I stood there, staring unblinkingly at the noose created out of my baby pink dupatta .Will this dupatta noose be able to take my weight? All of my 75 kgs or was it more… Since I hadn’t checked in weeks how fat I had become? What if the cloth is poor quality, as my mother-in-law keeps cribbing, and it snaps midway? I sighed, that’s a complication I didn’t want to think of. I looked up at the fan — will the fan take my weight? What if it falls? What was the probability it would fall, crashing the perfect suicide plan? And suddenly, the question took me two decades back .
My mind flashed back to the interview room of ISI — I am referring to Indian Statistical Institute not Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan! The gentle professor with white beard repeated the question patiently, “What is the probability that this fan overhead will fall on you?” I looked up and blinked feeling utterly stupid .
Post my graduation from the hallowed portals of St Stephen’s College, I had decided to continue pursuing the dismal science aka Economics (why Economics is called the dismal science — for some other time) and written the entrance examinations of several reputed institutions. JNU, Delhi School of Economics and ISI. ISI is one of the toughest entrance exams to crack. Coming out of the examination hall, I knew I had done well in both DSE and JNU exams and I did end up in the Top 5 of the selection list in both. In ISI test, on the other hand, I could barely answer 50% of the questions and wasn’t sure of my answers either.
So, I was really surprised and over the moon when I got the letter congratulating me on clearing the written exam and inviting me to the interview. ISI took only 8 students for its program on Quantitative Economics and instead of charging them a fee, gave them a stipend of ₹20000 per month, which was a princely sum two decades ago. And here I was, at the cusp of achieving my dream, feeling really nervous and totally confused — looking at the fan and thinking — what was the probability it would fall.
I blurted out, “Is it 50%, sir?” The professor looked surprised at my stupidity and I am sure would have wondered how I qualified the entrance but he just asked with a smile, “How is that?” I said, haltingly, “Either it will fall or it won’t —only two outcomes are possible.” And he instantly burst into peals of laughter “Are those equally likely events, my child,” he asked affectionately.
“Are you feeling nervous,” he asked kindly and I vigorously nodded my head, thinking all the time, there goes my dream of ISI… Blown away by a fan like hot air.
The professor offered me some water and then very sweetly nudged me to think logically about the answer . The answer was less than 1% .
If half the fans overhead were indeed falling on us, as my first answer suggested, by now more than half of us would be dead 🙂
And while I came out of the interview hall cursing myself for my utter stupidity – I developed a ton of admiration for the kindness, patience and affection of one of India’s finest economists who was the interviewer in the room that day . By encouraging me and taking away my fear he made me answer several follow up questions confidently. He didn’t have to waste his time with me or be kind to me and understand my wracked out nerves but he did, changing the outcome in the process. And to my utter shock and total surprise, I was selected among those eight lucky students who were offered admission.
That memory kindled a smile. After weeks of total darkness, tears and debilitating depression, that memory was like silver lining in thunderous black clouds.
Decades down the line, the kindness of that professor once again saved me. It evoked so much gratitude spontaneously, that it foiled the perfect suicide plan. The determination to blow out the flame of existence and the ‘end this life’ mood just vanished. I smiled at the fan and fan whirred back at me.
That is the power of gratitude, it rose through layers and layers of negativity, depression and frustration, and ignited the spark of positivity and hope. Like a lone small lamp lighting up an entire dark room. And that spontaneous random act of kindness from the professor didn’t just help me that moment circa 1999 (the interview), it made a huge difference to my life or became my life even 15 years later.
A reading of Swami ji’s blog on Depression last week( Depression: The Yogic View ) took me back to some of my own very dark, bleak and sad moments, when I had struggled with the monster called Depression. I wish I had found Swamiji and his soothing words then.
I have decided to share my truth with the os.me community in a series I am tentatively calling Depression Chronicles. What filled me with inspiration and gratitude again were stories of kindness and gratitude which I think are worth sharing time and again, for I believe each of us can be a saviour unknowingly, simply by being kind and doing RAKs (random acts of kindness), lighting up each day and each life we touch, one at a time, just like a humble diya.
Update: Read the second part here.
Editorial note: If you are depressed or feeling suicidal, seek help immediately. You can also get in touch with our life guides, if that helps.