Chitra Subramaniam| The News Minute| September 20, 2014| 11.00 am IST
They entertain us, make us laugh and enthrall us with their talents. What happens to them when the lights are switched off and they go home? Are their lives any different from ours? Do they have friends?
When news of the untimely death of Mandolin U Srinivas reached news rooms and beyond on Friday, there was shock. When that passed, there were questions. Why did he need a liver transplant, he had a sad life, the Supreme Court had approved his divorce with his wife on grounds that he was treated cruelly by her.
â€śFrom the foregoing analysis, it is established that the husband has proved his case of mental cruelty which was the foundation for seeking divorce. Therefore, despite dislodging the finding of desertion, we conclude and hold that the respondent husband has rightly been granted a decree of divorce,â€ť the bench said.
What grief was this genius carrying that came out when he strummed his mandolin? What happened to Robin Williams when he went home, why did he take his life? Poets, painters, dancers, musicians all over the world â€“ do they nurse a private grief through their works? Beethoven was dumped in a public grave and Bahadur Shah Zafar wrote that his kin deprived give him grave-space. Artists are poorly paid. Srinivas was initially booked for Rs. 70, but his performance was so good, the money was doubled. We will devote a post to how artists are remunerated.
Artists train for hours on end, sometimes up to 15 hours a day to perfect that note, to dominate that transition from one scale to another, to paint that perfect picture or render that dialogue perfectly. For many of them, public adulation and adoration is the only love they receive and perhaps the only one they work for. In many cases, alcohol or drugs fills the remaining void. How different is our lives compared to the stars?
In the United States of America (USA) and some other countries, many famous people speak about problems and their illnesses ranging from substance abuse to alcoholism, mental illnesses, cancer and divorce. Europeans are much more circumspect, though in the last few years, celebrities are speaking out at galas and fund-raisers about their personal struggles to encourage others to face theirs.
In India, we hide from ourselves, our family members as if there is nothing wrong with us and that all of us are at the pink of health forever. Musicians down whisky in steel tumblers while on stage or stuff zarda in their mouths â€“ all this must harm. A cursory look at Indiaâ€™s disease burden will show that not only are we home to the worldâ€™s largest diseases populations ranging from dysentery to cancers, we are also home to millions of people who are mentally ill, people who need counselling, people who need just a little hand-holding so they can fly on their own.Not all celebrities are unhappy and not all unhappy people are celebrities.
We at The News Minute (TNM) have a sharp focus on public health. This also means absence of disease and creating space where we can talk about what ails us as a people. For example, a simple hand-count of three houses in one locality showed us that there were eight femur fractures among the elderly. We havenâ€™t yet found a person who doesn't know of someone who has cancer.
You can be lonely in a crowd. Let us dare to care about health and diseases, most importantly about mental health too.