bring down one of history’s most powerful dictatorships.

    Obviously, he was one of those who realized that his intellect is working for the wrong cause.

  3. msanjay Says:

    Fascinating link Leonid – went through it and wondered how Andrei Sakharov’s name isn’t that well known (only afaik) – he seems to be a character everybody would’ve known about by now.

    Paradoxically even Einstein who was a great humanitarian as much as a scientist, was instrumental in the Atomic Bomb. But in this case, he maintains that he was always a pacifist and against it.

    The most radical example of someone with a change of heart I’ve heard of is probably the Emperor Ashoka.

  4. Leonid Mamchenkov Says:

    Well, I don’t know how well-known Sakharov is world-wide, but they mention him during the high-school syllabus in Russian schools several times. 🙂

  5. msanjay Says:

    A comment about the intellect by Aurobindo…

    “The capital period of my intellectual development was when I could see clearly that what the intellect said might be correct and not correct, that what the intellect justified was true and its opposite was also true. I never admitted a truth in the mind without simultaneously keeping it open to the contrary of it.. And the first result was that the prestige of the intellect was gone.”

  6. Rash Says:

    Sanj,
    I was searching google for info on cluny convent and your website appears ! It pops up so oftenwhen searching for other thingsinGoogle

  7. msanjay Says:

    There’s a very important lesson I learnt from the popularity… er… the high google rating to be precise… of my blog.

    At first I had a closer look at how google does its page ranking, and it used words like “high quality of content” etc, and I felt very thrilled that “I have earned” such a high ranking because I have put such high quality content on my website.

    Later on discovered that it was because the host – weblogs.us has a high google rating already 😀

  8. msanjay Says:

    “Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.” –Rumi

    – came across this quote here

  9. bellur ramakrishna Says:

    Lovely article Sanjay. Seems funny now to read it and judge yourself, isnt’it?
    Highlight of the article(acc. to me): Going to Medhinis and hogging Ice creams and chickening out when the train came!

  10. msanjay Says:

    Thanks RK (had missed this comment)! Yeah looking back that was really funny :mrgreen:

    Wrt Einstein’s involvement in the Atom Bomb, came across a very relevant quote

    “The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.”

    Quoted in: Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe, ch. 5 (1979).

  11. msanjay Says:

    “We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
    – Martin Luther King, Jr.

  12. Jaimini (jam) Says:

    Wonderful piece! The best part is how you have opened up without a care of what others will think of you. I think the reason you did not go ahead was because of all the icecream.. its supposed have a feel-good effect! (Are you sure there were no fruits in it ??) :))

  13. msanjay Says:

    Thanks Jam… yeah the non-fruit-afaik icecream probably helped :mrgreen:

  14. Sumesh Says:

    Dear Sanjay,

    When we think about our activities at our different stages of growth it is funny.At that time it should have been a serious issue to you.But now you are laughing at yourself…hey Sanjay you done like that..mmm?

    You know I am victim to suicide..my mom,her two sisters,my cousin,3 aunts…my parents in law,my brother in law…there is a big list in front of me …Especially in Kerala it is a usual thing ..people commit suicide ..they don’t know what they are doing …they give up themselves giving more worries to their families

    Next time I will ask people to do your Ice cream treatment..OK

    Thank you for sharing your experience

  15. Sanjay M Says:

    🙂 nice to read your response dear Sumesh at the same time its really touching. I can only imagine the pain when so many people close to you are in the list maybe someone set the wrong kind of role model! Glad that you were out of it!

  16. Universe-Man Says:

    I many think obout this.
    But only now I have understood….

    Nice site! Very intresting. Good work.

  17. paddy Says:

    Excellent experience. Really nice your presentation.
    I went throw your blog first time really very nice.

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