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Live a life worth loving: Suicide survivors share their moving stories

Meet these gritty suicide survivors who saw light during their darkest moments. Now they inspire others to live a meaningful, worthwhile life

Updated: Sep 12, 2018 15:40:50

By Shara Ashraf and Prerna Gauba

Singer Kailash Kher shares his inspiring story (Photo: Raviraj Kande/Olympus)

Indefinable anguish and hopelessness drove these individuals to attempt taking their own lives. But destiny had something else in store for them. The day they tried killing themselves, they also found themselves. They had collapsed only to rise and take on the world with a newfound sense of personal strength. In their darkest moment, they saw the light of faith, and found out who they really were. Their stories of courage remind us of famous Scottish theologian William Barclay’s words: There are two great days in a person’s life — the day we are born and the day we discover why. On World Suicide Prevention Day, these suicide survivors tell us how their failure turned around their lives forever. Today, they inspire others to live a meaningful life. Here are their stories as told by them.

Shama Sikander, actor ( Photo: Raviraj Kande/Olympus )

Shama Sikander, actor

Sitting on the floor in a dimly lit room, I was lost in thought. I had secluded myself from the world. Negativity had blinded my mind. I had no desire, hope or ambition in life. I felt lost in a maze. I had suffered endlessly in my life because of rejection, bullying and betrayal. I was suffering from depression and bipolar disorder. I felt the only way to feel free was to give up my life. I entered my mom’s room, hugged her tight, told her I was going to rest and swallowed a lot of sleeping pills. I was rushed to the hospital and brought back to life. Initially I was angry with my family for saving me. But the moment of truth came soon. The realisation hit me that I if I was alive even after trying to kill myself, I was alive for a reason. I decided to put the pieces together and start afresh. Therapy and meditation helped me discover my biggest strength in my deepest sorrows. It didn’t happen overnight. It took me four years to understand my inner self. I slowly started erasing all the bad memories. I realised that I was very, very strong. It bought a lot of solace and happiness. Today, I feel content and happy in my life and career. I am grateful to my fans for their love and support. I respect the gift of life. My message to those who like giving up: Hang on! Sometimes, the brightest light comes from the darkest places.

Kailash Kher, singer ( Photo: Raviraj Kande/Olympus )

Kailash Kher, singer

I am from a traditional Brahmin family from Delhi, born with a lot of pressure to earn money. There were many perceptions forced on me by society cruelly and blindly. That clashed with my soul. I found myself trapped. There were heartless comparisons with others and I was judged on materialistic achievements. All of this made me oversensitive. Music was a part of my junoon, my passion, but it failed to earn money. No one could see any future in music for me. In India, if you are unique, you are criticised and pulled down. You are rarely appreciated. People thought I was a nikamma and awara who was desperate to become a hero. I was trying hard to prove myself and keep a grip on my life. I did odd jobs and even ran an export business for some time, selling handicrafts to Germany. I was never meant to do all this. My business collapsed. In a weak moment, I jumped into Ganga in Rishikesh to take my life but a friend saved me. In that moment when I tried killing myself, I couldn’t have imagined that I would live to get a Padma Shri I award one day. After that moment, I started looking for strength in my own self. I must tell you that every soul, every life on this planet is blessed with a special talent, a special calibre. You just need to discover it patiently. Destiny always has miracles in store. Today, I love and cherish life. A foreigner woman once handed over a letter to me that said that she had never visited India but she experienced India through my music. An 80-year-old woman told me that her 10-month-old grandson dances, eats, sleeps to my songs. These are the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received. I want to tell all young people that they should distance themselves from those who provoke negativity. Remember, all those who the world believes are inadequate, they are the ones who always create something extraordinary. Do not let someone’s harsh words pull you down. Live and prove them wrong.

Sumit Kumar, student ( Photo: Sarang Gupta/HT )

Sumit Kumar, student



It’s Priya’s birthday today…I miss her so deeply. Priya is the love of my life. I had seen her on my way to coaching classes. She was dressed in a blue shalwar-kameez and the sunlight lit up her innocent face. I was astounded by her and realised what love at first sight meant…We got talking and soon became inseparable. But we didn’t know that our love was not going to be easy. Priya is a Brahmin from a village near Hisar, Haryana while I am a Jat. Her family was enraged when they got to know about our relationship and we were forced to run away to Delhi. Love Commandos, a vigilante group that supports inter-caste and inter-religious marriages got us wed. We were so happy together. We thought that the worse was over but it was only the beginning of our nightmare. We were conned by her family. They destroyed our world. They got in touch with her and told her that they were ready to accept us. She went to meet them last October and never returned. I got to know that they were trying to remarry her forcibly. I could not bear the separation and tried to kill myself by hanging. My mother saved me, and I can’t thank her enough for that. I returned to the Love Commandos shelter. I can’t leave Priya alone. I will fight for her till the end and get her back. I will make sure that we live to get justice, whatever it takes. I am a volunteer with the NGO now and work to unite lovers. I know that Priya will return one day, and we will grow old together. Love is invincible.



Reshma Qureshi, acid attack survivor ( Photo: Shara Ashraf/HT )

Reshma Qureshi, acid attack survivor

I was attacked with acid by my estranged brother-in-law when I was 17. He threw concentrated acid on my face in the street. We were in our village in Mau Aima, Uttar Pradesh. I had forgotten my burkha back home in Mumbai so I borrowed my sister’s. My brother-in-law mistook me for his wife. I felt the most excruciating pain and lost eyesight in my left eye as a result of the attack. I was in hospital for months. I was the unintended victim of an attack that wasn’t even meant for me. My face was so badly injured, that my family didn’t allow me to look in the mirror. All the mirrors in the hospitals were covered. When we came home for the first time, I went to wash my face in the kitchen. I looked at myself in the mirror and couldn’t recognise myself. That night, I tried to hang myself with the dupatta. My brother Aizaz woke up when he realised I was shuffling around at night. My family lives in a one bedroom chawl in Mumbai and everyone sleeps in the same room. Aizaz turned on the lights and saw me standing on the bed with a dupatta, aiming to reach the fan. He put two and two together and screamed. Everyone woke up and panicked. There were tears, consolation and love. My family told me how much they loved me and comforted me back to sleep. They motivated me to see therapists and kept telling me that I had to live to see justice. The thought of putting my attacker behind bars kept me going strong. I could not die at the hands of my attacker. He may have taken my face, but my life is mine and mine alone and I just had to be reminded of that fact. I saw many acid attack survivors at the NGO Make Love Not Scars. They were in so much pain for no mistake of their own. They were the victims of someone’s misplaced rage. My heart went out to them and I decided to devote my life to bring a smile on their faces. Today, I work with this NGO and help other acid attack survivors overcome depression. If you want help, do reach out to me. Just don’t kill yourself. The sun does shine again. If we don’t have sadness in life, how will we ever appreciate happiness? It’s a cycle. We have to accept and embrace that. Keep moving on. One step at a time.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP
Remember these powerful words by Winston Churchill. Understand that for the majority of the people, suicidal tendency is not a permanent reality. It can be overcome with support. Confide in someone you love or trust. It will help you feel better. Bring home a pet, spend some time at the orphanage or old-age home. Take up a hobby that nourishes the soul. Explore your spiritual side. It can be life-changing.

SAVE A LIFE
Keep a watch if you fear that someone is suicidal. Don’t leave the person alone. Empathise with their pain and don’t say things like, ‘You are thinking too much’ or ‘It’s just a phase’ or ‘You are being thoughtless’. Support by saying, ‘We will find a way out.’ Encourage them to get in touch with a therapist.

BE ALERT
Someone you know is suicidal? Watch out for symptoms: Has the person stopped talking ? Has the person stopped taking part in activities that he/she enjoyed earlier? Is the person neglecting day-to-day chores? Is the person saying things like ‘Life is not worth living’? This is a major sign of suicidal behaviour. Is the person giving hints by saying things like, ‘Take care of yourself or other loved ones if I’m not there’? Is the person researching online about how to commit suicide? This tells that something is seriously wrong.

Inputs by psychologist Pulkit Sharma

EXPERTS SAY:

Suicide is a very agonising step. It’s a cry for help, a sign of unbearable despair. It’s a myth that if someone wants to die, nothing can change their mind. Recognise the warning signs and give love and care.
Sanjoy Sachdeva, social activist

When a loved one feels suicidal, it’s important not to judge. An empathetic, non-threatening, compassionate approach loaded with patience will help the person put trust in you and communicate.
Deepak Raheja, Psychiatrist

Understand that suicidal tendency is not a permanent reality for the majority of the people. You can overcome it with support. Confide in someone you love or trust. It will help you feel better.
Pulkit Sharma, psychologist

REACH OUT:
Hope Care India: +919311112377
Sneha Foundation India: +914424640050
Connecting: +919922001122
Sanjivini Society for Mental Health: 01141092787
Roshni: +914066202000

First Published: Sep 12, 2018 15:40:09

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