The Point of No Return: Love and Death in India
suppose that men cannot really describe other men as being "sweet".
Someone I once knew in India, a woman, liked to call certain men
sweet, but I never felt that I could. But Sach was sweet. He had
a gentle nature, a particular sweetness. Some people may be described
as being likeable, but Sach was more than that. He was the sensitive
I had not long arrived in Delhi after having spent four months in Chennai,
and was on the Main Bazaar, the big traveller hang-out, when I met Sach
in the courtyard of the Shiva Hotel. I sat next to him and asked Mr Kahn,
the in-house chai-wallah, for some tea. Sach began to talk. He was second
or possibly third generation British-Asian, and had been travelling in
India for quite some time. India was intended to be part of his big world
trip that would eventually take him to South America. That had been his
plan before leaving England, but things had changed. He would never leave
Sach looked like any other traveller who had been on the road for a while.
He was unshaven with straggly hair, and wore the usual traveller friendly
hippy-type gear. Sach had met a French woman earlier in his trip. He had
fallen in love with her, and she with him - or so he thought. It was to
be no short-term, superficial traveller fling. But six months into the
relationship, when they were together in Hampi, she woke up one morning
and told him that she had had enough. It was out of the blue. Sach had
been devastated. He still was. But there was more. She was pregnant and
when I met him was about to have his baby. He told me that he was about
to be a father, yet did not know where his ex-girlfriend was. She could
have been in India, France or just about anywhere. He had lost her. She
was gone forever.
Sach told me that he had given his heart to this woman. She had held it
in her hands. He was the type who would have wanted it that way. He was
a highly sensitive person. I suspect that being "in love" or
falling "in love" can mean different things to different people.
Sach struck me as the all or nothing type. As I sat lstening I thought
about "love" and pondered that at one stage he may have told
her that he would give her everything he was - his love, his onliness,
his selflessness - and a lot more besides. Those are my words and feelings,
not his. If he did not actually say this, then he surely must have felt
it. Perhaps Sach felt or said all of those things in his own way, in his
own words. And I thought that after she left, he may have gazed out of
his hotel window each night, wherever he was, and looked mournfully into
the street, across the hills or down onto the plains, wondering where
on earth she was that night, all the time trying to recall her voice,
her laughter, her smile. Did he still call her name? Did he wonder if
his would ever pass her lips again? I don't know. Possibly none of that
happened - but I'm almost certain that it did.
Sachs father had just died and he was trying to get back to the
UK in time for the funeral. His money was running out. I guess he had
almost spent what was intended to be two years worth of travelling money
in just over six months. Such is love. He was having no luck. All of the
flights back home had lengthy waiting lists. He could not get home. To
make things worse, even if he did get back, he was 20,000 pounds in debt
to various banks. He had little incentive to work if a large slice of
his earnings was to go straight into paying off his debts. I do not know
how it works, but I suspect that the banks would have some legal claim
to a large part of his salary. Part of the reason for his trip seemed
to be to escape his debts. One of the last things he asked was whether
I knew of any informal cash-in-hand work in England. I didnt.
I met Sach on one other occasion only. The next day he was sitting in
a street café on the Bazaar. He looked down; even more so than
the day before. He was resigned to the fact that he would not be able
to get home in time for the funeral, and told me he planned to go in to
the mountains to buy hashish to sell to foreigners in Goa. It was not
really a plan. It was a half-hearted fumble to try to salvage something
from the wreckage of things. Deep down, he probably knew it.
You never really know how low a person might be feeling. And Sach was
low - very low. He was young, had tearful deep brown puppy dog eyes, was
highly personable, and had a certain positive magnetism that still managed
to flicker despite his depression. I could see it and I could feel it.
He seemed to be one of those people who had been in love with life - and
with some French woman as well. But the next day, I was to find out that
all of his positive attributes did not account for much in the events
about to unfold.
Sach had lost faith in humanity, belief in himself and in hope for the
future. He wanted a better tomorrow and almost anything would have been
better than the day he was living. Sach was on the trip of a lifetime
- he would make no other like it. Two days later he was dead. Someone
told me that a foreigner had been found hanging from a ceiling fan in
a hotel a few doors away from mine. His name was Sach. He committed suicide.
Five thousand miles from home, alone and lost. He ended his life in some
faceless hotel room on the Main Bazaar in Delhi. He must have shed a thousand
tears onto the marble floor in that room. Then again, he may possibly
have had none left at that point. He was by no means the first to end
his life on that street. Over the years there were always tales of some
foreigner committing suicide in this or that hotel.
A few months earlier during late 2001. The former Beatle, George Harrison
died. He had his ashes flown to India and some were scattered on the Ganges
near Varanasi. I am not a great Beatles fan, but I expect that they may
be destined to become the Bach or Beethoven of their day when people look
back in hundreds of years to come (if indeed anyone is left by that point).
George had great affinity with India and its belief systems. He was a
Hare Krishna devotee and was usually described as a "gentle"
man - even a sweet man. He came from my home town, and like me, had grown
up to the sound of seagulls and the foghorns from the ships on the River
Mersey. Because of our common birthplace and the fascination with India,
I felt something inside me when he passed away although I had never met
or known him. His death was widely reported in the Indian press. Everyone
will remember George. He was famous. He did not die alone among strangers
in some characterless backpacker haunt. Suicide on the Main Bazaar is
no way to die. I had known Sach and also felt something inside when I
heard that he had died - but what I felt was much deeper.
Before he reached Delhi, the final destination, Sach had been to Rishikesh.
The place were George Harrison and the rest of the Beatles visited in
the 60's. Out of all the Beatles, Harrison gained most inspiration from
this encounter with Indian mysticism by returning to the UK to write songs,
play sitar and to develop his beliefs. It could not have been more different
for Sach. He did a Reiki course while in that town. He told me that one
night in his room he experienced a "visitation". A figure entered
the room, whispered his name and disappeared, yet he felt her presence
for some time next to him as he lay on the bed. His was a bad presence
according to Sach. The mind can play tricks when under immense pressure,
but the experience was as real as real could be for him. Sach was obviously
unnerved by it all. India does strange things to people. It can inspire
and create dreams. It did so for George Harrison. In a different way,
it also did for Sach. I can only speculate but Rishikesh appeared to be
some kind of watershed in both of their lives.
What happens when dreams shatter into pieces and are blown into the gutter
where no one gives a damn? Sach chased an illusion, a bright but elusive
rainbow. It faded to nothing. He was still in love when he died; still
shackled by emotion and unable to fall out of love. To see through an
illusion and walk out of it the other side takes time. Suicide ends the
potential for that.
Sach died five months ago. He was not famous; he was not a millionaire;
he did not come from my home town. He probably did not even get a mention
in the local Delhi newspapers. But everytime I find myself on the Main
Bazaar I at least think of him. I also think of his poor mother who lost
her husband and then her son. Maybe she never got to hear his story. Perhaps
she was informed only that he had committed suicide. I dont know
if he left a note or had spoken to her. And I dont know if I was
the last person (or only) person who he opened his heart to. Sach was
sweet. A young man with the hopes and dreams of youth. This story is in
memory of him. Some may say that suicide is selfish and for the weak.
I disagree. There is nothing without love, and if it makes sense, even
less without hope.
© Colin Todhunter October 2002
IN CHENNAI - The Madras Diaries
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Colin Todhunter in
met a woman in the hotel, and was totally mad about her.
Copenhagen to Byron Bay:
A tale of two women
India first you get married and then you work these things out",
he said with amazing casualness.
will be a small financial re-numeration" Mr Sunderjee says...
Colin Todhunter finds himself the unexpected 'star' of an Indian movie.
unique experience of going to the gym in India
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got the impression that he thought he was a living God. He was lost
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people get to where they think they want to be, many realise that they
didnt want to be there in the first place or at least want to
be somewhere else - somewhere better'.
to the Future on Triplicane High Road
women with love in their eyes, and women with flowers in their hair,
but not both together.
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