Coping with Tragedy

On Wednesday, all the front pages carried a story of the murder-suicide of a family of four at Bhakti Park in Wadala. Apparently, there was a dispute regarding the apartment, and the debt-ridden father killed his wife, his two sons and then himsel

When I came home that evening, my children pulled me into their room and excitedly showed me this news item. The elder boy, Jason had been in the same class as my son.

For the last three days, I have been trying to understand how it must be for a 13-years old to be told that one of his friends, someone he has been studying with for the last few years, has suffered a violent death and is no more. I don’t remember having had to face something like this during my years in school and this is not a situation that our teachers or schools are geared to handle or have prescribed textbook or guidebook answers for.

The kids in his class were devastated as was the teacher. The next day a counselor came to “calm their minds” and many of the kids were encouraged to speak about their relationship with Jason. My son told me that the first day felt like a surreal dream and the fact of Jason’s death hit him only the next day when the counselor came to class. We sat down with him to make him understand the situation and to tell him that what had occurred was an anomaly and that taking one’s life or another’s is clearly not the solution to any problem. We need him to understand that this is not normal and we have tried to discuss with both my kids the possible reasons for this incident.

But…

It’s difficult to get inside the minds of 13-year olds, especially boys, to know what exactly is going on there. How much do they understand of death! How much does it sink in that they are never going to see that friend again…ever!

And…

You wonder what kind of scars such events will leave on young, impressionable minds. A friend is killed by his own father in a suicide pact…this cannot be an easy fact to digest.

We brought this up again when some friends of mine came over for dinner, to make the kids understand what could drive someone to such extreme steps. Mumbai is not an easy city to be in, and when you don’t earn enough to pay for the place you live in, it can take its toll. And yet, of all the millions who have to worry about their next meal, it is just a small fraction that even thinks of taking its own or others’ lives. Perhaps there has to be some pre-existing emotional or psychological issue that drives someone to such an extreme step. I hope my children and the others in his class understand that this is not normal behavior, but an anomaly that should never be emulated. And I assume that all parents will take the time out to suitably counsel their children.

Many of the kids have put up a class photo on their Facebook profiles that has Jason sitting bang in the center. My daughter wants to turn detective and find the killer, convinced it was a murder and not suicide…she can’t understand why parents would ever think of killing their own children. A couple of the kids still cry everyday in school. Exams have started. Syllabuses have to be completed. And the rituals of daily life help divert their minds from darker thoughts…hopefully.

17 Comments

  • Its difficult to know why this happened.Maybe the world has opened up….no barriers, the T.V is also blame.Look whats happening in the U.S.Random killing anywhere, like homes, schools etc.etc.

    Shyam Bajaj.

  • K. Daiya wrote:

    Very sad to hear, and to be reminded again that our children today have to face increasingly more violence at a very young age – much more than we did 30 years ago.

  • What do you want to tell us? How to cope? or how to turn over? Doesn’t make one bit of sense.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Karan. It doesn’t. I don’t have answers. The piece is more an address to my kids and their school friends. Hoping they will learn that this was an aberration.

  • Bhavin: This is a difficult topic you have touched up on, today. It is easier to understand this, at older age, but at 13, the kids need lot of reassurance from their parents, and from their teachers, else they may feel threatened,themselves. I would think that if the kids are allowed some guided discussion and also are encouraged to do lot of creative things and also engage in physical activities e.g. Football, Cricket, non-
    electronic games where they are in touch with each other, their insecurity will reduce. Time heals. As to why this gentleman killed his family and himself, that is a question the answer to which lies with our society and with all of us. Thanks for bringing this up in your column. Regards: Sugata Sanyal

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    I am shocked to hear this news! Due to cataract operation I have not read the paper for couple of days and hence missed the tragic news!
    Nobody can cope up with such tragic news, not even the matured edults then how can we advise or console the young ones who were close the the family’s children!!
    Only TIME is a great healer !! Thus TIME will help the young hearts and minds to ease the initial shock and cope up with the tragic incident!!! May their souls rest in peace!!

  • I completely understand what your son must have gone through. My son, a year older than Jason, travelled every day with Jason in the school bus from Bhakti Park. They had their Holy Communion together and in the group photo they are standing next to each other. They had grown very fond of each other. Our families met every Sunday in church. Donatas (Jason’s father) was a very ‘Zindadil’ jovial person. Obviously he had been pushed to the wall. But is any problem so big that you can kill your own son and 4 year old daughter? We as a familly are in shock, keeping thinking about this incident and have lost our sleep. My son after some initial signals of being agitated especially on Tuesday (the next day after the bodies were discovered) he had to go to school, he was a bit bemused as the bus first picks him first and then used to pick up Jason a bit further down the road. Now he is fine, we do not know his thoughts. All he knows is that they had money problems and that they all committed suicide. We didn’t discuss anything further and put up a brave front as if everything was normal and life has to move on and he is now preparing for his exams…

  • Binaifer Karanjia wrote:

    It remains for us elders, to set an example for
    future generations to see the futility of such an act.
    Fortunately it is fortunate that your children cannot
    even begin to imagine how such an act was conceived
    Me alone committed. May the sadly departed family Rest In Peace.

  • Binaifer Karanjia wrote:

    Sorry:
    Should read
    Let alone committed

  • jamna varadhachary wrote:

    children will naturally be shocked especially as one is a classmate. But time heals and with a secure family, they will get over the trauma. But I wonder if it ever will be permanently erased from their minds. Meanwhile let them think of it as an aberration.

  • Bhavin, honestly the news article was taken as just another news item and forgotten till I read your post. I had a friend who committed suicide some 15 years ago and I have still not come to terms with his demise. I still silently wish him on his birthday. If at 30 then I could not digest what happened, I seriously doubt what children at such a tender age would think. The sudden void left far too many unanswered questions in my mind and they continue to haunt me. I just hope kids can take it in their stride and just erase it from their minds for the rest of their lives.

  • Prabha Vinay wrote:

    Yes its true that such horrifying incidents especially where one’s parents or near ones are involved in causing harm leaves a lasting impression somewhere on the minds of especially children/teenagers..

    I remember reading such similar/more horrifying incidents in the newspaper during my growing up years and it had left an impression on my mind for a long time though nothing personal about it!!

  • Ganesh Parameswaran wrote:

    Time is a healer. May be we can tell children to think about and carry out some good act and dedicate that to the demised person/child.

  • SWATI SHAH wrote:

    I WAS 13 WHEN MY BEST FRIEND COMMITTED SUICIDE. IN THOSE DAYS THERE WERE NO CELL PHONES, AND AS PARENTS WERE STRICT USE OF LANDLINE PHONE WAS RESTRICTED TO EMERGENCIES. ITS WAS AFTER FULL FIVE DAYS THAT I STARTED HEARING WHISPERS ABOUT IT. AFTER A LOT OF PROBING I CAME TO KNOW ABOUT THE SUICIDE. I TRIED TALKING TO MY PARENTS CAUSE I WANTED TO VISIT MY FRIENDS RESIDENCE, BUT SUICIDE AT THAT TIME WAS A SEVERE SOCIAL STIGMA. I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO GIVE MY CONDOLENCES, KEEP HER PHOTO OR FOR THAT MATTER GRIEVE HER DEATH. IT WAS A TABOO TOPIC TO TALK ABOUT. I WANTED TO SHARE SO MANY THINGS WITH MY PARENTS ,ASK SO MANY QUESTIONS…………….WELL BUT TODAY THE SCENARIO IS DIFFERENT. OUR CHILDREN CAN ASK US, HEALTHILY ARGUE WITH US, PUT FORWARD THEIR OWN VIEWS. TODAY THE SOCIETY IS MORE ACCOMMODATING AND ACCEPTING, BUT WE ALL ARE JUST TOO BUSY WITH OUR LIVES TO BOTHER ABOUT PEOPLE AROUND US. THE WAY WE ARE TRYING TO BE ALERT AGAINST TERRORISM, WISH WE COULD THE SAME WAY TRY TO BE ALERT ABOUT PEOPLE AROUND US. WE GIVE A LITTLE MORE LOVE, CARE AND TIME. FOR EVERY SOUL LOST I COULD SAY R.I.P NOT MEANING REST IN PEACE BUT RETURN IF POSSIBLE.

  • It is an unfortunate part of life. It can happen to any one of us. Our hearts go out to the unfortunate children. God please take care of them !!

  • This type of happenings are very personal. It is very difficult to say what was in the mind of the parent when he took such a drastic step. He would be the only one to know. If only he could have consulted someone close to him, then things would have been different.
    A pity that the innocents did not have a say in the matter.
    Each and every one of us have problems. The day one is born, especially in this country ,one is never free of trouble, till he goes 6 ft down.
    However going through these hurdles is so much fun, especially when one recovers.
    Feel for the innocents…

  • G.Venkataraman wrote:

    What has happened is a great tragedy and we have no ready made answers to tell the children. I also wonder what will be the mindset of a child of say 10 or 12 when the parents separate. Probably they will not see their mom or dad after today. May be they will be shifting homes, moving into a smaller one, no great car, go to another school and new friends. Modern life has thrown in some challenges which happen unexpectedly.

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