E. J. Kalwachia
A. C. Patankar
A. I. Bhuvaneshwar (East)
F. K. Khapoliwalla (West)
Dhruv Sharma (New Delhi)
Vinod Kumar (Chennai)
B. K. Karanjia
Genius Printers Pvt. Ltd
Founded, edited and published by B.K.
Karanjia on behalf of Godrej
& Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.,
Mumbai-400 079. For private circulation only.
An Act of Cowardice?
en with the
so-called killer instinct are more prone to kill themselves than other men.
This is the astounding truth discovered by the World Health
Organisation that the death toll from homicide and war is far exceeded by
that from suicides, with almost 20 million people attempting and one million
succeeding every year. More men than women take their own lives, but a
greater number of women than men attempt suicide and, recently, there has
been an alarming increase in suicidal behaviour among young people aged
between 15 and 25. "Worldwide, more people die from suicide than from
homicides and wars combined," writes the WHO Assistant Director, Chatherine
Le Gales-Camus. "There is an urgent need for coordinated and intensified
global action to prevent this needless toll".
No doubt global action has
to be taken, but for such action to be successful needs a deeper
understanding of the motivations of those who commit suicide. Suicide is too
often dismissed as an act of cowardice. The great French thinker Voltaire
said sarcastically that "so many cut their own throats in this best of all
possible worlds". Even Shakespeare wrote of it as "a prohibition so divine,
that cravens my weak hand." Dryden went to the extreme of deriding suicide
as "the effect of cowardice in the highest extreme".
Such lack of sensitivity, in poets of all people, is surprising. Consider,
for example, the motivation of the great writer Ernest Hemingway. At the
height of his writing career, realising the futility of fame, he shot
himself in the head. A young beauty queen, Nafisa Joseph, hung herself
because of her disillusionment with love. Farmers in India in their hundreds
kill themselves in the final abandonment of all hope.
Consider also the long-drawn-out preparation processes leading to the final
act. It must call not only for a pitch of desperation but also for great
courage to take a revolver, hold it to your head and press the trigger to
blow your brains out; or to select a thick rope, twist it into a noose and
put it round your neck and jump into emptiness; or to jump from a high-rise
building or in front of a speeding train or, most horrendous of all, to
consume rat poison.
In a life and death issue like suicide, one cannot afford to be judgemental.
It is surely adding grave insult to deadly injury by referring to farmers
who commit suicide as cowards, when there is no other resort available to
them for complex reasons of which the most obvious of course is the
indifference of the State. The WHO report also gives a large number of
complex, underlying causes for suicide, including poverty, unemployment,
loss of loved ones, arguments, breakdowns in relationships, legal or
work-related problems, and loneliness, above all, loneliness.
In a bid to raise awareness on this issue, the International Association for
Suicide Prevention observes an annual suicide prevention day. In this issue
in an article entitled "Nobody Loves Me?Nobody Cares," an Indian
psychologist places suicide in the Indian context, particularly with
reference to the large number of suicides by young men and women for failure
in examinations, and makes several wise suggestions to tackle the problem at
its source by helping avert suicidal tendencies in childhood and early