Saturday, 6 August 2016

Review- Story of a Suicide

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), worldwide over 8 lakh people die due to suicide annually. These are the successful attempts. There are millions of attempts that result in failure. For the lucky ones, it may be followed by brief hospitalization, counseling sessions and convalescence.  For the unfortunate, there may be or lifelong impairment, both mental and physical, for the self as well as near and dear ones.  

Suicide was the second leading cause of death for 15-29 year olds in 2012. In the same year, India topped the charts with the highest number of suicides, globally.

Sriram Ayer’s ambitious book, The Story of a Suicide, turns this impersonal statistic into a relatable story where complex characters battle it out to make their lives fulfilling, happy and worthwhile.

A youth centric novel, it appears to be a bold and upfront take on a lot of issues that plague our society, but are often christened as taboos and thus, rarely discussed with such frankness and candour.

The Story
When a novel begins with, “Dear World, I am going to die,” you cannot help but read further. What follows is a well crafted narrative which keeps you hooked till the end.
It is essentially the tale of four people, Hari, Charu, Mani and Sam, whose lives, apparently distinct at first, come together inside the premises of the fictional KIT College. Their paths cross in a deftly woven web of love, passion, friendship, deceit, revenge, sexuality, hope and hurt and the reader journeys along, reveling in their highs and being disturbed by their lows.

The characters
I would assign five on five stars to Ayer for masterfully creating characters, each of whom has shades of grey.
There are layers to the happy go lucky Charu, whose mood swings transform her from vulnerable and needy to passionate and defiant in an instant. Hari has a dark past which follows him everywhere he goes, and no amount of love and care from his adorable father and his ever supportive sister can erase his trauma. Mani is battling his demons, too and so an unlikely bond unites the two of them in their journey of self discovery. Sam comes across as highly arrogant and conceited- a typical rich spoilt brat who often crosses his limits.
The supporting characters like Hari’s father; his sister, Anju; Professor Alex; Sam’s friend, Aditya are crafted meticulously too. The subplots are interesting and keep the flow going.

The illustrations
Illustrations by Ghana accompany each chapter. In-text illustrations are skillfully done and portray the essence of the chapters quite well. Check out one of my favourites, that of a matador and his bull: http://www.storyofasuicide.com/images/chap5/5-13.jpg

What I liked about the book

1.      The book explores unconventional themes, often at the risk of sounding too forthcoming. I am positive that it is a sign of times to come where we won’t shy away from debating topics such as homosexuality, cyber bullying, sexual assault, et al openly. Kudos to the author for a free, fair and frank insight into these topics.
2.     I give full marks to the book for being so relatable at times- “I am sad. I am tired. Helpless. Disillusioned. Paranoid. Unhappy. Sorry, it would not do justice if I just gave only one adjective to describe my hurt.The author knows his way into the minds of a young adult at the threshold of change, in their life.
3.      The little links at the end of each chapter, guiding the youth, and trying to answer their pressing questions about self, identity, individuality and relationships. A special applause for Youth Ki Aawaz for this kind of initiative. Sample this one: http://www.storyofasuicide.com/how-do-i-q52.html
4.      A balanced mix of descriptive writing with dialogues. This gives the story an inimitable pace. I finished the book in two sittings, straight.
5.      Simple language, beautiful artwork.

What I didn’t like about the book

1.      At a lot of places, there are typos which may distract a reader and cause irritation. Nothing that a good proof reading can’t cure.
2.      The ending seemed to be hastened and too abrupt. After building up such a thick plot, you begin to expect the author to have a solid climax ready, which I found missing.
3.      Reading the book online drained my smartphone’s battery much more; so I would love if they could come out with an e book that can be read offline. This is more of a technical grievance, so I’ll let it be. J

Verdict
The book is a good read, and I rate it 3.5/5.

My tips on dealing with life

1.      Find a hobby, a passion, anything that makes you happy to be alive. It could be listening to music, watching a sitcoms (do try FRIENDS, if you haven’t, already!), reading books, talking with your family, walking, gardening, painting, or anything that floats your boat!
Give it at least 10 minutes every day, no matter what your schedule. You will feel joyful and energized.

2.      Every night, before you go to sleep, make a Gratitude List. Pen down whatever you are grateful for. When you start to count your blessings, life begins to feel like one.

3.      Spend time with people who love you. No matter what your age, real human contact beats virtual connectedness, any day.

4.      Spend less time online. It works wonders for me personally. It relieves the eyes and brain from continuous stress and helps you live healthier.

5.      Drink more water, at regular intervals. It calms you down, soothes anxiety, brings you back to the present and helps you focus, without worrying.
6.      Learn something new every day. Sign up for lessons at sites like Highbrow (http://gohighbrow.com/) or subscribe to YouTube channels relevant to your area of interest.  
7.      Spread love. Smile. Leave people better than how you found them. Tell people how you feel about them, and manage relationships well.
8.      Last and the greatest of all, find a PURPOSE to your life. Lord Buddha said, “Your purpose in life is to find your purpose in life and give your heart and soul to it.”

There is a lot of good awaiting us all in life. People need you. The world needs you.
Richard Bach, my favourite writer, says, “Here’s a test to find out if your mission on earth is finished or not. If you’re alive, it isn’t.”
Don’t be a sad statistic; be a stellar storyJ