"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan




"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but just because one's conscience tells one that it is right." - Martin Luther King Jr.

As we negotiate the many twists and turns of our lives, we ask questions. Sometimes we are compelled to move ahead without an answer, and sometimes answers are impressed upon us; our belief is pushed into a corner, and conscience squeezed so tight to squeeze all the juice of compromise out of it, and all for what? Just to uphold the most universally misunderstood and acutely bottomless faith that life is meant to be lived and death is supposed to be avoided at all costs? 


Haven't there been situations when death seemed to be the 'perfectly right' decision? Ask the jilted lover who yearns to send a message to his beloved, or that enlightened sage who has attained the bliss of lifeless 'samadhi' (a state of transcendental disunion with the body), or the enamored soldier whose risky move can earn him laurels in the battlefield, or the beleaguered mother whose organs can be donated to her dying son, or the passionate terrorist whose mission is close at hand. Death can sometimes make a greater hero out of people, then Life did. For instance, they say Death came to Gandhi in the most perfect way and left him indelible in the hearts of his people. If he had lived more, who knows, maybe he would have messed up his image?


So how does conscience answer the question of willful Death? Schopenhauer, my beloved philosopher, an advocate of the freedom of the human will underlines that ownership of our lives is totally in our own hands and fully endorses the fact that suicide, the act of taking one's life at will, is completely a decision of the person himself and no law, not even a fundamental right, can interfere with that private space.


For many years, I listened with interest to various stories of suicide in my surroundings - family, friends circle, etc. Below are some real cases that I have witnessed first hand.


An engineering student in our locality hung himself one Saturday afternoon. He was a healthy kid, brilliant in his studies and his parents doted on him. He had been finding his studies a bit of a drag but his parents kept pushing him to top the class all the time. They say he became quite reserved in his final days. He cutoff from his friends too. 
My strong guess: He was depressed, mostly due to the pressure of his studies, and as parents failed to understand him, he gave up.


A teenager, with a normal college going life, killed himself by jumping in front of the Bangalore metro train. In his final moments, he had apparently sent some frustrated text messages to a girl friend.
My strong guess: Extreme frustration of being humiliated in an estranged relationship can make one think irrationally.

An uncle and a cousin, in my own family, killed themselves by jumping in front of the train and hanging onto the ceiling fan, respectively. The former due to family issues and the latter due to a seeming relationship problem.
My strong guess: Wounds that hurt for a long time tend to erode a sense of sanctity that one associates with life.

A young working student, a distant cousin of mine, immolated himself at his home. He nearly burnt half the house in his act. His two sisters had been married recently, and his ailing mother had stepped out to buy her medicines. His mother, for whom he was the only hope, has been living like a zombie ever since.
My strong guess: He had some restlessness from which he sought escape. He didn't leave any suicide note so the exact reason is a mystery. Probably he just waited for his sisters' marriage so he could fulfill his responsibility.

My mother's own brother killed himself by drowning into the Tungabhadra river in his village. He had been visiting a psychiatrist for a few months and doctors had advised not to leave him alone at home. One day, by mistake, he was allowed to go for a walk, alone, and he never came back.
My strong guess: He had attempted suicide twice before. It was clearly a case of psychotic disorientation.

The above cases, and many more, don't seem like an act of conscience. Look at the words - Frustration, Depression, Hurt, Restlessness, Psychosis, etc. It looked like some extreme emotion had propelled the person to a tipping point and one brief spike of dispassion had pushed him over the edge. Somehow until then, the act of will (that Schopenhauer speaks about) did not come out in an act of suicide, until I read about the curious case of a young 'Happy couple' from Goa - the Ranthidevans.

Anand and Deepa were a queerly silent couple. They didn't appear to be living a troubled life. They just liked to be on their own and didn't network with their neighbors much. They probably had some minor family issues (which has nowadays become synonymous with the word 'family') but its not something that would drive a family to such tragic ends. There's was a love marriage. Anand had a bit of IT experience, had traveled around and was a professor at a Goa university. They seemed a peaceful couple in a peaceful town of Goa. One summer afternoon, neighbors found their bodies hanging in their bedroom, fused together due to decomposition, with a suicide note saying, "We have a lived a happy life. We have travelled the world, lived in different countries, made more money than we ever thought possible, and enjoyed spending as much of it as we could on things that brought us joy and satisfaction. We believe in the philosophy that our life belongs to us and only us, and we have the right to choose to die as much as we have the right to live. We leave behind no debts or liabilities." Full details about them can be found here.

The case of Ranthidevans gives a curious twist. All of a sudden, I seem to have discovered a suicide that justifies Schopenhauer's take on freedom of human will. When a person takes a decision, even one as extreme as ending one's own life, under the guidance of one's fully aware conscience, is it considered right?  In philosophy, it is said when a decision is taken under full awareness and full freedom, it endows full responsibility. When a person, acting under full responsibility, does what his/her clear conscience says is right, is it fully justified? As I restart my pondering with renewed vision, I am still hugely baffled by one class of suicides that just doesn't seem to fit in any of my models. The league of the suicide terrorists. But this post is draggingly long already...



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