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 gaspin horror, in awe, in something, that someone
could willingly dispose of the one thing he or she can never
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
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,
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 didnt 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 Taans 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.
First the talented lawyer, now the brilliant accountant. No,
there were many more before them, werent 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 historys greatest figures have passed away in
this way, like Hitler. Suicide has been immortalised in literatureAchebes,
Okonkwo, Shakespeares, 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
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 Taans dad:
You see, Hotfoot? What goes around comes around.
And why do we think it sinful? Why do we scorn it so? Why
didnt 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 mans
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
Without love, what else is there?
There is triumph in tragedy. In this callous worldwhere
people learn more and more how not to love, where people revile
the dead, where people dont seek to understand suicide,
where people dont seek to love peopledeath 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