Thursday, October 9, 2008

Resting in Peace

The story of Karthik Rajaram's tragic murder of his family and his own suicide is by now known in Indian circles. Touted on Indian media as a fallout of the financial crisis and remembered by people trying to make sense of how a normal family of idyllic suburbs, known for financial, academic and career success could so quickly come to nothing. Karthik's eldest son, aged 19, was a Fullbright scholar at UCLA. His dad, as the above linked article says, was so wildly successful in business dealings and personal finance- until his investments crumbled and his job vanished.

Is there more to this story? Everyone who hears wants to know, and know that the answer is yes. Who knows? Driven to desparation, human beings commit reckless acts that i nhindsight could have been avoided. What if he had slashed his lifestyle and settled for lower pay? His son could have put in some hours to chip in... These are thoughts echoed by many Indians. Whatever else there may be to this story, isn't this something that could happen to any of us?

In his latest podcast, Michael Card interviewed Mike Yankowski, author of the book about his 5-month voluntary homelessness, Under the Overpass. Mike talked of how he met very educated people who were rendered homeless by a single incident in their lives that came unexpectedly. He narrates how a professor at a Christian university let him know of his homelessness for 4 years. Card shares with us that these are things that could happen to us in the flicker of a moment.

Would we be willing to trust God then and adjust our lifestyles? Is it that simple? Adjusting our lifestyle may not simply a matter of skipping a meal a day or not shopping for clothes or giving up driving your own car. It may mean the collapse of our hopes and dreams, the ambitions that we nurtured for ourselves, our better halves, our children. The health insurance that we bought for our ageing parents. It is humbling to ask relatives and friends for help, and more so, the church. The fear and insecurity that breaks the heart in these circumstances are both used and abused by those in power and those with the power to make a difference. Some of these are indifferent to the cries around us. A handful of them get out and seek out those who need help.

What killed Karthik, and what made him to kill? Was it the proverbial Indian pride about pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps? Was it the realization that the incredible education from IIT-Chennai and UCLA had come to nothing? Was it the frustration that a life of moderate means or even lesser means is no life at all? Was it the loneliness that comes of having nor supporters, perhaps not just outside but within his own family? Was it a crumbling of his worldview that perhaps hoped for the best and aimed at the top? Was it that he had gotten used to pace in his life and hated to slow down? Was it his 'emotional imbalance' alleged by a former boss at PwC, which included attending conference calls while inebriated and yelling at family members?

We look for someone and something to blame when crisis hits. It may be a individual. It may be employers, family , the Government, the President, and all too often, God. Aren't there so many variables that could be blamed if we needed to offload our frustration on someone? That leads us to ask, if so many people could be blamed, then does it matter to blame anyone at all in particular? Adolf Meyer, once President of the American Psychiactric Association, said that the principal aim in life was to understand why one should not contemplate suicide. The fallenness of our world is so apparent, isn't it?

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