Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thoughts on a Suicide!

A colleague commited suicide last Tuesday, the 21st of July. He hanged himself in his office late that evening. It was a holiday for in our part of the world Hindus perform rituals by the sea and rivers to honour their ancestors. He did all the rituals for his ancestors in the morning and returned to his office where he remained all alone through out the day. In a note he has mentioned that he's taking his life and no one else is responsible for it.

A lawyer known for his integrity he was the District Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor at the time of his death. Under India's Civil and Criminal Procedure Code's it is a vital position in the administration of justice at the district level.

Though my senior in age and experience we enjoyed a comfortable relationship as a host of incidents and circumstances brought us close, personally and professionally. From that vantage point, I can see no reason why he should commit suicide. Yet, he did! Why? One can only speculate!

Is a person's decision to take his life an act on the spur of the moment, done abruptly and without forethought? Or is it done after deep thought and reflection? Does the situation, more important than the disposition of the person , trigger it?

I would link this incident to what happiness researchers like Martin Seligman and his colleagues say about the mental health of lawyers. Though their research was done in an American context, its findings can be applied in all countries. The study found that lawyers were the most highly paid professionals in the United States but the rates of depressive disorders, illegal drug abuse, alcoholism and divorce (even in women) were disproportionately higher than in any other profession or occupation. Lawyers are trained to foresee what might go wrong for their clients in every situation and defend them from it. This pessimistic outlook is a great professional asset but the danger is it seeps in to personal life and wreaks havoc. Along with it, the shift in emphasis on legal practice from good counsel about justice and fairness being the primary good to making it a big business turns lawyers more and more unhappy.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

An Evening at Prithvi Theatre!

Prithvi Theatre in Juhu, Mumbai, is a place of pilgrimage to drama lovers the world over. A love of theatre makes me check out Prithvi whenever I am in Mumbai. Prithivi Cafe and Samovar are my favourite haunts as it is to many. Last week, while in Mumbai, I took time off to watch the late evening show of 'Grey Elephants in Denmark' at Prithvi. The play in English on the lfe of Vinay Iyengar, the youngest of the Palangad Iyengars, a traditonal family of magicians is well scripted and acted out. It depicts the transformation of young Vinay at different stages of life and as he travels the world and encounters others of his tribe. His monologues, his discussions, his cousin Anita, herself a magician, describing him, are all quite fascinating to keep the audience spell bound. Vinay is frustrated when he discovers the 'willing suspension of disbelief' of the audience that enables a magician's stage performances to be successful. From 'sleight of hand to sleight of mind' is how he describes his transformation and growth. Vinay's realisation of his limits as a magician and the attempts to overcome them are the 'mis-theme' of this play and they are depicted through him and through people close to him. Whether they are futile or successful is left to the the viewer. Leaving the final question unanswered and to the viewer to interpret is ultimate achievement in art and the playwright has 'mis-directed' it with great skill.
After the play I went backstage and congragulated the actors.Without their tremendous effort and hardwork the play could not have been acted out so well. They even had to master some magic. May 'Out of Context' present us with more such gems.