Day 912

Everything was fun.

As soon as he could walk with support, leaving home in the buggy for a walk in the evening meant, him pushing the buggy, taking it for a walk. Looking into the mirror, playing hide and seek with himself was fun. Kicking a cotton sheet off him with his frantically moving arms and legs was fun. Wearing big sunglasses and shoes was fun. Playing with toys and words was fun. Crawling, walking, running was fun. Dabbling in different kinds of music was fun. The ‘bandana’ phase was fun. Playing and listening to any kind of percussion was fun.

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Going round and round while sitting in one of my mother’s big cooking pots with a convex bottom was fun. On his second birthday, we found him in the balcony with a pot of yogurt, officiously feeding himself and our dog, Caesar, with alternate spoonfuls of the honeyed white stuff. As he grew older, pulling faces was fun. Smurfs and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was fun. The little toy in the occasional Happy Meal at McDonalds was fun. Z-Ball was fun.

Being back here in my parent’s house brings back heart-warming memories of his childhood. He was such good fun!

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Day 902

Mr Drums

An excerpt from a speech made by one of Saagar’s friends at his memorial at Durham:

“Whilst complaints about the noise level were regular, complaints about the type of music that was being played were few and far between as Saagar regarded his taste of music as above reproach. And to be fair – it was not far off. It was the epitome of eclectic – spanning Heavy Metal, Hip Hop and Punjabi M.C. Or as Saagar would put it – White man music, Black man music and Brown man music. Fortunately, for all of us today, Saagar would not rest on his laurels when it came to music, and instead was a gifted drummer. I never saw Saagar more excited than when he was talking about his latest venture with Lenny and the Mandem. Being part of that band meant the world to him. For that – I feel we owe Lenny and the Mandem a debt of gratitude: not only for providing Saagar with a musical outlet that fast became the highlight of his university life, but also for providing a platform upon which Saagar could showcase his amazing talents behind a drum set. I know that he felt incredibly honored to play alongside you all, and I for one, felt incredibly honored to be listening.

Indeed, one of the major highlights of my time at Durham so far, was having Lenny and the Mandem play at my 21st birthday party at Fabio’s last year. At the time, I did not know the rest of the band too well – but knowing how much of a fan I was – Saagar made the necessary arrangements for them to perform during our celebrations. Whilst this was enough to already make my evening, Saagar went one step further, and arranged for the band to cover a song from my all-time favourite band: Dire Straits. What followed was a moment that I will never forget. I looked up to the stage when I recognized the introductory guitar riff to Sultans of Swing and saw Saagar’s head poking out from behind his drum set – mouthing the words ‘Happy birthday brother!’. What seemed to be a mere song to so many at the party, was in fact the most touching gesture from a very dear friend. A gesture made all the more poignant by his passing.

This was not the only music-based memory of Saagar that will live long in the memory. Perhaps the most amusing moment I shared with him happened in the Aidan’s cafeteria. The summer ball act was about to be announced, and our lunch time conversation had turned to the one act or group (Dead or alive) we would most like to see perform live. We went around the table, and each person took a few minutes to consider their answer before saying somewhat predictable musical heavyweights from the last 50 years or so (from the Beatles’ to Tupac Shakur). The conversation then turned to Saagar, and he replied completely deadpan and without a moment’s hesitation with: Dido. The table erupted with laughter as nobody could believe that someone felt so passionately about what can only be described as elevator music but Saagar defended his decision with aplomb. From that point onwards – we decided to begin the rumor that Dido was going to be made the summer ball act, and much to our surprise –this went viral. So viral in fact, that Basshunter’s first few songs were drowned out with chanting from the crowd for Dido to come on. If the Aidan’s social chair is in the crowd – please take note. I can think of no better tribute than Life for Rent ringing around the halls of Aidan’s and it would be a massive improvement on that bloke we had last year. Whoever he was – he sounded like a cross between a digitally modified car crash and a Harrison Sand’s D.J. Set. Saagar did not approve.

One thing Saagar would have approved of however, would be the number of people who have taken the time to attend this memorial today – and indeed, the number of people who turned up to his funeral and the memorial service hosted by his alma mater: Dulwich College. At both of these previous events, the audience was completely full with people who had come to pay their respect.

As I stand here, still struggling to talk about such a presence in the past tense, I am comforted by the fact that the lessons we learnt from Saagar will never leave us. The most important one he taught me was pride. No matter what, Saagar remained unapologetically proud about so much in his life, and this pride was truly contagious. He took pride in his upbringing, and the sheer courage it took for him to move from India, to a period of racial bullying in Belfast to the drastically different setting of one of the country’s leading public schools (although speaking from experience – public schools are perhaps not the best place to seek refuge from racism!). This did not affect him in the slightest however. In fact – he remained so proud of being brown that he resorted to smoking out of liquorice rolling papers that were as brown as he was. Another thing I know he was very proud of was his time here at Durham, proud of his achievements: both academic and extra- curricular. Proud of the friends he made, and proud of the experiences he shared with them. Whilst he may no longer be with us, this pride lives on in each of us – as we are all immeasurably proud to have known him, and prouder still of how he chose to spend his tragically short time on this earth, leaving little more than the wisdom he imparted, the compassion he shared and the untiring friendships he made.

Since his passing, and despite the atheist outlook I shared with him, I have often found myself wondering what Saagar would be doing right now in the unlikely even that we were both wrong, and that there is a God and a Heaven above. I wonder if his room up there still smells the same, I wonder if he has found a place to buy those dumplings he always used to eat, and I wonder if Jesus has told him to turn his music down. Is there a drum kit in heaven? And even if there is – has he found a band with a front man as good as Lenny Jesinghausen? Does heaven have a cricket club – and if so – does that still mean his bowling action is illegal? In the unlikely event that religion IS true, and that I have not spent the last 3 years and nearly 30 grand on a theology degree that equates to studying ancient fairytales, I guess we will all be able to answer these questions for ourselves one day. Personally, the first thing I intend to do is to  catch up with Saagar over a fag in Heaven’s smoking area. I hope you will join us.

This is likely to be the final opportunity we have to pay our respects as a group. In a brief hour or so this memorial will conclude, the crowd will disperse, and slowly but surely, we will draw a line under this chapter and resume our lives. Saagar cannot do this. He has no line to draw, no life left to resume.
As a result, I implore you to take some time out to honour him in your own way. He had a youtube video for all occasions, so perhaps rewatch some of them. Listen to Dido, smoke a liquorice cigarette or something stronger if that’s your thing. But above all – never forget. Never forget the memories you made, never forget the laughter you shared, and most of all never forget the lessons you learned from him.

He lived for a mere 20 years, may his legacy live on forever. ”

 

Day 893

It was an evening of sharing Saagar’s story with a group of lovely young women. We talked about the art of listening non-judgementally. We practiced the skill and found it tricky. We noticed the strong urge to jump in with solutions and ‘fix it’. We found silent pauses awkward.

We explored the things that stop us from listening – a thousand things knocking about in our own head already, our own stress levels, fear of having to take action, fear of saying the wrong thing, I am not qualified, it’s not my job, and so on. Most of the reasons came from a judgement of ourselves or the situation.

Out of the blue, a thought ran clearly through my mind and before I knew it, I was speaking it out loud. I was reminded of a constant grievance I used to have with Saagar. I would request him to not leave utensils in the kitchen sink after use. How difficult could it be to put the dishes into the dish-washer? But, I often found dishes left in the sink. That small thing pushed my buttons. I would tell him off for being lazy and for not respecting this small request I made of him. I judged him. I couldn’t see that he was depressed.

Judgements come from the head.
Connection comes from the heart.
Harsh judgements create great distances between hearts.

I must not judge myself too harshly now. I am learning. Mindfully and heartfully.

Day 889

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At present, everyone seems to be planning holidays – Easter or summer or random.

Arabic was the language he was learning at University. He would be spending half of his 3rd year in an Arabic speaking country. So, we made an exploratory trip to Jordan. We visited friends and travelled around. It was one of our last few holidays together.

I ordered a Watermelon juice at one of the resorts. The barman mixed water and sugar into it. We noticed but didn’t say anything. Saagar took the drink from me,  made his way back to the bar and politely requested the man to make it only with watermelon and nothing else. A few minutes later, celebrating his little victory with a smile, he brought the new drink back to me.

The sandstone cliff faces of Petra, the barren moody desert of Wadi Rum, the red and white sand, the pitta bread with zahter, tomatoes and olive oil, the exquisitely intricate Persian carpets appear in my dreams often. These are dreams about the places we have travelled. I understand now that these places reside deep inside me. I carry these places within me now. It will no longer be necessary to travel there.

 

Day 881

The school project entailed each student discussing what they would put in Room 101 and why. Room 101 is where the bad things go.

For Saagar, it was translucent curtains. He thought they were pointless. They didn’t keep the sun out. They didn’t hold any warmth in. They blew in the wind. They annoyingly got in the way. Close up they were see-through. They twitched in the hands of old ladies. Their flimsy paperiness didn’t have a pleasant texture. They collected dust. They looked like nothing much. As far as he was concerned, they didn’t serve any purpose They definitely belonged in Room 101.

When I look back to my younger days, I can see me making similar arguments. At that time things fell into distinct boxes – good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, royalty and commoner, black and white – concepts inspired by fairy tales, cartoons and films, Cinderella and Snow White to name a couple.

As the years went by, I learnt that a lot of life happens in grey zones, many rights and wrongs are based on a given context, some things can be beautiful and ugly at the same time, royalty can be common and the good and the bad resides in all of us.

Maybe his young mind told him there were only two available choices – life or death. Maybe if he was a bit older he would have known that there are other choices, one of them being, waiting it out.

“Nothing worked but the passage of time … It’s an illness and it ran its course. I had always described myself as melancholy or depressive but I hadn’t a clue. Anything I had before was a blue day by comparison. This was altered perceptions, a mental illness.” Says the Irish novelist, Marian Keyes, 53, about her severe depression in 2009. Writing was her “rope across the abyss”. She started with short stories and her 13th novel is soon to be released.

 “Have patience with all things but first of all with yourself.”
-Saint Francis de Sales.

Ref:

Room 101 : http://www.definitions.net/definition/ROOM%20101

Novelist Marian Keyes reveals fight against constant ‘suicidal impulses’ : https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/12/novelist-marian-keyes-reveals-fight-against-constant-suicidal-impulses

Day 879

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After 3 years of no singing, last week I recorded 3 tracks of devotional music with a friend. I sent across one of them on whatsapp to all my family in India. I got a few ‘wow’s and emojis of an applause and a rose and such. My mum called to say it was nice. Yesterday my 8 years old niece spoke to me about it. She said, ”I didn’t know it was you. Mamma told me. It was like you were singing for God. It made me feel relaxed and sleepy. It was like a lullaby.” That was the most honest and descriptive feedback I had. She shared how it made her feel rather than how good or bad it was.

Judgements come from the head and feelings come from the heart. That the music made her feel a particular way, that she didn’t just hear it but felt it, that she could verbalise it as well as she did was remarkable.

The purity and sweetness of the innocence of childhood is one of the most precious things in this world.

Saagar couldn’t wait to grow up!

Scan 9

 

Day 873

It’s Thursday.
It’s the 16th.
It’s March 2017.
Exactly 29 months.
2 years and 5 months.

I am in the same part of the same hospital, doing the same job with the same people as I was on that day. I am taking a break in the same clutterred coffee room where Saagar visited me a few months prior to his death.

Today, I sit here reading the House of Commons Select Committee Progress Report on Suicide Prevention. It informs the Government’s strategy on the same.

In a nutshell, it clearly states – Suicide is preventable. Current rates of loss of life in this way are unacceptable and most likely under-reported. Even though 95% of Local Councils have a Suicide Prevention Strategy, its implementation is very poor. We must have a way to reach those at risk but not in contact with health services. It commends the work of the voluntary sector. It identifies stigma as a big hindrance. It emphasises better targeted training for frontline staff, medical students and GPs. It expresses disappointments at the poor follow-up of patients after discharge from psychiatric services, at poor information sharing with families and poor funding/staffing of services.

It identifies self harm as the single biggest indicator of suicide risk. Poor psychosocial assessment and safety planning of these patients possibly contributes to a high rate of suicides. Proper support for bereaved families should be an integral part of suicide prevention. Irresponsible media reporting is damaging. Coroner’s need to call a suicide, a suicide.

All the things that we have been saying for all these months!
To think that at least 15,000 more suicides have already taken place in the UK since Saagar’s death!

Report:
https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/news-parliament-20151/suicide-prevention-report-published-16-171/