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Denzil Mohammed on campus

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Way to a better world?

What happens when one commits suicide? What causes a son, brother or father to end his life by his own hands? What results when a daughter, sister or mother brings death upon herself?

Suicide is one of those incredible feats of man that has always made us gasp—in horror, in awe, in something, that someone could willingly dispose of the one thing he or she can never reclaim, life.

And yet, while death is the ultimate finality, suicide has always left open-ended questions. Was it right? Was it fitting? Was it necessary? What gave rise to such grievous bodily harm? Had circumstances been different, would the outcome have been otherwise? Would it have been better?

Which is better?

Bright and perfect

Taan was one of those bright fellas. He was the kind of sixth form fella to whom every young Pres man secretly looked up in awe.

He was in the school yearbook, I remember. He was a prefect, too, I think. But the one thing I know for sure is he was one of those bright fellas.

Taan, unsurprisingly, won a scholarship, and became the pride of Pres. He joined that inimitable and venerated legion of distinguished gentlemen who excelled beyond the reach of us, ordinary boys.

Taan was immortalised in the annals of college history and his picture joined that enviable bunch of black and white headshots under the title “Scholarship winners” in the school magazine.

It was the kind of image that resides forever in the mind of every college student.

Later, that headshot was to reemerge among equally distinguished company, Business Guardian columnists. He wrote about stocks and money and the kind of market that didn’t sell zaboca and cauliflower. But there was his headshot, certainly, and he wrote brilliantly and astutely, analysing and predicting as only a brilliant young man could do.

And, again, I was in awe. Taan did indeed become like those other great people in the Pres yearbook. And the fact that he was doing great things proved to me that I could do the same. I looked up to him then, just as I did in Form One, and felt deep inside that, I too, could move the Earth.

All I needed was Taan’s rare single-mindedness, and perhaps a brain transplant.

The last time his headshot surfaced, Taan was dead. He died of his own timing, type and technique. He had said life no longer challenged him the way it used to. It seemed he had done enough, more than enough.

Maybe his rare single-mindedness waned. Maybe he found himself too rare, too alone. Maybe he no longer felt wanted, or loved. Maybe it was many things.

But Taan is not dead to me. Taan lives. He forever remains one of those bright fellas every young Pres man wanted to be like. His picture remains in the school yearbook, standing out among distinguished company.

Thoughtlessness

First the talented lawyer, now the brilliant accountant. No, there were many more before them, weren’t there? And there are so many more to come.

Trinidad has its disproportionate share of suicides; they invariably outnumber murders. Devindra Dookie, Vaughn Salandy and Wayne Rodriguez easily come to mind.

Some of history’s greatest figures have passed away in this way, like Hitler. Suicide has been immortalised in literature—Achebe’s, Okonkwo, Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet. Even in those who gave eternal life to celebrated works, as Tennessee Williams and Virginia Woolf did, had their own way with their own death.

But as in literature, so too in life: suicide leaves unanswered questions.

Why do more men kill themselves? Why do more Indo-Trinidadians kill themselves? Why do more young people kill themselves?

And what do we do about it?

Why do we talk about suicide in the way we do? Like hangings, Trinis treat death with thoughtlessness. Like those people calling in to certain radio stations to tell Taan’s dad: You see, Hotfoot? What goes around comes around.

And why do we think it sinful? Why do we scorn it so? Why didn’t we do something other than judge and condemn and scorn and ignore that might have made a real difference: the difference between life and death?

There is no doubt suicide is an intensely personal act. Fate and fortune favour few. Ordering chaos is difficult. Life seems little more than one trial after another. Rising above them is our challenge. And sometimes one of us falls.

But suicide is also perhaps the greatest indication of man’s social failure.

Man is the gregarious animal who cannot live without the warmth and protection that only people can provide, who cannot live without love. And he fails his fellow man when one is left out.

Without love, what else is there?

There is triumph in tragedy. In this callous world—where people learn more and more how not to love, where people revile the dead, where people don’t seek to understand suicide, where people don’t seek to love people—death is the way to a better world.

And in this world, death does not conquer all, because Taan is still in the school yearbook.

Correction: Deja who? Deja vu

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