Okay, it looks like Heath Ledger didn’t kill himself after all. It could have been a heart attack.
Heath Ledger: A natural death?
A few hours after one of my favourite actors was found dead in his New York City apartment, a woman jumped off Khandala Point in Matheran (my favourite getaway) with her 12-year-old daughter.
I spent the week puzzling about why people commit suicide.
What was the lady, who reportedly took a picture of herself before she inhaled the panoramic view of the ghats and leapt (with her not yet teenage daughter), thinking? News reports say she had problems—her husband was ailing in hospital, both his kidneys had failed. But shouldn’t she have been his support? Surely she had something worth living for? Her daughter? Did she think that if her husband died there would be no one to look after her? Why aren’t all educated Indian women financially independent? Why do we waste money educating our daughters just so they can give up their promising careers the second they snag a wealthy man?
And while on the subject of my pet peeve — Indian women — here’s an aside. The same day health minister Anbumani Ramadoss broadcast an appeal to Shah Rukh Khan to stop smoking in his films, the Bachchans were the top story on most television channels. Bollywood’s first family announced they would open a school named after new bride Aishwarya in a dusty Uttar Pradesh hamlet. Why doesn’t the culture minister broadcast an appeal to the hair colour model to stop promoting the sale of sindoor, covering her head and perpetuating the regressive myth of the dutiful Indian daughter-in-law?
But we were discussing suicides.
We all have a suicide or two in our family history (except my husband, who claims no member of his extended family ever thought life was not worth living). We all know a friend or two who didn’t make it through his/her 20s. We’ve read about the innumerable farmer suicides that have swept through the Indian countryside in recent years. We all had a favourite celebrity—River Phoenix, Kurt Cobain—who overdosed or shot himself.
If you haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain, the 2005 film that made Ledger an actor to be reckoned with (and I know several Indian men who avoided the “gay cowboy film”), you should rent it.
There’s nothing more lonesome than the love that Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) share in a 20-year romance spent mostly apart. The last scene—Ennis, alone in his trailor, except for a shirt that will always remind him of his lover—is wrenching. But even alone and near penniless, Ennis doesn’t end his life.
So what makes people think they just can’t go on? I often pray that I won’t find out.
PS: Lounge is one, and we asked people to share their memorable firsts. When we started out, we set out to be your favourite weekend read. We swore we would entertain you and give you something to think about. I think we have fulfilled our promise.
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