What Are We Building?

3 AM, 15th June 2020. I left the bedroom to go get a glass of water. My computer pinged with notifications. I was torn between surfing the net and going back to bed, but a particular notification stopped me in my tracks. “SUSHANT SINGH RAJPUT, BOLLYWOOD STAR DIES AT 34.” Shocked, I clicked to read the full news. Sushant was found hanging from his ceiling fan in his Mumbai apartment.

I wondered why a man like Sushant, young and successful, would take his own life. Sushant was one of the most intellectual artists in Bollywood. Asides being an actor, he was a mechanical engineer, an astrophysics and quantum physics enthusiast, and a national champion of Physics Olympiad.

He was one celebrity whose Instagram account wasn’t flooded with flashy images of vacations and luxury. His Instagram posts were mainly motivational quotes, physics, astronomy and stars. For a young celebrity, his bucket list was one many would have considered “off” and “boring”.

He wanted to attend another NASA workshop. Teach coding to the visually impaired. Train women in self-defense. Finish reading every Resnick-Halliday physics text. Sushant was a rare blend of academic aptitude and artistic achievements. He was a youth icon, an inspiration to the young people of India.

It was reported that he had suffered depression for a long time. Since he left no suicide note, there have been speculations as to what motivated the suicide. Chief of these speculations is “professional rivalry”, which may or may not be correct. Sadly, we can never know the (whole) truth.

His demise spurred me to carry out some research, for I couldn’t understand why such a handsome bundle of creativity and brilliance would kill himself. I wanted to know the views of doctors, mental health experts, psychiatrists concerning the case.

Depression is much deeper and complex than what many perceive it to be. For the depressed, there is a constant tussle for peace. Their mind is plagued by an inexplicable chaos. Thus, I feel that with the rise in depression and suicide, it is time to add a fourth dimension to the major components of intelligence. Discussions on intelligent quotient (IQ), emotional quotient (EQ) and social quotient (SQ) are no longer enough; it’s time we talk about adversity quotient (AQ).

If intelligence quotient measures comprehension ability, emotional quotient measures the ability of one to maintain peace with others, and social quotient measures the ability of a person to build and maintain relationships, then what is adversity quotient? Mental health experts calls adversity quotient the science of resilience. It measures an individual’s ability to withstand challenges without breaking.

It is said that people who have high emotional and social quotients tend to go farther in life than those having only high IQ. This is true. However, it is important to note that a person with high intelligence, emotional and social quotients will always be fettered to the ebbs of life as long as their adversity quotient is low. IQ represents intelligence; EQ, character; and SQ, charisma. Sushant possessed these, yet didn’t have the strength to go through life. 

So as we encourage children to be scholars, to be responsible members of the society, and to form useful relationships, we should also prepare them for adversity. We should teach them that the most important feature of life is its vicissitudes: its inherent nature to move between highs and lows. This means that life revolves around seasons. A season of adversity shouldn’t break an individual because seasons are temporary. This is why I do not fret about the Covid-19 pandemic; it will pass.

Acknowledging adversity and its temporariness is a sure way to develop AQ. So are we building the adversity quotient of our children? Are we solely focused on their intelligence, character and charisma? Are we building roads for them without building them for the roads? Are we training them to be multifaceted beings who are able to withstand adversity and come out strong?

What are we building?

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