17 Oct 2020  |   03:34am IST

When a young life is switched off, because his mobile phone doesn’t switch on

Owning a smartphone of the right pedigree is now a matter of prestige for students especially at a time when classes are being conducted online. When the financially struggling parents of a sixteen year old in Satari taluka could not rustle up the funds for their son’s mobile smart phone, the lad killed himself. This can’t be seen an isolated incident. It is reflection of how, a mobile phone, for the youth in today’s changing society is much more than tool of communication or education. It about their standing and prestige
When a young life is switched off, because his mobile phone doesn’t switch on

Ajit John

It is possibly the worst experience any parent will want to go through in their lives. Learning their child has committed suicide. That was the fate of the father of 16-year-old Rohit Varak who committed suicide by hanging himself. The reason being his father failed didn’t manage to get him a smart phone. That may sound trivial to a grown-up but to a teenager, the pressures on them are entirely different.

The virus has changed the dynamics of life. Today, classes are being conducted online and it is important to have a good internet connection to ensure one does not miss out on the lessons. In addition, it is important to have a decent phone to ensure one can hear the teacher. It is in a way like having a good looking car in the locality. Something to flaunt amongst friends.

The mobile market in the country has phones for every budget. It provides an opportunity for everyone to flaunt their likes and dislikes.  Students in the state reacted to the suicide with interesting observations.

 Dylan Coreya a student in a college in Panjim said there was pressure on students to fit and this sometimes compelled them to make immature choices. He said this was also due to the fact that importance was given to materialistic things and this had made many people take decisions they would regret later. He felt there were always better choices that one could make in life.

Ishita Rao another student in a college in Panjim said “Teenagers want to squeeze into this social media lifestyle and get recognition and in this process, they end up making puerile decisions. But they forget that even if one makes an unhealthy choice, it is never too late if he/she wishes to get back on track and start over. One needs to accept the reality and believe that there's more to life”.

Christopher D Souza a student felt smart phones could turn every want into a need. He felt the suicide by the boy was very unfortunate and this was because the appeal of these phones was very strong. He said “In these times it is important to have a good phone to attend online classes and it should be for that and nothing else. Our happiness cannot depend on a phone”. He said students felt mixed emotions with regards to online classes with some hankering for the old system with others have learned to adapt to the realities of the day. He said a phone should remain as just that and nothing else.

The phone as a status symbol amongst students was something Mrunalini Pai a student said was a reality which had to be accepted. She said “Having a smartphone affects the way they think. They start believing that without these "luxuries", they don't stand a chance of achieving anything”. She bemoaned the absence of absence of communication between students, parents and teachers”. She said a short motivating conversation can change the student’s perception about not having a Smartphone and can help him/her understand the reasons of not having one and can encourage the student to hunt for alternatives. She said if a student did not own a personal device, he/she could share a device among friends, visit the cyber cafe or a library computer or ask teachers for recorded sessions because suicide she said was just not an option.  

Sister Fatima Dsa who is part of the management of a school in Socorro said this incident was something out of the way. She said “He was big enough to understand the realities of his actions. Sometimes the father cannot afford and that is a reality. I, however, think most people are capable of accessing the classes online. The boy may have had a breakdown and this was a result of it all. This cannot be the attitude to commit suicide over a phone.”

Dr Akshada Amonkar a psychiatrist and psychotherapist said it was obvious a lot of thought had gone into the decision to have online classes. However, the situation on the ground was very different. She said, “It is obvious not everyone can afford a smartphone especially in the village and it would have to be important to provide printed material to all the students in the villages”.

She said she had heard many students could not handle the online classes or even access them because they did not have the required phones. She said “The situation in Panjim is so different from a place like Pali. The school management has to talk to the students because the realities on the ground are so different. A child of 14 or 15 or 16 is very different from someone who is 8, 9 or 10”. The suicide she said was very sad and perhaps more communication between everyone concerned could have helped. She said it was important for teachers and assertive parents working together to ensure students were able to handle the changed situation. Some schools, she said were already doing it and that was a very welcome development.

One can only hope the suicide at Pali was a sad one-off and everyone worked in unison to detect danger signs in the future.   



Iddhar Udhar