Law of the Unintended Consequences
by Kiran Jhamb
Four suicides in my locality! A phenomenon which repeatedly occurs though in different scenarios is bound to impinge on one's mind later or sooner and acquire a definite shape. The common thread gets revealed. Let us see the law of unintended consequences in action.
How should a shattered mother pick up the broken pieces? - The one whose second daughter committed suicide because in 12th Std she got an average score compared to her medico didi (sister)? (The mother herself is a teacher!) Or, the one whose daughter couldn't handle the pressure of her engineering course? (Again, the parents are both lecturers!) Or, the one whose daughter hanged herself because her CAP exam had gone badly two days before?(A housewife who in all innocence was giving her daughter the chance she herself didn't get!) How should those two kids learn to live without their mother who committed suicide because her in-laws expected her to clear her C.A. exams and she couldn't? The husband and father-in-law are C As.
It seems women have simply changed one set of problems for another. Earlier these girls (scene I) may have been lured by a seducer, left pregnant and contemplating suicide; ( scene II) may have been married off young and could have been struggling with child bearing-rearing and exploitation in the joint families; ( scene 3) burnt for dowry.
Today in the era of equality the parents expect their sons as well as daughters to shine. The pressure builds. The individual too has certain expectations. The pressure builds more - whether for male or female. This is equality. Societal norms are patriarchal, though changing but changing while allowing the old norms to linger. So the pressure has multiplied in intensity on the female half of our society.
Were they better off in the older system of division of labor when Adam ploughed and Eve looked after the hearth and home? Today the woman has to prepare for a dual role; man’s role has not changed that much. Rather she fetches a supporting income, so he is all the more merrier. Blessed was the woman of earlier times, who knew she could have her demands met - petty or genuine - by pressurizing her husband because his role was that of the provider. Today’s woman is so self-respecting that she will die but not beg. This was by the way.
We were talking about the four deaths mentioned above. Perhaps the phrase “pushing your boundaries” or “pushing yourself to perform better” takes on a whole new meaning when we are dealing with ill-equipped persons. One strange fall out of self-help books, the regular ‘you-can-do-it talks’ is that all of us are convinced today that we are great geniuses living in ordinary skins. With a magic wand we will actualize our talents and go down in the history of mankind as celebrities. 'Smile and go on' is the current mantra. Smiling and bearing misery quietly causes more harm than good. The brain starts associating smile with sadness.
What is wrong with remaining in one’s comfort zone? Why should we become celebrities? There is nothing wrong in being ordinary mortals. If you want to sit back and take it easy, do it. Agreed, giving up is an easy option but realizing one’s limitation can be turned into an asset. One should learn to set up proper goals. One should be allowed to choose her goals. Depression, suicide are unwanted extremes.
Suicide is such a drastic step. We should think of the helplessness, desperation, confusion, sense of inadequacy, lack of support these individuals must have faced, to come to such a disastrous decision.
If we believe in fate, we will wash our hands off saying this was destined. But this is not 'God’s will'. Here God’s will is being aided and abetted by the acquisitive, materialistic, societal, patriarchal pressures. One should not fall prey to illicit generalizations but one has commonsense also! Cherish the girl child is a fashionable phrase, but what about the adolescent, adult? It's vital that she should be allowed to set her own pace.***