It only takes a few minutes for your life to do a complete 180-degree turn, and no one can understand and relate to this sentiment better than me, Raashi Thakran. On 6 January 2019, my younger brother, who was all of eighteen, died by suicide. Life, as I knew it, has not been the same since then.
At 8.45 p.m. on what I can only describe as a regular evening at home, the doorbell rang and before I could process what was happening, my father, Rajeev Thakran, ran out of the house.
I only vaguely heard what he mumbled on his way out. I called him a few seconds later on his mobile, and all I heard was a cry. I remember being gripped by a fear that I can never put in words.
Until that moment, I had never imagined that my father could cry. All he said was, “Raghav is gone.”
‘Raghav was a joy to be around.’
Raghav was three years younger than me. Like most other sibling relationships, ours was fraught with fights, arguments, bickering, and a lot of love.
I would very often tease and irritate him, so much so that people often mistook me to be the younger one.
While twenty months have passed by since that night, the hurt, guilt, anger, and pain lingers on.
Raghav was quite mature for his age, since the time I can remember. He was an extremely sensitive soul and would always take time to open up. But once he did, he was a joy to be around.
I miss him, and no matter how many times I say these words, the pain refuses to leave me. Raghav was the kind of boy who would find beauty in pretty much everything; sunsets, butterflies, rain, the stars. He sought out the good in people and things around him.
Raghav was my confidant and my ally in the truest sense. He rooted the loudest for me and believed in the dreams I had. I still cannot believe I lost him to suicide.
‘Did I not see the signs?’
I often ask myself – did I miss something? Could I have helped? I don’t have the answers. And I doubt I will find them.
Raghav was always happy. In hindsight, maybe a little too happy. We would discuss a whole range of things, from celebrity suicides to mental health initiatives. But I don’t know why we never asked each how we were feeling.
Should I have dug a little deeper?
I thought I knew him. I thought if he ever had a problem, I would be the first person to whom he reached out.
I misread him.
My idea about the relationship I shared with him changed after his suicide, and I am now left feeling that perhaps I didn’t know him as well as I thought I did. That is what stings.
‘Ask, don’t wait for the other person to speak.’
Raghav would always enquire about my college, how I was faring etc. and we would speak about things that seemed to trouble him at school as well.
I assumed he would come and speak to me about things that troubled him. I never explicitly asked him any questions, and he never confided in me.
The guilt of not asking him is something I carry within.
Immediately after the suicide, I spent many months feeling incredibly guilty. Even now, I am not entirely sure I want the feeling to go away. I think I will live with the guilt.
I feel so pissed with myself. Perhaps I was so caught up in my dreams that I lost track of Raghav’s feelings and insecurities. I didn’t take a step back and check in on him as I should have. I feel like I was so short-sighted and selfish, I didn’t watch out for my baby brother.
There was a phase after his death, where I would wake up because of nightmares; the anxiety and guilt almost started hurting me physically. I had to seek medical intervention and take prescribed medicines to be able to function normally again. It’s a very crippling feeling – the loss of a loved one, to suicide.
Couldn’t help Raghav but need to help others: Suicide Helplines
Raghav’s suicide brought mom, dad, and me closer. We wallowed in our collective loss and found solace in each other. There are days when dad and I are okay, and mom is in a terrible state, so we help her through it and on other days I am down in the dumps. It’s a cycle, and each day brings new emotions, and we are all learning to deal with it.
To those who are left behind, life is never the same again. And my way of dealing with the pain was also to immerse myself in work – petitioning the government to set up a 24/7 suicide helpline.
I remember desperately calling some of the suicide helplines listed on Google only to find them all not functioning. That broke my heart.
What if Raghav had tried one of those numbers just before the suicide? Maybe if he had spoken to someone, he would have changed his mind.
It’s over for Raghav and nothing I do or say will ever get him back, but I can try and help others who might be in a similar situation.
– Raashi Thakran, As Told To Vidya Raja
These are some of the suicide helpline numbers that we, at The Better India, have verified. You can also reach out to India’s first national mental health helpline number at 1800-599-0019.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)