Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ
Twenty-six years have passed since that memorable event. I saw a young man on a bicycle in front of me on the National Highway 8 near Nadiad. I recognized him and I stopped my motor cycle just in front of him. As long-lost friends we exchanged pleasantries. I remember the meeting because as we were talking, a heavy-loaded truck stopped close to us and the driver scolded us as we were an obstruction to fast moving vehicles. Since then if I have stop my vehicle on the road I do it always off the road.
In those days I was the Editor of a family Catholic magazine “DOOT” and I used to conduct weeklong workshops on Journalism and creative writing during long holidays like Diwali and summer vocations. The young man had attended a summer workshop for writers and news reporters. His name was Narottam Trushit. Trushit was a new name for me and hence I specially remembered him with his round face, medium stature fair complexion.
His writings and reporting during the workshop were good. I always advice my students of reporting and writing to keep up their writings on a regular basis even if their master pieces do not publish. For, I believe that writing regularly has great formative value.
In Gujarati there is a saying: while writing continually, one becomes a writer. Concretely I tell my students to have fixed time and place for writing on every day or at least 3-4 days a week. If you are not satisfied with your own writing, then tear and throw it away and write again without ever a thought of giving up or quitting.
All these things I remembered on Sunday, 1 June 2014. On that day I was at Nadiad in book releasing function. Three books of three writers were released on that day. One of the books was a short-collection “Award” by my friend, Narottam Trushit.
On the occasion of releasing his first book Narottambhai said that with the publication of his first book he feels so happy as if a son is born to him! Then he related a 26-year old shocking story, which I did not know. He was thoroughly fed up with the people around him and he was on the way to commit suicide when he met me on the national highway 8 by chance and I asked him about his writings.
Let me quote Narottam Trushit: “The interest shown by Fr. Varghese Paul in me and his questions about my writings awoke in me a hope from the bottom of my life that I am capable and I can do some useful in life. So on that day from the path of suicide I took seriously the path of writing” (along with his career as a primary school Teacher). Today Trushit writes regularly in a number of magazines and other periodicals like “Jeevan Sanmarg”, “Gujarati Christians” and “Marg Sangani”.
I am shocked reading a news item about suicide in Divya Bhaskar daily of 10 June 2014. According to the National Crime Bureau record during 2012 in India a total of 1,36,181 people, including 88,745 men and 47,436 woman, committed suicide! Reading the news I remembered the story of Narottam Trushit.
We see certain forces at work in the lives of people who commit suicide. First, deep hopelessness; second, total neglect of values of life; and third, absence of faith. On Monday 2 June 2014 after the news of Standard 10 result many newspapers in Ahmedabad carried the suicide news of Shivanand Dravid and Umank Solanki because they failed in their SSC examinations!
Obviously both the boys built all their hope on the passing their 10 standard examinations and going ahead in life. But the news of their failure was a such a great disappointment to them that, I believe, led them to suicide! Both the teenagers must have studies hard before the examinations. They were well prepared for the exams and hoped for good results. They must have cherished great plans to pursue after SSC. But the unexpected result was a heavy blow to their hopes and aspirations. So I believe, in a state of shock and deep hopelessness they decided and took their lives!
What shall we do in such situations? What shall we do to see that such tragic and hopeless situation does not occur in the lives of our children and of the elders? How do we instill hope in the life of people under the spell of hopelessness and total defeat?
First of all, let us assure our children that we are with them at their side in all situation of good and bad. Let us welcome warmly and lovingly a child coming home after failing an important examination. Let him/her hear words of encouragement, support and hope. An examination is not everything in life. He/she can study again well and secure good results. Or tell son/daughter, if you do not like to study, it does not matter much. There are many other fields open before you. You are skilled with your hands or you have a mechanical mind and practical wisdom. You will do well in any of those areas. So instead of thinking of collage, you can think of joining an ITI. You may, perhaps, like to do business as you are interested in them. Let us encourage and appreciate a child in his/her hopeless situation and fed up with life and its struggle.
Second, lack of values of life and deep disappointment may lead a person to suicide. We need to cultivate values of life from our childhood. The basic human value is love. Let us not love our children because they behave well or they achieve what they are expected to or because they obey and respect elders. But let our love for our children be without any condition. Children may have done wrong things, they may have failed in examinations or their performance is far below your expectation, even/then your love far them be warm and steady. They are your children is enough reason to love them unconditionally.
When your children do wrong, do not ignore them or their wrong doing but correct them, guide them with sound advice and unshaken love. Show your love and concern for a child who has failed in an important examination. Never put your child down with comparing with a sibling or other children. Our children are incomparable. They deserve your unconditional love in all situations.
For parents it is not enough they love their children. It is equally important that they love eachother intimately and also love selflessly those who are in contact with them. For, children learn much more from the lives of their parents than from the advice and guidance from their parents. They are great imitators and fast learners from examples.
Human life has unique value. Our lives are precious gifts of God. A human person gets his body and mind only once. A person cannot create another life. So a person does not have the right to take the life of another. God has given us not only life but also everything with it to lead a happy and fulfilled life. If our life is not happy and contented then we need to seek the right way to lead a happy life.
Human lives have innumerable possibilities. We need to appreciate our lives and seek the right path to happiness according to our capacities, skills and talents. In this we need to help our children to grow up in their lives. Difficulties on the path of life may be as big as Mount Everest but we are called to find out ways and means to overcome such difficulties and discover the hidden ways to success. Take the right way. Let the horizon be far. But keep on a way steady with patience and coverage. The God who has created man will have for him/her a new way of success. Remember: God helps those who help themselves.
One child may be week in studies. But there are many other hidden qualities and skill and talents in that child. So there is no need to be disappointed if he/she fails or gets less marks than expected. Help a child to scope with problems and study regularly and systematically. Accompany him/her with giving regular guidelines. If a child does not likes to study at all, then find other talents and skill in him/her. Let him/her go ahead in areas where his/her talents and skills lead.
Third, every child can achieve his/her goals with faith and hard work. Create in the child faith and self confidence entrusting him responsibilities according to his/her age capacities. Help a child to face and overcome difficulties and problems faced on the way. Do not keep away a child from day to day problems and difficulties at home but involve him/her in them. Do not make a child’s life easy and carefree from daily struggles of life. Make him learn from tender age to put faith in life and courageously overcome problems of life. Form in him/her faith and courage to face any and every situation with patience.
In Abraham Lincoln we find this faith and self confidence. His examples can inspire children and grownups in equal measure. In his youth he failed in his business. He stood for assembly election. He was defeated. He started his business again. But his business failed again. First time at the age of 25 he won an assembly election. At the age of 29 and again at the age of 31 years he contested elections and both the times he was defeated. Then, he contested election for the member of parliament but he failed. But a second time he won and become a MP. There were a series of wins and losses of elections in the life of Abraham. After losing a number of elections at the age of 51 he won the election to the Senate and become the President of USA. Today the whole world acknowledges him as most successful president.
Abraham Lincoln is an inspiration for us to face our failures and defeats without being disappointed but with courage and faith in life. He shows the way to overcome difficulties and problems with faith and self confidence and hope. In disappointment and defeat Lincoln points us the way to go ahead in life. Faith can create self confidence in us.
Finally, the saying goes, failure is the stepping stone of success.