Rohith's death was a slow, deliberate killing of ambition

Kishwar Desai
Kishwar DesaiJan 24, 2016 | 11:17

Rohith's death was a slow, deliberate killing of ambition

"... I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life."

He wrote those terrible words, alone. At last he had stopped rushing, because the life he was desperate to start, kept receding. And so, he just stopped.

Most of us think that living is only about being alive. But what about those who dream? Who think life must be something more, and who, like Rohith Vemula reach out for the stars?


When Rohith wrote his last words, he had come to realise that death, perhaps, offered a better deal. In his letter he seems to say, "What's the rush ? There's nothing to rush towards!"

It's the disillusionment that only the young can suffer, those whose dreams have been ruptured all through. Rohith, from his letter, was obviously not just another young man, faceless or nameless. He saw himself as someone capable of much more than what life dealt out to him.

And he probably was. Just the fact that he entered University of Hyderabad on merit, and not on a "caste" card, shows us that he was able to beat his circumstances. And indeed, had he received the right support, the proper mentoring, the care and affection of his peers, what might not he have been capable of?

His last words make one realise the real weight of being young, and without a future.

But, his is also the story of millions of young men and women in this country, from all castes and creeds, many of whom grew up in the past three decades. And at every stage they feel they have been thwarted, their paths have been blocked.


Despite our talking about a democratic dividend, please just reread what Rohith wrote, in anguish and sorrow, before he reached out for a noose other than what life had knotted around his neck.

"I loved science, stars, nature. But then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second-hand, our love constructed."

The disillusionment runs very deep. Not just from the harrowing experience of being rusticated, but probably the anxiety of not receiving help from those around him, even the groups he had joined thinking they could make a difference.

In Rohith, we see all those young men and women who have had no mentors, no teachers who cared, no social security network they could fall back on. They have no job security or can only hope, one day, to get into a regular position in some well paying profession.

But Rohith wanted even more than that. He wanted to soar. To write "like Carl Sagan". Indeed, reading the letter is ever more difficult because in his sentences, the words so carefully chosen, we know the world has lost a very talented young man.


In his anguish we can sense the countless experiences of those children who have spent decades trying to find a foothold and find themselves constantly slipping down.

No, this was not a sudden death, but a slow and deliberate killing of ambition. Of a generation that is underachieving constantly, because there has been, for decades, a failing educational system, a neglectful social security system, and a callous, exploitative political system that preys on the young.

If you are born rich, and connected, and your parents are "somebody", you can succeed. I have been saying this for a long time, but I must repeat it once more: far too many among today's generation have lost their way or are unable to cope with the barbarity of our system. We need to sympathise and soften these systems, and indeed should have done it long before Rohith opted out. Forever.

Last updated: January 25, 2016 | 16:22
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