Have you lately wondered about the reasons why a person dies by suicide? I have been doing the same. I tried to hunt for the answer in a book that holds a promising title — Thirteen Reasons Why. “He came. He saw. He conquered.” Life isn’t this easy. Just last week, we saw the heart-wrenching tragedy of Sushant Singh Rajput who died by suicide. Everyone wants to know why.
I tried looking for an answer, since the book title so sincerely promises to let you know 13 reasons for the “why” that remains unanswered after so many suicide cases. The book is the tale of a girl, Hannah Baker, who dies by suicide and sends tapes of her narration to people whose deeds made her give up on her life.
13 Reasons Why taught me that everyone can become a reason for one’s death. “Most of you…had no idea what you were doing, what you were truly doing,” says Hannah. You might think that a bit of high-school fun can never be a killer. But guess what? Hannah’s first culprit was a boy who started a high-school rumour, and another was a girl who believed in the rumour.
A simple finger cut is never too painful, but if you keep on getting yourself cut at the same spot, every day, the pain could become unbearable. We keep going about our lives, sometimes making a joke that looks ‘oh-so-harmless’, or often becoming a rumour-spreader because “what’s life without some spice?”. Some innocent lies here, some innocent tricks there, and we do not realise that we could be affecting someone, someone who might break because of our seemingly “harmless” words.
If you can picture how a snowball rolls down a slope, getting bigger as it reels, you’ll understand how one incident, on top of another, with another topping, and then another, can burden a person so much that they can no longer get up. A teacher in this book explains: “It’s one thing on top of another.” And the trigger is pushed when you can find absolutely no way out of the situation you have been thrown into.
Have you ever been projected by others as a person you are not? And slowly, you felt that the false identity weighs so much that everyone perceives you not as what you are, but what others think of you? We have all been there (or are still there). Well, not only is our identity twisted by others, but we also play a part in twisting others’ identities.
Try remembering a time when you judged others, or when you formed an opinion of Person A on the basis of what Person B and Person Z said about them, without even having a good talk with Person A. Most of us can be held guilty for this, right? Well, Hannah is perceived to be an “easy” girl in her school. The result? Well, a boy tries to touch her and when she retaliates, he says, “Just relax.”
A lot of people know when people dear to them are having some issues, but they choose to give up, ignore, or just take no notice. Some think that they just need attention. In this book, two people (and two is a big number; even one would have been enough) confess that they knew something was off with Hannah, but they could not reach out to her sooner. It is only after her death that they realised the burden of “if only…”
Do you know what Hannah did before her death? She went to a school counsellor, and guess what? He couldn’t help her. He couldn’t understand the gravity of the situation in which the teenager was. Though in their meeting, words suggesting “suicide” and “giving up” are mentioned, the counsellor could not stop her.
This clearly reflects where the whole institution of school fails to solve a problem. It’s clear that children do not just need help with finding answers to “a square + b square,” they need more than that. And what’s the use of finding the perimeter of a room, when the next day, they are no longer even alive to enter that room?
The last emotion that this book will give you is hope. When the last page is turned, we see a boy running after a girl, whom he suspects of being suicidal. Maybe he hopes that a bit of attention, a bit of a conversation and a bit of time can prevent another story like Hannah Baker’s. Don’t think. If you can think of a Hannah Baker in your own life, go talk to her. After all, the world would do better with one less 13-reasons-why.