I am so disappointed with Hema Malini. What is she saying? When I read her utterly insensitive comment about a tragedy that has shaken the brittle world of showbiz, I asked myself, "Is that a mother talking?"
Hema has two young daughters. She is a grand-mother. Surely, she has gone through some serious problems when her girls were growing up, trying to make something of their lives, waiting for the big Bollywood breaks to come along? Hema must have had her share of anxiety when the girls started dating, fell in love, dealt with disappointment and heartbreak? Perhaps, they were let down by people they trusted? Knowing what an involved and loving mother Hema has always been to her girls, she must have spent hours and days absorbing their stories, vicariously living their pain. Every mother does it in today's emotionally demanding times. Every mother suffers when she knows her daughter is going through hard times. And which young person is spared the trauma of coming face to face with harsh realities?
Star kids are often the hardest hit. The expectations are pitched sky high. And if they fail to match the stupendous success of their parents, they are called "losers". Yup. The very word Hema has used to describe Pratyusha Banerjee, who committed suicide a few days ago. Pratyusha would have turned 25 soon. She never made it to her significant birthday. As a mother of daughters myself, I was deeply saddened by Pratyusha's tragedy.
All these senseless suicides which achieve nothg! Life is God's gift for us to live not for us to take at will. We have no right to do that.
No, Hema. This young person was not a loser. It is cruel to call her that. She was just unable to cope with her overburdened life. Like many other persons - young and old. That doesn't make them "losers". Who knows what drove her to take such a drastic step? Do you? I don't. The police are still puzzled. They are busy collecting tiny pieces of Pratyusha's life to figure out what made her do it. Perhaps even they won't ever get to the truth.
Some things in life are hard to break up into logical chunks.
Hema, you should have thought of Pratyusha's mother, who is grappling with the enormity of her loss. Imagine her plight when she received a call to say her beloved child was no more. Imagine the rest of Shoma Banerjee's life, bereft of her daughter's vibrant presence - if you can muster up the courage to imagine it.
I certainly cannot.
Regardless of who or what led to the suicide, one thing is obvious: the stress of surviving in what is aptly called "tinsel town" takes a heavy toll. Pratyusha had tasted success, and failure. Perhaps she couldn't handle either. Charges and counter charges are flying around in a reckless and irresponsible manner. Pratyusha's friends from the television industry have crawled out of the woodwork and issued arbitrary statements, reducing the tragedy to another sizzling episode from a lousy soap - like the ones they shoot for.
But this is not a reality segment - though many would wish it was.
A beautiful and fragile young girl has taken her own life. It is time to examine the circumstances that often drive television or movie stars to kill themselves. Love affairs and money issues, drug and alcohol abuse. Sexual exploitation and blatant treachery - this is what they have to deal with. And they try! Hema - they really do! They give it their best shot. Often they don't have the few rupees needed to get dinner. Or even a packet of cigarettes. Most of them are miles away from home. Mumbai is not Jamshedpur. Maharashtra is not Jharkhand. Pratyusha was thrown into a life nobody had prepared her for. And she made the most of the opportunities that came her way...worked hard...fell in love...got hurt...got beaten up...got discarded...got used.
It's a heart-breaking story, Hema. And Pratyusha died a fighter. She fought till she had the strength to keep fighting. And when she could fight no more, she picked up her dupatta and wrote her own exit. The world will not write her off.
She was no loser.
Do take your harsh words back, Hema. As a mother, I implore you.
(Shobhaa De is an established writer, columnist, opinion shaper and social commentator, who is considered an authority on popular culture.)