The day my life changed forever.
The day my husband Dr. T.R. Murali well known urologist in Madurai, died of suicide. Until then, suicide—the S word—was something that happened to others. I had read about celebrity suicides in media coverage, a few friends whose family members had died of suicide, preferred not to talk about it; gloss over the death; hide it in the closet’ or attribute the death to “natural” causes.
Brilliant, bright and bold, Dr. Murali had studied in some of the most prestigious medical colleges in the country—JIPMER, Maulana Azad Medical College and AIIMS. Regarded as one of the best urologists in the country, Dr. Murali’s expertise in andrology, paediatric urology and renal transplantation (of which he had successfully performed more than 15,000) was legendary. He was unanimously acknowledged by his peers and students as a “phenomenal clinician and a gifted surgeon.”
Murali was the fulcrum of my life. I felt bereft and adrift like driftwood… tossed and turned already in the eddies, whirl pools and abyss of the turbulent ocean of grief. My transition to a survivor of suicide loss had just begun.
I am no stranger to stigma and discrimination as I work with some of the most stigmatized and marginalized communities. Yet as soon as I discovered Murali’s body and had to announce his death, I was overcome with a deep sense of shame and remorse. What would I tell my family and friends? Wont they judge me and Murali?
In those precious moments, before the world descended on me, when only Murali’s body and I were all alone at home, I made a conscious choice to SPEAK. I decided that Truth must be told; I had to SPEAK up; to talk about suicide; to create informed spaces for conversations on suicide…. Because somebody HAD to do it. And that somebody would be Me.
If I chose to remain silent about suicide, especially as I had been forever impacted by it, wouldn’t I also be contributing to the stigma, secrecy, shame and silence?
So, I decided to be the change I wished to see in the world…
The picturesque city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands has played an important role in my grief journey. Six months back when I arrived in the city in connection with a course in gender, I felt vulnerable; my grief still fragile and friable. Winter was just setting in casting a somber cloak over the city. It was winter in my life too; my life being denuded with grief and sorrow.
However, six months later when I was again in the city to complete the course, I discovered that I had indeed travelled far in my journey… I had just completed Murali’s first year ceremony and flew out of the country that same evening.
When I arrived last week in Amsterdam, it was spring in this European metropolis. The sun was lambent, gentle and soothing, the cherry blossom, the apple blossom and the fabled tulips were in bloom… there was spring everywhere… whispers of hope in the air…
Indeed, it was a metaphor for a ‘spring’ in my life too. I completed the course and a moment of great personal pride and satisfaction for me was to be commended by the course directors Dr. Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay and Dr. Franz Wong, both fine professionals and finer human beings.
I write this blog just minutes before I say good bye to this city which will forever be special for me. During the one week I spent here, I’ve wandered around the streets, sat by the sparking canals, lost in reflection…. Of the year that has gone by… the challenges… the highs and lows… and of the ways I’ve been forever transformed by grief. I’ve spent a lot of time connecting with myself; listening to my dreams, my aspirations, my sorrows, and my joys…
When life throws challenges at you, it also sends people who seem to appear in your life out of nowhere. One such person is Maitrayee. She made it possible for me to complete the course by giving me an extra three days (Which I had missed due to Murali’s ceremony) and personally took me through the course syllabus. I shall forever cherish her sisterhood, the warmth of her friendship and the grace of her presence.
In two days, SPEAK will be launched. This time last year, I had no clue that I was on the brink of a life changing event.
Thank you, Amsterdam, for restoring a sense of perspective into my life; for helping me come full circle. Despite life’s’ challenges, trials and struggles, it still IS a beautiful world!
Dr. Nandini Murali
Dr. Nandini Murali is a feminist and a gender and diversity professional. She is an author who also provides technical support in communications for the social sector. When she is not working, she heads off to the forests with her camera. Currently, she has a magnificent obsession with photographing leopards!