The sting of death isn't only in its occurrence, or the lasting void it will leave in your life after it has claimed your loved one, but also in the lingeringly painful memory of the moment in which it is announced to you.
For Sunil Gupta, a devoted and involved father, close enough to his son to share his agonies and joys with him, that tragic blow would have been served via that one phone call on that fateful day of April 16. The news of his son Sarvshreshth's body found on the streets of San Francisco, in Mr Gupta's own words, was the "tsunami that would uproot their lives, never to be rooted again".
How can one even begin to describe the anguish of a father who has lost a young son? How can one speak of the unfathomable pain of a man who has taught his son to take his first steps, held his hand on the way to school, cheered for him on his graduation day and beenhis confidante through all times only to lose him to death at such a young age?
Am thinking about how overjoyed the Guptas would have been at the news of their son landing an assignment with the prestigious Goldman Sachs, an assignment that would eventually prove fatal for their son.
Exacting work hours, sleep deprived nights, daunting deadlines, mental fatigue and the all consuming fear of dismissal have become a reality for those "gainfully" employed by top firms not only on Wall Street but in all top industry the world over. When Mr Gupta encouraged his son to carry on with his job as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, never would have he imagined that he was pushing his son in a direction from where it was impossible to return.
"Sonny, all are of your age, young and ambitious, keep going," he had told him when Sarvshreshth expressed his desire to quit soon after he had realised that he wasn't cut out for such a demanding job.
As a parent, I too find myself conflicted often over reconciling to my child's limitations or encouraging her to fight it out and be her best. If I allow my children to take it easy each time they feel challenged by circumstances, I fear I might be allowing them to nurture a defeatist attitude. On the other hand, if I urge them to overcome their limitations, I worry that I am being what is termed as a pushy parent.
None of us, then, can perceive the tormenting restlessness of a father holding himself responsible for losing his son byproddinghim to continue working in the not so congenial work environment.We know that this father wanted the best for his son, as any parent would, but I doubt this bereaved man will ever be able to look at this tragedy without the misery of self-reproach and unendurable guilt.
Gupta had told his father that after quitting his job he wanted to come back home to relax and rejuvenate himself.But that wasn't to be.Death had undone the possibility of him partaking in those simple pleasures.
The intense heartache from such a loss is made worse by the "what ifs" and "whys" that one is left to grapple with as a parent.
As much as Gupta's death (possibly suicide) was a function of the work environment at Wall Street, it sets us all thinking about what is perceived as true success in today's world.
I do not speak for myself here but I do notice that many parents today harbour "Ivy League" aspirations for their children from a very young age. I do not doubt their love for their kids, but there seems to have been a transition from treating your children as children over the years to treating them as projects. There is far too much focus on developing a child's outer achievements and too little on cultivating their inner world, a world that teaches resilience, self-love, courage, optimism and empathy.
Why our children's sense of self is only hinged on their material success and their fear of failure or heartbreak so all-encompassing that it is enough to push them over the brink?
Two years ago when our younger one was at kindergarten, I picked up a book that happened to resonate with my own old-fashioned beliefs about raising children and helped me with a deeper insight into the minds of our children. Teach Your Children Well, by American psychotherapist and bestselling author Madeline Levine, warns that pushing kids towards extreme achievement is hazardous to their health. While many highly successful kids may seem fine on the outside, she has found that often many are hiding problems on the inside, such as depression, eating disorders, or self-destructive behaviors and drug use.
"We must shift out focus from the excesses of hyperparenting, our preoccupation with a narrow and shortsighted vision of success that has debilitated many of our children and an unhealthy reliance on them to provide status and meaning in our own lives, and return to the essentials of parenting in order for children to grow into their most healthy and genuine selves," writes Levine.
There must be a reason that we hear of so many young children committing suicide over poor marks, unrequited love and work pressure.
Maybe we need to take a good hard look at our parenting styles and learn to manage our own expectations before setting out to guide our children.