Raat bhar ka hai mehmaan andhera, by Lata Jagtiani

Today I read, with dismay, of a 17-year-old jumping to her death from her multi-storied building, she was the only daughter of her rich parents. She ended her life soon after her boyfriend dropped her home around midnight.

Since she is related to a family friend, I somehow managed to call him to condole. He was shocked, and told me that she was a lovely child, known to be a very popular and happy girl, loved by many teachers and fellow classmates. And that the parents are lovely people, but now while the father is trying his best to deal with the loss and other matters such as the police and post-mortem and death certificates, etc, it is her mother who is devastated and is in a state of near collapse. The life-bearer, the mother, it always hits her the hardest.

The end of a life. There is scarcely a person who has not contemplated suicide at some or the other point in their lives, and when a teenager does this, one feels diminished and somehow guilty too.

Is there for some reason more logic in teaching Algebra at school than subjects like “Meaning in Life” or “Balancing your life” or “Life is full of millions of possibilities” and so on? I, for one, have not even once used Algebra in my life but questions such as one’s continued existence here on this planet do concern me and most of us almost on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Who taught me that suicide should never be an option, that there is always meaning in life?
How did I manage to survive then?
It was a hit or miss issue, I could have opted out at some point in my life, but for some strange reason, I didn’t.

So many talented people, some happy and cheerful, some quiet and reclusive, some that belong to neither group, they all opt to end their lives, we hear about these almost on a daily basis.

We, as a society, are failing our children.

The habit of instant news, instant fame, instant shame, instant gratification instant acceptance, instant love, is sadly not just with them, it’s with us older people too. We all adore success, we want to be successful, and failure appears not to be an option that exists at all. How many of us are willing to spend time with the unsuccessful failures of life and help them out of their negativity?

While I am unaware of this family and its dynamics, I would like to take this issue to a broader plane.

I hear of parents hiring servants to tend to their kids’ emotional needs, while they are busy pursuing their own individual goals. I hear of kids stone-walling concerned parents’ queries while they lead lives that the parents are total strangers to. I hear of teachers and classmates to whom getting the latest gadget, high grades and being the cynosure of all eyes is the be-all and end-all of life. I also hear about making money a singular goal, while for many girls getting the handsome and rich man to commit to marriage becomes a singular focus in their lives.

There is a danger in becoming obsessive, in becoming uni-focussed. What kind of values have the kids been taught by teachers and parents and siblings and extended family members? For example, we had a brat student in our school who went around being destructive, but because she was the daughter of a famous film-star who kept sending gifts to the teachers from time to time, every act of hers that would have got one of us suspended was looked upon indulgently and fondly by the teachers and the administration. Did the teachers teach us that fame and money are the goals?

Is it time to wake up? Is it time our society demanded that, forget religious guidance, each child should be given Confucian motivational support while he evolves from an egg to a larva and pupa stages to reach the beautiful butterfly stage? Is there anyone out there, any place out there, which will serve as a refuge, as a shelter to the distraught?

The wings of each one of us are fragile and easily damaged, yet, if we can stay away from the fire of negative thoughts, we each of us has a chance to be stunning and so utterly amazing! Butterflies are tender creatures when they finally evolve, yet they do go through ugly and painful stages to arrive there. Is there anyone to teach us this at school and college?

Here is Sahir composing lyrics for OP Nayyar in Rafi’s voice…if only every school had songs such as these to use to provide guidance to every fragile child…if only…if only…

Raat jitni bhi sangeen hogi
subah utnii hi rangin hogi
ghum na kar gar hai baadal ghanera
kiske roke rukaa hai andhera…

Lab pe shikvaa na la ashk pee le, 
jis tarah bhi ho kuch der jee le
ab ukhadne ko hai ghum ka dera
kiske roke rukaa hai savera…

Aa koi mil ke tadbeer sochen
sukh ke sapanon ki taabeer sochen 
jo tera hai wohi ghum hai mera
kiske roke ruka hai savera …

Raat bhar ka hai mehmaan andhera, 
kiske roke ruka hai savera…

The following stanza was only in the Original Sountrack of the film:

Yoon hi duniya mein aakar na jaana
sirf aansoo baha kar na jaana
musuraahat pe bhi haq hai tera
kiske roke ruka hai savera…

Raat bhar ka hai mehmaan andhera, 
kiske roke ruka hai savera…

RIP beautiful child….we all failed you…


PS: Originally written on 28 October 2018. The teenaged girl who passed away was called Priyanka Kothari, who fell to her death on the night of 26-27 October 2018 in South Mumbai. The song listed is from Sone Ki Chidiya (1958).

Lata Jagtiani is the author of several books including the biography, ‘OP Nayyar King of Melody’. She has been a lecturer both in India and abroad teaching English and Creative Writing to college students. She lives in Mumbai.


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