A tale of two Siddharthas

Hesse’s Siddhartha felt overawed by his insatiable search for enlightenment, while CCD’s was perplexed by complicated socio-economic forces

By Author B Maria Kumar   |   Published: 7th Aug 2019   12:05 am Updated: 6th Aug 2019   11:33 pm

If alive, Hermann Hesse would have been taken aback to know that another Siddhartha, like one of his timeless creations, has also abdicated the pleasures of life in favour of riparian peace. Hesse, a German-born Swiss writer was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1946 for exploring the nature of human quest for self-knowledge and spirituality through many of his soul-stirring novels, one of which was ‘Siddhartha’ based on the fictional character of a Brahmin-turned-boatman.

VG Siddhartha, the founder of Cafe Coffee Day, is no more. His body was recovered from the banks of a river near Mangalore. Till now, all the available evidence suggests that he committed suicide.

Surprisingly there is a striking analogy between Hesse’s Siddhartha and VG Siddhartha. Both hail from noble families and attained greater affluence over a period of time but were covertly vexed with day-to-day realities of life.

But there is a subtle difference too between their outlook and comprehension. If the former felt overawed by his insatiable search for enlightenment, the latter looked perplexed by the complicated socioeconomic forces that indelibly impacted his mind but in conclusion, both were devastated at heart for want of inner peace. Eventually, the fictional Siddhartha survived the climactic finale, which the real-life Siddhartha could not.

Self-propelled Causes

If we go by statistics, India has the dubious distinction of having one of the world’s highest suicide rates. So VG Siddhartha is not an isolated example. He is one among lakhs who perish annually just at one puff blown off by each disenchanted self.

By the way, why do rich people tend to resort to such extreme step comparatively with more ease? About a century ago, Emile Durkheim, a celebrated French sociologist, inferred from his studies that the rich are more prone than the poor to take own lives because of self-propelled causes. Of course, suicide is such an issue that has off and on provoked sensational debate calling for fresh research every time whenever the matter got media glare and public attention as in the instant case.

Logic Behind Suicides

I still remember what my esteemed colleague, Ashok Dohare, once mysteriously interpreted the logic behind suicides, way back during our training days at Academy. He said that the sole purpose of every life is nothing but to commit suicide. Later in the evening, I sat with him to quench my urge for a better understanding of his enigmatic statement. He spoke at length about various primitive organisms like amoeba that kill themselves in the process of reproducing their progeny.

According to him, even the goal of human living is to procreate and annihilate self. Whether you do it or not, the death instinct is all the while embedded in the psyche and to survive it is altogether a different temporal reality as we all do, he concluded.

I also applied my mind a little bit to ponder. Dohare’s reasoning sounded not only interesting but at the same time convincing too. Legendary Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud also cast light on death instinct, more or less on similar lines. Italian psychoanalyst Edoardo Weiss termed it as ‘destrudo’ whereas Freud referred to the conjoined love instinct as ‘libido’.

Metaphysical Twist

My inquisitive sense probed further. French Nobel laureate Albert Camus long ago rendered a metaphysical twist to suicide. He surmised that, “there is only one really serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.” He also proved right to forecast that 20th and 21st centuries would be those of fear and terror respectively.

From his assertions, the roots of egoistic suicides can be traced to intense fear. We are live witnesses to the fact that wherever we go in the current scenario or whatever the day-to-day incidents we come across, we think or hear about fear in varied degrees. If the bleak crop prospects instil fear in farmers, lackadaisical economic trends thrust fear into entrepreneurs and suicides occur. If the harrowing state of joblessness horrifies the youth, worsening poverty conditions terrorise the indigent masses and again suicides follow. And there are instances galore to substantiate that fear is ubiquitous and suicides rising.

Nepali thinker Desh Subba, who propounded the philosophy of fearism, reasoned that life is conducted, directed and controlled by fear. Fear also escalates as and when happiness dwindles. British novelist Matt Haig, who has got an answer to it, explained that happiness is not very good for economy.

It is in this context that the ever-increasing over-competitive spirit and consequential stringent policies, being enforced by both private and public authorities, seldom help the individuals stay contented. As the tense present automatically evolves into tense future, the resultant precarious situation drives the unsuspecting individuals to fall prey to the fear of the unknown, which works hand in hand with the fear of loss of power over controls. That’s where VG Siddhartha had to concede to Edoardo’s destrudo.

Fearlessness Movement

However, Canadian philosopher Robert Michael Fisher, who founded ‘Fearlessness Movement’, kindled hope in humanity with his morale-boosting postulate, “when fear arises, there will be fearlessness.” He has been categorically optimistic that fearlessness could be achieved with various interventions.

Apart from managing fear through personal interventions, there is also a critical aspect as regards the role of the state in inculcating the feeling of fearlessness in citizens by according the same value as that of justice, liberty and equality. Social security and well-being measures will certainly alleviate insecurity and uncertainty components and aid in stress-free and fearless mental state.

Except in matters connected with the said ideals, enactment of too many laws and regulations in unnecessary matters often restricted the freedoms of citizens as experienced in the past to the extent of the genesis of fear even in the genuine private affairs of citizens. By doing so, the negative fear towards the state will only defeat the very essence and sacred tenets of humanity as enshrined in the Constitution of India.

The statutory provisions related to life and liberty ought to be facilitatory but never tyrannical. Then only, it would be a befitting tribute to yet one more Siddhartha, whom the world knows as Lord Buddha.

(The author is former DG Cyber Crimes, Bhopal)