Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Alienation is a deeply individual feeling that can be overcome by indexing it to self esteem, self belonging and self worth.

By Deeya Nayar-Nambiar

Everybody has a story to tell; so does Kabir. He has been searching for the perfect way to die. This has taken a long time and tonight is the night. Home is the place where he decides to take his life and he mixes his last cocktail for a smooth way to exit…His books, his things, everything is filed and tagged, marked with ‘Post-it’, ready to be passed on to its new owners. His belongings witness the trail of events as mute spectators. As he takes the final plunge in a methodical manner, both eager and tentative, the telephone in his apartment rings. This is what the movie Ctrl+Alt+Del, available only through Reliance mobiles, has to say. But he is not alone. He just represents many such Kabirs around us. While we get to read about some who have taken their life after failed love, there are others who have lived a successful life after overcoming that spur of moment.

In a fragmented modern world where time for each other is ‘virtual’ and the rat race is ‘reality’, alienation has got the better of the vulnerable. These meek individuals can be anyone – married, single, old, or teenagers. They take time off to party or meet over a cup of coffee. But most of the time they come in exhausted, leaving little space for communication, thus hampering the process of building a stronger bond. The desire to connect remains unfulfilled and in the meantime a sense of emptiness and loneliness grips them. And despite the success, loneliness, followed by alienation, is the end product.

The result is “a dramatic contrast, death represents the diametric opposite of success and its trappings.” For instance, take the character of Kabir. “Kabir is a man who believes in the perfectness of things – perfect friend, perfect product, perfect service, the very tools that have made him successful also aid his decision to find the ‘perfect way to die’,” says Saurabh Gupta, director of Ctrl+Alt+Del. Perhaps by being extremely sensitive and diligent one tends to be a mismatch in this society. In fact, as actor Rahul Bose who gave life to the character of Kabir adds, “He is sensitive, he is intelligent and such people are unable to deal with the cruelty of life. Such people see or look out for purity, innocence and love in society.”

Then the question remains: You have everything and everyone, but why still alone? Studies have shown that feeling lonely can be a healthy emotion and choosing to be alone or being in solitude can be enriching indeed. But experiencing loneliness will be to feel overwhelmed by an unbearable feeling of separateness at a profound level, which can manifest in feelings of abandonment, rejection, depression, insecurity, anxiety, hopelessness, unworthiness and meaninglessness. If ignored, they may cause hindrance and serve to prevent development of healthy relationships and lifestyles. Gradually this leads to alienation – a feeling of separation or isolation. May be that is the story of many a senior citizens, who have well-settled children in different parts of the world, a bungalow to live in with a huge lawn in backyard, but only a dog and gardener for company.

According to sociologists, alienation refers to the individual’s estrangement from traditional community and others in general. That is, in the present world where the society is not close knit, individual relationships become shallower. Indeed, we can withstand the situation for some time. Yet, mind you, we cannot battle it out always and then feelings like loneliness, solitude, and alienation will encourage depression, anxiety and other mental illness such as schizophrenia and neurosis. And in extreme cases the mind takes a suicidal bend.

Statistics claim that in India over 1,00,000 persons commit suicide every year. The reasons may be many. Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, a member of WHO’s (World Health Organisation) International Network for Suicide Research and Prevention feels, “The media sometimes give intense publicity to ‘suicide clusters’ – a series of suicides that occur, mainly among young people, in a small area within a short period of time. These have a contagious effect especially when they have been glamorised provoking imitation or ‘copycat suicides’. As the HOD of department of psychiatry of Voluntary Health Services in Chennai says, “This multi-dimensional malaise with social, religious, cultural reasons, alcoholism or personality disorder are driven by a triad of emotions – loneliness, helplessness and hopelessness, is preventable since there is process time between thought and action.”

Yet in spite of a strong family support system, friends and loved ones, young people continue to kill themselves because we fail to diagnose the real malaise. “The concept of urban tribes, city slickers who stick to small cohesive groups instead of socialising with the larger world, is a by-product of an inward looking society that looks to reinforce the very stereotypes (caste, class, pedigree) it has abandoned, albeit in a different form,” says Saurabh Gupta.

May be to some extent with the advancement of technology the human element has started taking a backseat for the rich and affordable class of society. And often it is the impersonal voice of a customer care service that gives you the much needed company as you get alienated from everything and everybody around. At some point of time the desire to be known and the feeling of being wanted makes you press Ctrl+Alt+Del just as you can do with a computer. Is it that alienation is a state you want to be but you cannot be in?

“It is a deeply individual feeling and no human being would feel alienated if indexed to self-esteem, self-belonging, self-worth and such other,” observes Rahul Bose. But it is necessary to ensure that once smitten by such feelings you do not surrender to it. The day we are able to detach the stigma surrounding a ‘failure’ and the emphasis laid on being ‘successful’, with professional counselling and support gravity of alienation can be overcome. Also before you reach a point of being alienated or succumb to loneliness get yourself occupied in things that you love to do best – may be join a club, pursue a hobby, or even play with your pet. Feeling alienated is not an end. The day this is realised you can begin your life afresh.


    • Experiencing low self esteem

      Feeling estranged in a crowd

      Feelings of being either superior or inferior to the surrounding

      Feeling reluctant to make changes or try new things

      Feeling upset about why no one knows how isolated you are

      Feeling empty, depressed and in extreme cases suicidal tendencies

Published in February 2007, btw of Chitralekha Group

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