Book title: The Story of a Suicide
Author: Sriram Ayer
Book blurb: “The Story of a Suicide” by Sriram Ayer is a young, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends novel, which grippingly tells the stories of Hari, Charu, Sam and Mani, whose lives are interconnected in a web of love, passion, revenge and deceit.
Today’s youngsters are expressive, self-absorbed, independent, afraid, hurried, fearless, fame hungry, but surprisingly resilient. In a world that makes unreasonable demands on them, many are disillusioned about their education, relationships, jobs, sexuality, bullying, and abuse. In the backdrop of a powerful story and visuals, this project aims to reach out to young people, by verbalising their struggles through the story, informing the do’s and don’ts when they face challenges, and providing a platform to share their experiences.
The review: First of all, let me tell you that this book is unconventional in more ways than one. The book is in the form of a website, open to access to everyone. It is also available as an audio book that can be listened to while lying down in quiet or while walking your evening walk. Another exceptional feature is the ‘How do I?’ section that raises and answers questions that might pop up in the reader’s mind and aims to extend a helping hand to everyone in need. I have never come across a book as interactive as this. Storytelling is an art. When a story not only engages you but also indulges you, it becomes an experience of its own kind. Kudos to the author and all the contributors!
Now, the review of the story. The first thing that catches your eye is the illustration at the beginning of each chapter, an illustration that borders between crudity and abstractness and yet is captivating and relevant. The beauty of every illustration lies in the little it reveals and the curiosity it evokes, making the reader want to read on. The story gets a hold on you the moment you start reading the book and the characters are all relatable and well sketched. We all know a Sam, Charu, Manu or Hari in our lives. The book deals with the issues the youngsters face today- over expectations, peer pressure, gender identity crisis, bullying, sexual abuse, depression and the greatest danger- suicide. Despite moving on to an era of technological advancement and modernisation, our society still lags far behind in acceptance of a person’s sexual inclinations and the understanding of mental health and depression. This novel breaks the silence on a subject still taboo and hardly talked about. We prefer to ignore the problem, pretending that it would cease to exist if we do not acknowledge it. Without sugar-coating it, the novel throws light on how little support we extend to our children, family and friends when they reach the end of the cliff. Looking away won’t help, a loved one would have jumped by the time we turn again.
Although this is the story of four youngsters and the ordeals they face, it is by no means a story only for the youth. It should be read by everyone for it offers an insight into the turbulence inside young minds that seem to be calm on the surface and the importance of support from family and parents at critical stages of life. It might have been titled ‘The story of a suicide’ but is actually the story of life itself.
For me, the story was a captivating, gripping tale and a solemn reminder that suicide is not an act of bravery or cowardice but of extreme desperation and helplessness. Suicides can be prevented. If we keep our hearts and arms open, there are many lives that can be saved.
Rating: For handling the sensitive issue so delicately and yet putting across the message in clear terms, I rate it at 4 out of 5.
About the author: Sriram Ayer is the founder of NalandaWay Foundation, a Non-Profit organisation which supports children coming from exploitative backgrounds and helps them regain their confidence and identities through arts. The organisation has been working since ten years and has helped numerous children from different regions of the country. You can learn more about NalandaWay here. For his contribution in social work, he has received many awards and honours.