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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Reflections on Life and Death

Yesterday someone I knew jumped to his death. He was a friend in so far as we would spend time talking whenever we met, which, living in the same place for some time, was reasonably regular if not frequent. He was only young, successful in his career, seemed happy, a nice guy always ready to help. He never betrayed any need or inner sadness. He was quiet, kept himself to himself, and was supremely fit. His death, and the manner of it, came as a huge shock and he will be missed

Sometimes the challenges of life sweep over us like a tidal wave, at other times the pressures can be relentless. When you live in a high-rise flat escape is ever present, just an open window and a footstep away. In seconds the pain that is drowning you is no more. The tragedy is that most things in life are temporary. Pain – emotional, spiritual, physical – often eases with time, it ebbs away, or we change the way we perceive it so that it no longer becomes the all-consuming darkness in to which we can sink. The challenge will change, will go, the sun will rise, the clouds will clear, but step through the open window and all is lost, forever, there is no chance of coming back 

In a city like Mumbai death seems incidental – it happens all the time, life goes on. I saw an accident, a year or so ago, in which an auto-rickshaw overturned on a busy road in Juhu. Half a dozen men carried a young guy, who was clearly seriously injured, to the side of the road – some took an arm each, others a foot, and as he was lifted I saw his eyes roll upwards. Even as he was dying there were cars trying to edge past, impatient, insulated, not oblivious but anaesthetized from the reality before them. When I returned a couple of hours later it was impossible to see any sign of what had happened earlier. Life carried on, all was back to normal

For those who lose a loved one, patience and understanding are often short-lived. There is still work to attend, the routines of living that need to be followed. Life goes on but when you’ve lost someone you love, who was central to your life, the pain endures and while it may ease with time, it takes time, and a longer time than most people would extend. There’s an expectation of recovery within an unrealistically short space of weeks and months. If the death is tragic or unexpected, and, or, involves a partner or a child, then the time it takes extends perhaps for a lifetime

Mumbai is a high pressure environment. Competition is intense. Working hours are very long. It’s not easy to find space or time for yourself or for those you love or who are important to you. Children are forced in to this climate of relentless competition and expectation from an early age and too often pushed towards careers that are in a different direction to where their true ability and passion lies. It's no wonder that so many young kids kill themselves and then their parents are left with a lifetime of regret

As I go through life I try to be aware of what’s going on around me, not to take people for granted, to be open and conscious of not just what people are saying but what they’re not saying but trying to tell me. I don’t always achieve it but I try to be compassionate and understanding. It’s easy to make assumptions about other people’s lives but the reality is we just don’t know. At the beginning of a new year can I just ask that we all try and judge a little less, understand a little more, and support each other a little better