From the arid sands of the Dubai desert to the salubrious Cote DÁzur....am 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.