Monday, March 18, 2013

Jump! And save yourself!

 From the arid sands of the Dubai desert to the salubrious Cote DÁ off for a few days.... zipping to colder climes. Monaco and the super glam Rose Ball beckon....more on my return next week, post -Holi. Till then, au revoir... mes amies.
This appeared in The Week...
                             Jump! And save yourself…
I had no idea that the Mumbai Police had started a  17 member Hostage & Crisis Negotiation Team last year, till I read about the timely intervention of Shalini Sharma, a team member, who talked a 17- year- old girl out of jumping from the seventh floor of her building in Bandra. In her interview with a local tabloid, Shalini recounted the two-and-a-half  hour ordeal, during which her training (  at  Scotland Yard, no less) was tested. She said the team specializes in decoding the body language of the ‘target’. In this case, she found the suicidal girl looking angry and confused. There was no time to waste. Shalini launched into what is termed ‘calculated bargaining.’  Over an hour of skillful negotiations later, Shalini came up with a brainwave and managed to hand over a cell phone to the panic stricken girl. After that, it was comparatively easy.
 The thing that struck me about this incident is how vulnerable our young are today. And how we have failed to recognize their fragility. As Shalini pointed out after the girl was rescued, “ All she wanted was someone to talk to…” Obviously, nobody had been listening to her cries for help for a long, long time… not her family, not even her friends. Loneliness is going to be the new killer in urban India. But we have yet to wake up to the seriousness of the condition. The bald and sad truth of the matter is that there are more and more terminally lonely people in our cities than ever before. And nobody has the time for them.We used to pride ourselves on providing support to those most in need of  it – our youth and the elderly. Today, both are in the same boat – marginalized, neglected and ignored. The young feel diminished and degraded. The elderly, unwanted and useless.  Clinical depression is on the rise, but we fail to identify it for what it is – an illness. We get impatient and angry if someone close to us withdraws and sinks into a deep, dark well of negative emotions. Especially if that person appears fine in all other respects – physically fit, energetic and educated. We accuse such people of faking their condition. Of  being lazy. Of  seeking attention. Of  behaving ‘badly’. The elderly have little choice but to put up with the taunts of those around them. But the young demonstrate rage and give vent to frustration. That is when suicides happen. Cornered and filled with despair, only one solution presents itself – instant death. How tragic!
We remain unsympathetic and callous even when faced with such a drastic situation. Rarely do parents of disturbed teens turn the spotlight on themselves to ask, “Where did I fail my child?” Sometimes, this introspection comes a bit too late in the day. In the case successfully handled by Shalini Sharma, I  continue to fear for the girl. She may have been saved this one time. But who’s to say she won’t attempt something similar in future? And if that happens,  Shalini Sharma may not be around to negotiate with the troubled  teen and persuade her to  get off that dangerous ledge. We don’t want to bother with the delicate state of such a person’s mind. We don’t know whether or not her family is happy to see her alive after the ordeal. What if she is told as much? Imagine the irony of it all. To start with, there was nobody to talk to. Leaping off  the ledge seemed  like the only way out. Then came a savior. But there was still nobody to talk to! What happens in such a grim scenario? I shudder to think.
For the young, unhappy children of our society, family still remains the primary source of love and comfort. Friends follow. But all that is rapidly changing. Friends have replaced family in a lot of metros.Friends seem to have more time and better understanding of problems. Working parents often need therapy themselves, unable as they frequently are to cope with their own problems. Grand parents no longer live with the family. The larger circle of aunts, uncles and cousins does not exist. Teachers of the old school who actually cared about the emotional state of their students , disappeared with the dinosaurs. An abiding sense of rejection (“ Nobody sends me Friend requests on FB” ) supersedes virtually everything else . The world appears hostile and dangerous. What does a young person do in such a nightmarish situation? Look for that welcoming ledge. And jump.


Harsh Shah said...

I too believe that this issue needs to be taken seriously and dealt with at the earliest.
I believe that before sending kids to schools, parents themselves should go to school or train themselves in parenting skills.
They often believe that by giving them birth, sending to IB schools, giving more pocket money than required, new cellphones, etc. their duty as a parent is over and have done their job well. This is one serious issue that needs to be addressed. Today's generation is very sensitive - may be due to overexposure to TV, reason not clear- and need to be marked as on those cartons,' fragile-handle with care!!' And if you cannot take care of your own kids, then please, please don't have them in the first place. Don't delegate your responsibilities to schools, tuition teachers, counselors and the 24x7 'aaya'.

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Jogeshwar said...

I agree with every sentence that you've written, this is exactly how I feel about our society that exists today. We place high value on individual achievements. It is the time of 'me', individualism. Those not having status, symbols etc. to show off, find themselves very lonely. Children with a decent, sensitive upbringing, find themselves unable to cope in the cruel world outside of their families. One is expected to get used to the insensitive world they live in and stop pretending about their condition and stop believing in a fair society, because that's the way it is. We often taunt them for being weak and coward, not realising it is we who are cowards afraid to give up our 'precious' time for someone in need. Those not able to desensitise themselves inevitably suffer in the callous world we live in.

abhi singh said...

this is indeed ironical that even after so much of progress people do not understand the pain of mentally depressed people. Just because a person looks healthy from exterior does not means they are emotionally happy. Even taking psychiatric help in such cases is considered taboo.

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Madhu said...

I think the heart if the problem is that, parents have so little time for children these days. I am no blaming them per se, they simply have no choice but to be in the rat race. Before parents would be the first ones to notice any behavior changes in children. Now, it's the teachers who spend more time with them and hence it would help if there are counsellors in every school. It had to be made mandatory.

When you have real life friends to play with, I cannot fathom why some one would despair if they don't receive any Facebook friend request. The only way to get these children/teens out if misery is to control the time they spend at Internet and actually step out and play. Parents of every child should encourage this...only then will we be able to save the young.

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