A couple of months back when Jade Goody died I wrote this obituary, ‘Jade Goody: The winner took it all‘ on my personal blog and on Desicritics. Interestingly the post on Desicrtics got as many as 81 comments, most of them directed at me in anger, by women of all sorts. Now who would have thought a simple obituary would be subject of so much debate. But then again I don’t write anything simple do I.
As the flame war was unleashed I decided to stay away from it, so I remained silent for a long time but they didn’t like it. They insisted I reply to the comments and join the war. When I still remained silent they started speculating on why am I silent, “maybe she is testing the waters? Or maybe this was her way of being provocative or maybe she hasn’t had the time to respond. We won’t know till she responds I guess,” said one of them.
Finally after 50 such comments were posted I decided to reply to all their accusations (which by the way made me feel like Socrates on his trial). Some of the main accusations were, (1) I was insensitive towards people who suffer from suicidal tendency (2) I glorified and romanticized death (3) I wanted to be a poet but became a journalist (or something of that sort)
Below is my long reply to all such accusations:
Hmm! The reason I chose not to respond earlier was because we wouldn’t be constructing anything positive by such misplaced lament. I have really got over these flame wars on forums and blogs. Also, I thought there are always all kinds of people reading an article, some like it some don’t, so while half of them attack there would always be the other half to see the point, and it wouldn’t be necessary to summon the author. But as I am, so here is my rejoinder.
First, what a faulty assumption on the reader’s part that my intentions are to convey Jade is better off dead. That’s like the most ridiculous thing one could come across. Why on earth would I ever want to say that the person for whom I am writing a tribute is actually better off dead?
As it seems for most of you definition of tribute only means shedding a lot of tears and be in utter misery, pretend like the world has come to an end, that not one more bird would sing and not one more flower would bloom anywhere, that the departed’s family is doomed forever. Oh c’mon, who are we fooling? Nothing in this world stops by the death of one person. Jade’s death is not the only young and famous death that I have seen. My friend died at 26, yet another famous death and I know exactly what happened to the people she left behind. Nothing stopped for most of them except for the parents may be, and even for the parents life may not be exactly the same but it still goes on.
I glorified death, of course I did, what’s wrong with that? Are you to tell me that death is only about fear, misery and sympathy? Death can never have glory? People die all the time, no big deal but most die an insignificant silent death shedding tears and feeling sorry for themselves and the family they are leaving behind. The way you embrace death is what makes you a hero, an inspiration for others. In Jade I see that hero. She gives me the strength to look at death not with fear but with glamour. If I found out I was to die tomorrow I would see that as an opportunity to do something big, unique, interesting…may be I’ll write a book, may be I’ll write a live blog of my approaching death, may be I’ll make a live TV show. Other people might want to spend their last hours in their privacy shedding tears and feeling scared that they’ll not see their children grow up. That’s their wish. But I won’t do that. When death is standing round the corner, death would become the purpose of my life and I wouldn’t really have the time to waste in tears.
I don’t know what Jade was thinking in her dying moments. Do you people know? Aditi, SS, Deepti? Refer comment #1 by SS – Do you really know she was scared out of her mind? You don’t know her personally do you? May be she was happy that she was famous, that in spite of losing the big brother show and being hated by all for her racial comments she was the most loved person in her last hours. May be she was not worrying about her children, because she knew they’ll be alright, time will heal everything. May be? But no, that’s not what you want to believe, because that’s not the convention, that’s not the ‘right’ thing for a dying mother to be thinking, how can a dying mother be so selfish to not think of her children? How can she think of her fame at her dying moments instead of being scared of death?
And you all call yourselves liberal feminists. Heard of gender deconstruction? If you are a liberal feminist you’d know, not all women live in the glorified sense of motherhood. Not all women are touchy about their children and husband. For some fame might mean everything, for some success and glamour might mean more than family and other emotional crap. And my respect is to all of them. My respect is for all women irrespective of what their priorities are, but that wouldn’t go down too well with the great mothers, would it?
And why restrict Jade’s identity to that of a mother and wife? Why not see her as an aspiring model / actress? I am sorry but motherhood is quite a clichéd understanding of woman hood, it doesn’t go down too well with the liberal feminism, womanhood is not all about motherhood for Christ sake, that’s one of the most forced gender constructs.
And the righteous women here so easily jumped to my personal status and labeled me as someone who doesn’t have a husband and children, an unsatisfied bitter & lonely spinster. (comment #1 by SS) Talk of labels? Like every time they can’t argue back anymore they call us feminist, every time the ‘good’ women can’t argue anymore with the unconventional ones they call them spinster, loose, slut etc. Because I don’t have a husband and children I don’t have sensitivity. That’s what you are suggesting.
Deepti @comment #40 – how you approach your death is purely your choice, but are you to tell me that if I approach it any differently my approach is in anyway inferior to yours? Or are you to tell me that you cannot even imagine / accept there could be any other way to approach but the one you have chosen? You may not be worried about whether it is reported in next day’s papers, I would. Does that make you holier than me? If not, then what are we arguing for? Why are the women folks so shocked at the glorification of death? How do you know what Jade did was only for her family and not for herself, and assuming she did it for herself – does that make her a bad person? I don’t think so, do you? Are we getting into a good girl bad girl debate here?
Aditi N @comment # 41 – I begin the whole post by saying I have romanticized young and famous death for myself at various emotionally weak points of my life, how much more explanation do you need to understand that the nature of this post is personal.
The only sensible argument in this whole thread is the one against my comment towards people who are suicidal. That was an un thoughtful comment I admit, but I didn’t mean to say I actually want suicidal people to go to hell or that I would myself push them off the cliff instead of trying to stop them. What I meant was that I don’t usually feel sympathetic towards people who have given up all hope. Sweet talking is not something I do. Of course if I found one of my friend is suicidal I’ll try to save him/her but my approach wouldn’t be that of ‘Oh poor baby don’t kill your self’ but that of ‘you loser what would you achieve by killing yourself.’
SS @comment #44 – the dichotomy is quite simple, ‘being suicidal’ sucks but ‘dying young’ doesn’t. So even if there is glory in death I am not the one to turn suicidal for the sake of that glory. But that I might be destined to die young and famous is fascinating to me.
Lastly, one common thing here is that all of us are trying to talk about what Jade’s life could have been if she didn’t die, but that is not for us to speculate. I did speculate what it could have been, I gave only two extremes not just to save time and space, but also to make the point that whichever way we speculate, it wouldn’t make any difference because she is dead. So what we can do is look at her death and not at the life she could have had. And the way I look at it, I see heroism and glory in her death.