Title: The Story of a Suicide
Author: Sriram Ayer
Innocence is short-lived. Unless you are equipped with the skills demanded by the prevalent social environment, you are doomed to fail in life. This is the basic message of Sriram Ayer’s novel, The Story of a Suicide, published online and made available here. The novel tackles very important themes of contemporary relevance: individual liberty, women’s rights, homosexuality, potential hazards of electronic gadgets and the misuse of social media. Moreover, the novel delves into the meaning and purpose of life as best as pop fiction can.
The novel tells the story of four students who come together in a college and become friends. Charu, the only girl among them, is the only heroic character. The male characters are either innocent and homosexual or wicked altogether. Can homosexuality be triggered by innocence? Can it be triggered by the trauma of a childhood experience? These are some of the questions raised in the novel.
The novel can make us think about many aspects of life.
It begins with a suicide note. “Dear World, I am going to die.” Which character in the novel wrote that suicide note? That’s the suspense sustained by the novel throughout. And the answer is worth waiting for. In the meanwhile we get to meet a lot of action and intelligent probes into life.
“What I do in my bedroom is my business, not a politician’s. I do not want celibate priests dictating me how I should or should not have sex.” Right in chapter 2 of the thirty plus chapters, a gay rights activist pulls the trigger on our thoughts. Soon we are told that the people who write the most regressive laws against sex are those who “possibly have never been in happy equal relationships. They are sad, living miserable lives, jealous and yearning for love that they vengefully disapprove.”
Who makes the laws of the society? That’s an interesting question raised by the novel. It does not hesitate to bring in Draupadi of the Mahabharata to take a different look at some of our established heroes. “... all my five husbands were thick as thieves,” says Draupadi in the novel whose character in the impromptu skit is played by none other than the heroine of the novel. Charu, the heroine, goes on to question the integrity of Arjuna, the hero of the Mahabharata, pointing out his disloyalty to his vow of celibacy by mating with five women as soon as he began his self-imposed exile after seeing his brother in bed with their shared wife. Furthermore, says Charu, Arjuna went on to marry two out of the many women whom he screwed after taking his vow of celibacy!
What is morality? This is one of the many interesting questions raised by the novel. Who makes the rules of morality? Doesn’t the individual have the right to live her life as she chooses? Why do most people choose to live “a life of fear, hypocrisy and political correctness”? Charu, the one who asks these questions, is perceived by some of her companions as conceited. “She is so full of herself. She only loves herself,” Hari says. Hari had learnt from his Madhavi teacher that “What matters is how much you loved and how much you made yourself vulnerable for the other person to love you.” Madhavi teacher had also taught him that to love is to “give yourself completely ... including sex.”
Making oneself too vulnerable can be disastrous too. Hari learns it in the hard way. Charu is the antithesis of Hari. Sam, whose real name is Sambamurthy which he hates, invents an app to poke his nose into the privacy of the headstrong Charu whom he cannot understand. Inability to understand the complexity of the other can create villains.
The novel probes into the various dimensions of life while telling a gripping tale beautifully illustrated by Ghana. Young readers will find it amply rewarding.