Thursday, December 31, 2009

Two cups of tea with Sisyphus

I hoped this conversation would not be long. Frankly, I was bored, rather tired. It was a depressing place to be. All around me, I saw people screaming, being tied up, tearing and breaking stuff. I was at the National Mental Health centre in place??????. I think mental health was more positive than mental hospital. At least it covered insanity. I was a psychology graduate and patients who were educated or in the realm of consciousness acknowledged this occasionally. Saying this used to flatter me, how naive I was then. He used to meet me occasionally. I was busy most of the time during the day, so he came during the evenings.

I felt obliged because he was a case of chronic depression. He rarely opened up to people so his mother felt hopeful when he spoke to me. But was I listening to all that he said? I don’t know. And he gifted me something cute on my birthday. His stories were always the same, lost his girl friend, who cleared JEE and left him with his unfulfilled dreams of not making it to IIT. He was stressed. Failure was not acceptable at his home. With a line of doctors and engineers in the family, all from AIIMS and IIT’s, failure was looked down upon. More stress made the journey to his dream land even distant and depression became suicidal.

I looked at him with the tea cup in my hand, I felt guilty stealing sips. I realised I was looking through him. I was introspecting myself, but was I not as lost as him? Do I look like a loser to an IIT aspirant? I feel so contended with my studies. I felt ashamed for letting my mind wander when I was supposed to listen to him empathetically. I wanted to help but felt lethargic. I tried visualising the temples of knowledge he longed to get into. Never did I realise I would write this incident from the same temple seven years down the line. He spoke to me for half an hour and left. I finished my tea and left promising to help him the next day.

I received a call from his mother half an hour later. He attempted suicide by slitting his veins, buying a blade from the nearby shopping centre. I felt numb, I could not figure out why he did it. I did not understand what about IIT compelled him to end his life because he could not make it there. Years later I drink many cups, in one of the same place he yearned for, listening and reading about many others who commit suicide, despite making it to IIT.

My animosity continues to grow to the self perpetuation of this system which is like the myth of Sisyphus. ( am compelled to use the cliché – ‘The grass is always greener on the other side’, but believe me, I have been to the other side and it’s the same feeling there too. I have seen both the worlds, lived in them, worked in them and understood them; that the difference is not what we see but what we perceive. As for me, hopefully, another day, another time, with two cups of tea, I will relieve Sisyphus of his rock.

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