Whenever a celebrity commits suicide, and celebrities frequently do, seismic shocks run through society. What? The person had everything going for them. Fame, fortune, success, possibly good looks, the adulation of millions. They had the good life, which everyone else was chasing, so why did they commit suicide? Really, the question ought to give us pause. If they committed suicide then is it not reasonable to assume that they did not have it all? A piece I read in Time magazine when a couple of celebrities had committed suicide in close succession lamented that if these icons could not go on living, where did it leave the rest of us?
My question is, when did fame, money, success, power or genius, ever lead to happiness, stability and sanity?
We only have to look at the lives of our Bollywood stars, industrialists, politicians, sportspeople and the scions of all the above, recall their engagements with addictions, their marital track record and their bad behaviour in public, to recognise that their lives are more often than not, disturbingly out of control. Fame, money, power and such like are like wild horses, hard to tame and all too easy to be thrown off from.
It is time we junked the concept of celebrities as role models. The more we thirst restlessly after fame, money or power, the more we shortchange our lives and our potential for happiness and growth. In Life Positive (the magazine I had the good fortune to edit for 12 years), at a time when the celebrity cult was at an all-time high (it still is), I decided entirely against covering them. My logic was borrowed from Osho’s reasoning: “Either everyone is wonderful or no one is”. As a personal growth magazine, it was our business to help everyone recognise how wonderful they were, instead of being obsessed with the wonderfulness of a Shah Rukh or a Salman. I never regretted my decision, and readers never complained about the absence of glamour in LP.
So, in the absence of celebrities who should, we take as our role models instead? I am pretty sure we can find them closer home. Perhaps among our parents, teachers, mentors or bosses, we can find people who are loving, ethical, inspiring and giving. People who put others’ interests ahead of their own. People who burn for a cause larger than them. People who take responsibility for their happiness and health. People who use problems as opportunities for growth. People who, at the end of the day, are comfortable in their skins and at peace with their conscience. People who have grown in stature as human beings every day of their lives. Ordinary people on the outside, but extraordinary on the inside.
Such people alone will point us in the right direction.
Suma Varughese has had a long and illustrious career as a writer/editor/journalist for 40 years. She was the editor-in-chief of Life Positive, India’s premier body-mind-spirit magazine, for over 12 years, prior to which she was the editor of Society magazine for five years and has also been a senior editor with Gentleman magazine. Suma is a popular guest speaker at many conferences and seminars and has been intimately connected with the rise of the spiritual movement in India.