Should a suicide case that has led to an arrest be decided in the media? Are lawyers permitted to discuss the possibility of a police case holding up in court or its outcome?
When actress Jiah Khan committed suicide, I did anticipate the electronic media rushing for sound bites and social networking sites transforming from RIP factories into warring camps. What I did not expect was the judgmental, callous attitude towards abuse and depression. Those who look down upon Bollywood were quick to jump in with their supposedly contrarian views.
I have desisted from commenting, but now I shall because all barriers have been broken. The first shocker came from Jiah's mother Rabiya. Her pain, anger and suspicion about who was responsible are understandable. I only felt that she should not have called a press conference. A police case had been registered. Jiah's boyfriend Suraj Pancholi was arrested.
Immediately, the experts — real and fake — passed their judgment: It was too hasty, they said, anyone can make such accusations. The accusations were in the form of a six-page letter written by Jiah
It really does not matter when she wrote it. Relationships grow over a period of time and spoil just as slowly.
The latest news is here:
Sooraj Pancholi, arrested for abetting actor Jiah Nafisa Khan's suicide, has allegedly confessed that he had beaten her up following a fight in Goa eight months ago, after which she slit her wrist. According to Juhu police, Sooraj has admitted to being in a live-in relationship with her. Police are contemplating adding additional charge under Section 498-A (harassment of a woman by husband or in-laws) of IPC. Police have also received the medical report from a Juhu hospital where Jiah, also known as Nafisa Khan, had undergone abortion.
I will only repeat the reasons these same lawyers gave about it being tough to pin him down — he has admitted to abuse and a live-in relationship. The law can recognise it as domestic violence.
It is time to visit a pathetic little post that was uploaded on Facebook by an intellectual of sorts. Let me add here, that he is not the only one who thinks this way, although his ‘courage' to stand out and be counted has been lauded. Seriously. Mahesh Murthy's note has made way into the Indiatimes website. It starts with a typical masala formula:
"So this note is likely to piss off many of you, but still...So it's the usual story. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they are happy, then they break up. Then he sees someone else. At which point over-wrought girl decides her life isn't worth living. Seriously - this is a 25-year old who co-starred with Aamir Khan in a hit film and then later thinks her life is value-less without the continuing attention of some unemployed star-kid?! How the heck was she brought up? What kind of foolish adult mind thinks that someone else's attention is so important that her own life pales in comparison? How dare her parents blame her ex for this ridiculous state of mind? Who gave her these values where "death before losing in love" is a virtue?"
By beginning with a 'this contains adult content' type warning, he grabs eyeballs. He bases his thesis on assumptions about his boy-meets-girl thesis. Was Suraj an ex-boyfriend already? And since when has a young woman with one hit begun to be considered a success? She debuted with 'Nishabd', an unusual story about an April-December relationship. Her co-star was Amitabh Bachchan. The film flopped, partly because of its content. Later, she acted in 'Ghajini', where Aamir Khan hogged the show and she was the second lead.
Curiously, and I shall divert from the bilge here, director Mahesh Bhatt compared her situation with Parveen Babi's. Bhatt was in a relationship with the late actress and has been 'inspired' to make more than one film on her life. The first, 'Arth', had agitated her. She was successful, though, and together with Zeenat Aman, became the face of the 'modern' film heroine. She was also the first Indian movie star to appear on the cover of Time magazine. Her depression was severe, seeking solace in the Church, to the extent of complete isolation where her neighbours did not even see her. They had to break open the door to find her dead body.
Clinical depression is different from mood swings. These may have to do with personal loss or a sense of failure, but not always so.
To return to Murthy's questions about her upbringing, it is clear that he, like quite a few men, are filled with dread of dealing with "difficult" women. Has he ever met a psychiatrist or a psychoanalyst to understand that people are not brought up to take their lives? When children commit suicide after failure in exams, do we read reams about 'How dare anyone blame the parents'? In fact, parents are never held culpable, although there is tremendous pressure from them on the kids.
At what point in that letter does he get the idea that Jiah thought taking her life was a "virtue" that her supposedly bad upbringing taught her? Would it be fair to ask why he is so concerned about the moral dimension? She lost self-esteem, and although she also lost her baby she was not pining for that loss. Indeed, she was obsessive, and enough to fall for an unemployed guy. (A small omission is that he was to be launched in Salman Khan's production.) But, what about him? There is not a word about his upbringing, and I raise it only because the other side is being rubbished.
Aditya Pancholi, the father, has had several affairs, is known for his public spats, and his wife, the older Zarina Wahab, had accepted his philandering. This is in the public domain. Although it is a choice between two people, if someone decides on pop psychology it might help addressing this as well.
"So she writes a latter (sic) saying she had an abortion when she got pregnant, presumably by him - again, no one told her about contraception? And even if they decided to forswear protection - it's his fault she got pregnant? Wasn't she equally part of it?"
This is such a load of rubbish, besides being libellous. Who is he to cast doubts about the parentage of the aborted child? Perhaps, his own obsession with "virtue" rears its head when he puts the onus of contraception on the woman. Her letter talks about him forcing her to abort, which is different from saying, "I did not want to have sex with you because I was not on the pill". Did he bother to ask why Suraj was not wearing a condom?
"So yes, she had an abortion, she set her mind to have him, but he moved on after they mutually broke up - but she wanted him back, and he said no, so she took her life?"
Oh, Sherlock Holmes decides they mutually decided to part. There is never a definitive moment when both people decide at the same time and with equal determination to go their separate ways. It may happen technically, but in this case they were meeting. And it is for the cops to decide whether they have a case. Why is he jumping the gun?
Part of the reason for this sort of thinking is insecurity, and it becomes evident soon enough:
"So what's a guy to do if he doesn't want to marry a girl? Or vice versa actually. Report to the cops when he's been proposed to? Take anticipatory bail before he says "No, I don't want to marry you"? Call the counselling lines so they make outbound calls to the partner in advance of him saying no?"
I do hope he has seen more of the world and couples who have broken up and moved on. Not everyone commits suicide. At this point I'd like to know what happens in cases of marriage. The law would immediately come into the picture. So, why can it not in an intimate relationship? Is it the good old "virtue" where a legitimate relationship has more value? Would he say the same about dowry deaths, wife battering, suspicious spouses, womanising all when a couple is married? He has said elsewhere he does not think much about the institution, yet he does not realise that intimate relationships mimic marriage more often than not.
His take on marriage sounds just like what he dismisses:
"In India, you don't need to be married to have a child legally. Or even to inherit and pass on property. Marriage is just a social custom where a bunch of old people shower rice on your head and believe they're giving you their permission (or direction, in some cases) to sleep with someone. As you can imagine, it has little or no legal necessity or significance."
The couple being discussed were not married. They did not seek anyone's permission to get intimate. And, again, why does he assume Jiah wanted the baby? Very conveniently, it makes it appear as though it would have been her responsibility. She did not pop the pill, remember?
In what he probably thinks is his philosophical contribution to this debate, he writes:
"No one grows up with a right to be loved. It's a privilege you earn for yourself. It doesn't come naturally. You earn it. And very often, love comes. And love goes. And love comes back. And goes again. And so on."
People are born with the right to life and to dignity. If either or both are abused, it can cause harm, physical and mental. Not everyone breaks down. And you cannot earn love. This is just too calculating a way to look at it. Of course, love does go and there is new love waiting. But there can be extreme situations.
It is stupid to believe that Jiah Khan lived for marriage. In fact, she wanted a career, until she fell in love and was abused, something her boyfriend has admitted to.
Acting as a PR agent for Suraj, he asks people to stop the "witch hunt", while himself hunting for prey.
"And let's stop glorifying suicide in the name of unrequited love."
Just as people have a choice over their bodies, they have a choice over their lives. It may be a wrong choice, just as getting into idiotic relationships is. It is not about glorifying anything. And it was not unrequited love. It could be that idea of love differ.
I would like to address the issue of depression. I've read celebrities and others discuss this case. It is assumed that women are more prone to it. It's time for a reality check. Many men suffer from bouts of depression. They are suicidal. How is jumping from the terrace of IIT more respectful of life? Is this not about rejection and despondency, too?
What has made some men so concerned about this particular suicide? Are they worried that their rejection will result in suicide and they'd be trapped? Unlikely. For there are many more examples of people who don't. The survival instinct of men can whiff out signs of trouble and they scoot. Men resort to emotional blackmail before getting into a relationship. It is to 'capture the booty'. Depending on how well they mesh, there is an attempt by women to aspire for an equitable equation.
And let us not forget that men too want marriage. They want their sperm to spread and 'create' the world. (There are men who are reluctant to use condoms even when they visit sex workers. Why? Because they will not return to haunt them?)
I will flip the coin. What if a desperate young man who is yet to prove himself in his career, woos a woman, loves her enough to live with her, but is tortured by the pressure to perform as well as his peers and in this state abuses the one he shares a close relationship with? She acts as a buffer against the outside world. He cannot flex his muscles outside, so he tries it within the four walls. There are the usual passive-aggressive moments.
So, who is the one who is sick?
Think about it. I really don't have the inclination to be glib and discuss marriage portals and Karan Johar films. Nor will I resort to the one-line tokenism of, oh, it is sad a life is lost or oh, I feel sorry for the poor guy but...
There will be ifs and buts in everything. Life is amorphous. It does not mean that we abuse what it meant to a woman we do not know.
© Farzana Versey