The Story of a Suicide: A Story of You & I

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan

Story / Project: Story of a Suicide

Author: Sriram Ayer (Founder, 'NalandaWay Foundation')
Genre: Contemporary fiction


The first chapter begins with an attempted suicide. Before the last word is read, there will be another suicide attempt. What binds the two incidents? Four young protagonists who are just as normal and average as you and I.

  • Hari is your average college student, doted on by his family. He is you and I. He also carries the scars of his past and holds a secret buried within his heart.
  • Sam is your average college student, good with computers and recently dumped by his first girlfriend. He is you and I. A failed attempt at a new relationship causes him to go down a dark path, one with far-reaching consequences.
  • Charu is your average college student, outspoken and adept at social media.  She is you and I. A hard exterior hides an insecure individual and the choices she makes via both halves of her character fuel a burning rage within that singes the innocent along with the guilty.
  • Mani is your average college student, worried he is considered inferior to others because his grasp of the English language is poor. He is you and I. The insecurity he suffers would leave him forever vulnerable, making him an unwitting tinder block for the final fire that burns them all. 

What starts off as multiple story threads slowly starts to wrap around each other, a cause-and-effect scenario building up slowly before the third act unfolds rapidly. It is a story of hidden insecurities & poor judgement - seen in most young adults today - and the choices we make. Shades of gray within the character will slowly turn to black or white as the story progresses and momentary lapses have devastating effects on unsuspecting individuals.   

'The Story of a Suicide' works because it is grounded in reality. 

You have met all of these people in your life already. Long before the story ends, you will already be thinking "This is exactly how ABC & XYZ used to be during my college days." And that is where the author really succeeds.

Sriram Ayer chooses to juggle a lot of tough themes and does so admirably.
While the central nucleus remains the tragic arc of suicide, we also see other key topics and themes that the adolescent, emotional teenager has to deal with in today's world namely -

  • Dependence on social media acceptance.
  • Online bullying.
  • Acceptance.
  • Sexual insecurity & identity.
  • Stigma surrounding homosexuality.
  • Peer pressure.
  • The Masks we wear to appear normal to others.
  • Childhood sexual abuse 

Being grounded in reality offers one more painful theme though - that sometimes good guys don't win & bad guys don't lose. If you have lived as many summers as I, you know how true that is in real life. And also how rarely it is portrayed in fiction. Kudos to the author for walking down that path.

Each page has some well-done illustrations, attributed to Ghana (CEO, The Yellow House).
The choice of vibrant or subdued colours and even the style of sketching relate to the individual chapter. I found the concept quite smart personally.  

Where I stand on the central themes :

1. Suicide:

As I write this today, the Rajya Sabha has finally passed the Mental Health Care Bill, correctly decriminalising suicide. I agree. Someone who tries to commit suicide is crying for help, afraid to carry on. The last thing they need is to be called a criminal.
So what could have been done to prevent the suicide attempts in this story? I've spoken on this topic earlier on the blog and truly wish everyone would follow it too.

2. Online bullying & abuse of technology:

At various points, Sriram Ayer uses a unique method of storytelling - he showcases the various comments made by random people in the comments section of social media. It highlights how easy it is to judge and hurt people when you don't have to actively face the person directly. The repercussions and mental trauma are not yours to bear, your caustic comments breaking a fragile heart in pieces more often than not. 
The use of technology towards the end of the story results in an unexpected discovery. But it is the misuse of it that proves to be the final blow.

Yes, technology is a wonderful tool. Use it kindly, my friends. If you have nothing good to say, perhaps it is best to walk away without commenting. I do that often on social media these days rather than engage in arguments or taunts.

3. Sexual identity:

As per statistics submitted by the Government of India in 2012 to the Supreme Court, there are nearly 25 lakh Indians who belong to the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community. 
Unlike what political or religious bodies will tell you, I will simply say this - They are normal human beings. There is no monstrous deviation or mutated gene or weird agenda. Their sexual orientation does not determine their personality just as yours does not make you necessarily a good person. Forcing the LGBT community to hide in the shadows for no sin of theirs - that is the true crime. 
They are you and I. 
It is high time we were more open minded about this.

4. Sexual abuse of children:

Ironically, this remains a topic that is hidden under the carpet. All statistics clearly state that the most common offender in a child sexual assault case is usually someone known to the child - an elder relative, often. One of the 4 characters in this story is a victim but forced to hush it up and bury it within his memories. He lives with the pain years later while the criminal walked free. That just cannot be right. We need to save the victim, not the criminal.

5. Peer pressure

Not knowing English. Wanting to be seen as macho. Wanting everyone to like your every online post. Wanting the girl you like to love you back. 
Wanting to fit in is a struggle for so many during college days. Different cultures, personality styles and groups all force you to evolve, letting go of the young version of you that was. 
It results in many a mask but no matter which mask we choose to wear, it is important that we remember to treat others with respect instead of belittling them just to move higher up the social foodchain. 

Why you should read it: 

It is a story of the paths we could have taken had situations been different in our own lives.
A story of the paths some of us may have already taken in the past due to circumstances in the past.
A story of the paths we can prevent ourselves and others from taking by reaching out to reassure those who are suffering emotionally that we are there for them and we do not judge them.

It is in the end, a story of you and I.


  • The Story of a Suicide is available to read in its entirety ONLINE HERE in a mobile-friendly format. 
  • You can also choose the AudioBook format from the above link and have it read to you. 

Significantly, each chapter also has a "How Do I" button (on coping with a broken relationship, on dealing with suicidal thoughts) which talks openly about several of the key topics dealt within this story - a feature I honestly request you to check out.

Authors note:
The illustrations seen in this post are all edited versions of the wonderful original work done by Ghana for this project by Sriram Ayer and NalandaWayFoundation with the help of Indiblogger.

Update 30 August 2016 - This entry was one of the RUNNER UPs in the contest.

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Let me know what you think.

  1. This sounds like a book everyone needs to read - teens, adults, parents.. everyone. And the biggest takeaway for me from this would be 'Be Kind'. You never know what who is going through. I am glad suicide no longer remains a criminal offence. I always wondered how that law came about.

    1. I think you are absolutely right.
      Be Kind is something that is lost on so many people today. They don't see the effect their words have on others...

  2. What a fantastic presentation and review, Roshan! I am happy to hear about legally decriminalizing suicide. The last thing someone needs while going through that trauma is to also be accused for it. I am reading the book :) I think it is such an innovative way to offer it to readers!

    1. Yes, I too was happy to see that suicide has finally been removed from the list.
      And yes, it is a nice way to showcase a story along with being a wonderful initiative.

  3. This is one of the best reviews I have read about the book. I admire how you touched upon various social issues faced by not just youngster but adults as well. Brilliant

    1. Thanks Rajlakshmi :)
      Credit goes to the author... It's a very tricky subject to handle and he does it well.

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