A Helping Hand

Graphic by Irfan Khan

“Bhai nahi raha.”

I was staring at the message, trying to decipher the words again. Meaning, I got, impact, I wish I had. “What? Why? I don’t know what to say” just slipped off my fingers, sure to hurt him and haunt me. Really? How foolish of me! Another desperate low of my life! In my mind regretting the fiasco, I started wishing my reply would change into something more sympathetic before reaching him. I wanted him to know that I had concerns far more than what my silly text would ever communicate, without telling him so. But Alas! Telepathy or manifestation is not my biggest strength.

It had been five days since he abruptly stopped texting. We were late-night chatting about our silly childhood experiences when suddenly he stopped mid-conversation. I did not put much thought into it at the time since it was not unusual for him to do so. He was an ‘early to bed and early to rise’, kind of person. And it was almost 11.30 pm, long past his bedtime. He had dozed off mid texting many times, no matter how exciting the topic of conversation remained. I assumed it was no different from other nights. But usually, I would also have early morning texts waiting for me in the inbox with happy morning wishes and emojis. Oh, How millennial! But for a few months, that had become my usual routine.

However, the next day, my inbox was empty in the morning. I tried not to be affected by it and went about my day, but not without constantly checking for his texts. I checked my internet connection, put my phone on airplane mode and reactivated, and even checked in on some friends and responded to their weeks-old texts to see whether my WhatsApp was down. Be a good friend… Check! The next day, it was the same. Nothing from him. I went back through our last chat to see if there was anything I missed. It appeared to be fine, he seemed fine, the conversation was lighthearted with all smileys and hearts. So, where did it go wrong? I typed “I am really sorry if I did something again”, then deleted it. What if I come out as desperate? What if I’m overthinking everything? Should I make a phone call instead? What if it makes everything awkward? I was tired from all the thoughts racing through my head, so I went out for a little stroll. I was able to distract my thoughts for a few hours before returning to the same swing. I could not help but read our old conversation again. I swear, this time I did not say anything offensive or hurting. Okay, that’s enough! I typed “Just checking! Everything is fine, right?” and immediately pressed the send before I could change my mind again. I waited and stared at the screen. He did not seem to be online.

Whatever! I tried. I did whatever I could from my end. And then I stopped thinking about it. Perhaps I was getting ahead of myself. So, for the following four days, I tried to avoid thinking about him, us, or the reason for his avoidance of me as much as possible. However, on the fifth day, late in the evening, my phone beeped, with a text. I wasn’t expecting it to be him, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be the message I read. “Bhai nahi raha(brother is no more),” it said. I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline rush from receiving a message from him or the sheer unexpectancy of the content of the message, but I responded on the spur of the moment, without much of a thought. And regretted it right away.

How do you reply to such news? Should I inquire what happened? What if asking about it hurts him even more? What if he feels I’m going too far? What if it makes everything far worse? Oh, how do people deal with such situations? Was I important enough to ask? Never been one for emotional or deep conversation, but on that particular day, I felt helpless. So far, I’ve done fine being emotionally unavailable and unconcerned about my limitations of being unable to express my inner emotions, but at that moment, I felt like a child being forced upon the stage to dance, with everyone staring at me with expectations, while both my feet were frozen, and I couldn’t hear the music. Mind you, I have a huge stage fright too! I was cursing myself for responding in such a callous manner to such tragic news. Hence, like always, I left everything right there and went out for a nice walk to clear my head.

Through the whole walk, I could not help but think about it more, and finally, I came out with the best I could do. I messaged him, “Hey, it must have been difficult. I’m not going to pretend I understand because that would be a lie. I can’t imagine what you must have been going through, but I wish words could help. So, I’m right here If you need an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. Take care of yourself and your parents.” See…right there. Much better! He did not reply. But the next day he called, and we talked for the longest hours we ever did before. He did not mention it, but I figured it was a suicide. That must have been tough. Death by suicide not only affects the dead but all their near and dear ones. When one dies in an accident or due to any medical condition, there is basically no one to blame but to accept the fate. The bereaved family can atleast live with the thought that it was unavoidable. But when one commits suicide, it comes to all who ever knew him. They feel like they could not help him. They begin to blame themselves for being a part responsible for his or her death. To live with that pain and anguish is none less than death itself.

He told, his brother was suffering from Schizophrenia. Oh, yes! He had mentioned the condition and symptoms of his brother once. As someone who has battled depression and is concerned with mental health issues, I immediately understood that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. We discussed his conditions and treatments. I was not satisfied with what I heard and urged him to transport him to a better medical facility. But me being me, I did not force onto it much. I have always been wary about meddling in others’ business. And knowing he comes from a quite conservative family, I was even more frightened of offending him. But when he said that, his brother might have taken such a step in the fit of the disease. I found myself at fault too. Why couldn’t I convince him? Why couldn’t I find it in myself to reenter the dark realm which I had left for so long? Was it a matter of ‘did not’ or a ‘could not’? Had I somehow been selfish? My heart ached with regret and grief. He was sobbing remembering how he too had turned his back towards his brother’s condition. His family treated it as a phase of his adolescence. His behaviors were not viewed as cause for alarm, but rather as though he was deliberately being difficult and rude. I can only imagine how lonely and helpless his brother felt. How criminal of all of us!

His family and he alike shrugged off his brother’s condition. They all assumed it would simply go away. But, sadly, it had come to this. It eventually came to what I feared most in the first place. It became about myself, at least in my brain if not for him. The long-forgotten feelings of loneliness, fear and alienation came surging. I needed someone to talk to and lean on, but I was also scared of being a burden. The helplessness of questioning your sanity, existence, relationships, and the entire universe, I had never wished to share with another soul. But, here I am, feeling connected to and defeated once again because of a departed soul. It’s always two versions, isn’t it? Someone gets the helping hand while there is still time, and another just keeps holding onto the darkness.

My guilt tied my lips, even after trying my best I was not able to help him in the way I wanted to. But at least I could sense that talking was indeed helping him a little. Having someone to open up to, to share the darkest thoughts that are killing you from within, offers you a little strength to cling on to. But he would sob again thinking about how his brother was deprived of it. Perhaps if someone had just paused for a moment and extended a helping hand, sat with him and waited for him to trust them, and shown him that he was not alone, this could have been avoided. Perhaps, his brother needed what he was getting afterward, during his short miserable life–his family’s time and concern.

Very unlike me, but I wanted to be there for him, to allow him to open his heart to me, to vent, to rant, to count me as one of his own. Although, it was he who did most of the talking, as he should, at the moment. I felt just my presence was averting his getting lost in his deep fearful pit of dread. In ways unknown, unexpected, and indescribable I was being helped too, as hopefully was he. My weaknesses as a person came naked in front of him. Why am I so hesitant to ask for or to provide help? Why was I so coiled into my shell that I couldn’t be helpful to people I care about? As a shy and introverted person, I am often unsure of my boundaries. I’m always afraid of crossing a line with others, therefore I keep myself from going out of my way to open my hands. It dawned upon me that I don’t have to be a terrific communicator or a trained consultant in order to help people in their vulnerable moments. All I needed was to be there with them, for them. I need to get over my fear of crossing boundaries, judgment, and being vulnerable so that I could be of help to them. As they say ‘just one hand can heal another’, I will try my best to be that hand. There is always a price for a lesson, I am going to make it worth it.

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24 thoughts on “A Helping Hand

  1. DeepJ

    Well, to be honest I’ve dealt with a similar situation. And I cannot disagree with the feelings you described of being a communicator. It’s hard in such a situation for someone to be a helping hand because we’ve never dealt with such crisis before. Watching their family fall into deep sorrow, all the regrets, feeling those dejections. It’s just hard to overcome such a phase.

  2. Debasish

    Uff!! What a story! I was just able to feel the author what she’s felt at that moment and it is because of her such sheer writing capabilities.

  3. Daman

    In addition to dramatically presenting the tragic incident, the writer beautifully captured the ideas of an overthinker and introvert. Good read. Looking forward to read more from the author.

  4. Khalid

    It can’t be more true …
    My friend lost her mother and I felt the same way .
    I realized , there is nothing we can say in that moment to comfort .
    I also couldn’t say anything …
    I came up with some vedic concept to comfort her , telling her the story of a soul . But it was futile.
    She said “I am not a kid anymore”.
    After that I just listened to her and
    I kept texting her every 5-6 hours , without any expectations of getting a reply.

  5. Anonymous

    Keenly described incidents, and well detailed, just what we need while reading on such critical topics. Hope to witness more of your works. 💜

  6. Joram maz

    This was just splendid jd ♥

    Really touched by this deep message specially for today’s world where maximum has a mentality of “apne kaam se kaam dusra bhar mai jaaye”

    Lots of love ♥


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