Sushant and his love for books

Before I get into the details of Sushant and books, I want to acknowledge the wonderful work of Sushanta Roy, the sculptor from Asansol (West Bengal), who has won millions of hearts by immortalizing Sushant with a wax statue. The coincidence that the creator and the created bear almost the same name is also charming.

It is evident from Sushant’s well-documented life and interviews that he was a bibliophile and a “real” intellectual.

I have written this before in one of my posts that both in-person and over the phone, Sushant and I have talked about various books, from some legendary classics to the more contemporary non-fiction. I am a voracious reader as well and I read almost ONLY non-fiction. For the most part, Sushant was also heavily invested the world of non-fiction.

When I was going over my texts with him, I noticed that we talked about books and authors over WhatsApp as well. It’s nice that I have those messages since unfortunately we don’t have recordings of our in-person conversation about books.

Although the WhatsApp conversations I am sharing below are private and 1:1, I am willing to share them because they don’t share any personal information. It’s something he could have very well spoken about in the public domain. These conversations are around from the same time (April 2018) when Sushant had penned down some notes, which have somehow been obtained by media from his Pawna farmhouse. I have terminated the screenshots when we started talking about life outside of books. We will leave the rest of the story for some other time. Sushant and Shweta also talked about books but I could not help but notice that their common interest topics were very different from Sushant and mine. That was Sushant’s beauty- he was interested in everything, while I on the other hand, don’t venture into certain non-fiction territories and stick to my preferred genres. The common topics of interest for these lovely siblings is also a post for some other day. Meanwhile, I welcome you to enjoy some intellectual banter in Sushant’s memory below and you will realize that Sushant was very interested in interdisciplinary studies.

Three months since the unimaginable loss

I wrote a long post about the paid PR gimmicks which I have been observing lately but decided to scrap it.

Instead of talking about the case, I will reminisce about a couple of things. Since my wife and I don’t live in India, we used to catch up with Sushant over FaceTime or WhatsApp. Here is a cute screenshot of one of our FaceTime conversations.

Every now and then, I will share some sweet memory of Sushant with the “Extended Family” so that we slowly heal while the fight for justice is on. Needless to say, we are so thankful for the support we have received from the #Warriors4SSR in the pursuit of justice.

What’s happened is so surreal that we are partly still in trauma. Every now and then, we smile and laugh about something our children do and a wave of guilt takes over. We question ourselves if we have the permission to smile when we have lost our brother. It will take us a long while before we go back to normal and I am pretty sure we will never be back to the status quo, but we will keep trying to heal and hopefully time will help.

As for a sweet anecdote, when Shweta and I started dating in college, Sushant, playing a typical protective brother, questioned my intentions for his sister. We assured him that we were serious about the relationship but he was only fully convinced when I came down from the US to marry Shweta, after a short stint with long distance relationship. Rest is history!

Happy with the latest developments

Some people think that the drug angle is a distraction from the homicide case however I beg to differ. Drugs and homicide have gone hand-in-hand for ages. I am pretty confident that the drugs angle, in addition to other investigations CBI is doing, will lead to the answer to many questions which everyone is wondering about.

That being said, very happy with the arrests made so far and hope that these arrests will lead to more revelations which is what we want.

My only concern is if people in high places can still add impediments to the progress since I have noticed in the last few days that the Twitter bots and Twitter paid PR have gotten extremely active and increasingly nasty. I choose to stay optimistic, going into this weekend. I am sure Sush is smiling from upstairs as well, happy that things are progressing.

Cheers from Sush. A rare picture where Sushant wore my daughter’s hairband for fun!

Five times my wife left me behind in America to be with her brother

It sounds like I am complaining that she left me behind but I am not. This is an appreciation of the strength of the Singh Rajput family bond I have seen over the years.

2014

In 2014, we were slated to visit India over the summer break. However, Shweta got to know that a family function was being organized to celebrate Rani Didi and Jiju’s wedding anniversary and Sushant would be attending as well. She canceled her summer ticket and rushed to India at short notice. I joined her next month in June with my daughter and spent some quality time with Sushant as well.

2015

In 2015, Shweta left with our son and visited Sushant in Ranchi where he was shooting for the movie MS Dhoni.

2016

In 2016, it was decided that the entire Singh Rajput family would watch the movie MS Dhoni together. Again at very short notice, Shweta made a 3-day trip from the US to India, just to watch the movie together as a family and celebrate Sushant’s success. She spent 2-days flying and 3-days in India with the entire family. Can you imagine the jetlag?

Shweta, Sushant and Meetu Di in October 2016

2017

Thankfully, she didn’t leave me behind this time around and we all got to hang out with Sushant!

2020

In January 2020, she left without me again at short notice after being informed that Sushant is visiting Chandigarh. Alas, he was under such circumstances that she didn’t even get to meet him and by now everyone knows why. And finally, during COVID times, she rushed as soon as logistically possible to India after the news on June 14th, to give a loving sendoff to her precious brother.

It’s sad that she won’t be making such trips anymore (the happy ones, prior to 2019) because the shining star of the family is gone. It hurts me when aspersions are cast on a wonderful family like Sushant’s. My wife is a married professional businesswoman living in the US with two kids (it’s a very busy lifestyle) but she prioritized to be with her family when the family needed her, despite all the limitations. Such is the Singh Rajput family!

PS: Those who don’t live in the US running 2 businesses with a working professional spouse and 2 kids, don’t try to undermine the effort because you won’t understand the challenges of setting everything aside at short notice, to travel to India to meet an extremely busy movie actor. The emphasis here is on trips without me to meet Sushant. There were countless logistical issues between our children’s school schedules, my office schedule, Shweta’s business schedules and all this overlapping with Sushant’s availability when he was drowning in work. That’s why these short notice trips were made to align with Sushant’s availability.

My bias

The last blog I wrote received a lot of positive response. However, an extremely small minority complained about bias in my writing.

I am writing a quick response to that. Before I respond to the critics, I want to thank the supporters and warriors for supporting the family and Sushant all along.

I have made this clear that I was not in the loop completely as far as happenings with Sushant is concerned for the last one year, except for some details. So, I am also learning new facts everyday. But if I have to form an opinion based on the facts, I will obviously have bias in the support of my wife’s family and bias against the prime accused. I will obviously follow the line of thinking in my father-in-law’s FIR. Most of the facts out now have already confirmed my bias to be correct.

Sushant and my son in 2015 in Ranchi while he was shooting for the movie Dhoni there

No matter how much objectivity I can claim, there will be some bias in my writing and I should be allowed that. The man who passed away was my children’s uncle, my wife’s brother and someone whom I have known for over 22 years, not a random Film Actor that I should stay unbiased. Let me have my biases while the investigation is ongoing. And I trust the investigative agencies to bring out the truth and confirm my biases to be correct to the full degree.

Satyameva Jayate!

In the defense of the family

Disclaimer: Whatever I write below is my personal analysis, supported by conversations with family members and information in the public domain. Sushant did not speak to me about any of these topics on a 1:1 basis. Also, as always, I am not speaking on behalf of my father-in-law.

Another workweek comes to an end for me and I get a breather to write what many have been asking me to write; sorts of a rebuttal to the infamous interviews of the prime suspect who is currently under investigation by three central agencies- ED, CBI and NCB.

It was a busy week for us since both of our children started the new school year, with the older one going into 7th grade, while the younger one starting Kindergarten. On top of work, home and children, we must keep an eye on the investigation and note the progress. We are also closely watching the narrative in the media and we noticed that as soon as the drug angle came into the picture and CBI summon for the prime suspect was imminent, the accused’s PR machinery got activated.

Legally, the suspect has the right to do all the interviews she desires to do. What was shocking to see was the tone of the interviews. There were no rebuttals to unsatisfactory answers and no desire to get to the truth. The whole idea was to provide a platform so that she can tell a story. In addition to the interviews, I am noticing that the “accused friendly” tv channels have sprung into action to set a different narrative. One must seriously question what the incentives are. Hypothetically, I can argue that this happened as soon as the drug angle came into the picture. Presumably, the names of the big “aakas” could come out and these “chamchas” have sprung into action to save their masters’ backs?

Sushant with his mother and sisters

Coming to the rebuttals themselves. There are many to offer but I will offer a select few.

First, a big disclosure has been made by sources in CBI to an honest media house that moments before Sushant’s reported time of death, he was looking at properties in Himachal, Kerala and Coorg on his search engine. Mumbai Police mislead the entire country with a lie that he was searching for terms like “painless death” before the reported time of death, according to the channel. This has been such a massive cover-up by the Mumbai police that now is the right time to set the record straight. I am a champion of mental health initiatives and have read scores of books on different aspects of mental health, including looking into DSM-5. But in this case, mental health is being used by the accused as a cover-up for a crime. Whether it’s a murder or an Abetment to Suicide case, why was the Mumbai police misleading the public? This is how I am recommending people to look at this case while the investigation is ongoing. If it was a suicide, it was induced by criminal forces (whether it’s unnecessary prescription drugs (or illegal drugs), blackmail or “real” death threats, we will find out soon) and if it’s a murder, then it’s self-explanatory.

Second, the accused’s definition of depression seems very self-serving. I noticed in the interviews that the accused kept bringing up “going to Coorg” as a sign of depression and she would call the infamous psychiatrist to obtain meds for him as soon as Sushant brought up “going to Coorg”. Looks like the moment talks of Coorg came up, the accused’s rebuttal was gaslighting (one type of gaslighting is making someone believe that they have mental health issues and need medication when things are not going according to the gaslighter’s self-serving plans). Even if we believe that Sushant used to have “criminally induced” depressive episodes, talks of Coorg and throwing the accused out of the home seem like an improvement in condition and a threat to the accused and the accused reacted by attempting to drug him again. The narrative which the accused and the “chamcha” channels are trying to set is that it was a suicide because Sushant was not taking his genuine prescribed medications for a non-criminally induced mental health issue and the suicide happened because of the withdrawal effects of prescription medication. The real narrative seems to be that Sushant started improving starting mid-May as soon as he stopped getting criminally drugged. Everything was an uphill since mid-May until the accused started pulling some blackmailing punches. The accused seems to have taken Sushant’s laptops, his old cell phones and other devices with her when she left the home on June 8th. What was on those devices? In addition to the mental health reports, what else was she blackmailing Sushant about? The accused has been caught red-handed talking to her stooges and trying to change Sushant’s debit card pins right around the time he started improving and wanted to throw the accused out of the house.

Third, let’s talk about confinement and control. Confinement and control are the strengths of a sociopath. The accused says in the interview that my three sisters-in-law who went to Waterstone Resorts (which is emerging as a drug venue for the accused and her stooges) left on the same day and did not stay over and that seems to be because of familial relationship problems. The real story is that though Sushant got his and his sisters’ tickets booked for Chandigarh (since he wanted to go back with them), he ultimately succumbed to the blackmailing tactics of the conspirators and got his tickets cancelled. And this is how confinement and control look like. Someone wanting to leave but held hostage with some form of control. I am glad that my sisters-in-law didn’t stay there with the accused and her stooges. Who knows what new charges she could have drummed up against my sisters-in-law, given that we know the accused’s capacity to create problems between Sushant and family by making up allegations? Same story in January 2020 when the accused forced Sushant to come back by using her specialty of control, over the phone.

Fourth, the accused said that Sushant didn’t have a good relationship with his father because his father had left him when he was young. The real story is that my father-in-law went to Delhi to live with Sushant and Priyanka Di while Sushant was attending a high school in Delhi and Priyanka Di was in college. To me, this is a sign of a father dedicated to his children’s education. My wife was attending high school in the best school in Patna and my late mother-in-law stayed back in Patna so that my wife could finish her schooling. All I can see is middle class parents making sacrifices to expose their children to the best opportunities and as a matter of fact Sushant’s father was living with him and supporting him. Why is she cooking up stories about father abandoning his son?

Fifth, let’s talk about weed. The accused’s defense after all her drug chat leaks is that it was Sushant who was doing the weed (and the accused and her stooges were only procuring it for him , the accused didn’t accept it in the interview but she cannot deny the procurement either since she has been caught red-handed with her messages). This is such a hogwash that I cannot help but roll on the ground holding my stomach. Even if we accept for a moment that it was Sushant who was doing it, what kind of partner procures drugs for their loved ones when the accused is claiming that she has never done drugs in her life. It means one of the two things. Either the accused was pushing drugs on Sushant (proving the FIR charges) or it was the accused who was doing the drugs.

Finally, let me talk about my sister-in-law Meetu Di. I noticed that the accused was trying to pass on the ball to Meetu Di when it came to the question as to what happened between June 8th and 14th. It was a calculated move, trying to deflect the blame. For starters, we are all so thankful to Meetu Di that she was physically there for Sushant when nobody else was. Now that I think about it, living in that house with the accused’s stooges was nothing short of dangerous. What the accused should tell the CBI is if she met or communicated with Sushant (after Meetu Di left on the 12th) and blackmailed him more or that was not needed because the accused knew that something bad is going to happen to Sushant as soon as Meetu Di left.

There are countless other things which the CBI/ED/NCB will figure out- from who is paying for the accused’s super expensive lawyer to why presumably an agency was charging Sushant crores and then transferring back some of it to the accused’s account. I don’t think these interviews are going to prevent her arrest, but it was a failed attempt to change the narrative. Closing with the accused’s own favorite statement- “Satyameva Jayeta”

Please don’t ask me for clarifications

I have noticed that a lot of people are asking me for clarifications and details about Sushant’s death case. I have been asked questions on post-mortem and other specific questions.

I want to tell you that I don’t know a lot of details myself just like you guys and I am not asking those questions to family in India on purpose. Everyone is stressed and I don’t want to add more to it.

Whatever I write on this blog is based on my relationship and chemistry with Sushant and some second-hand information I might have gotten from the FIR, public domain, and conversations with the family members. I was not in touch with Sushant on a one-on-one basis after Rhea came into his life in 2019. I was in regular touch with him for 12 years before that though, since my wedding. Chronologically, we were friends from 1997-2007 and family members 2007 onward and it was only since 2007 that we called and texted each other regularly, and met occasionally, until 2019.

On a lighter note, here are a few videos from my wedding reception in June 2007. Sushant was a 21-year-old chap then but had the body language of a celebrity even back then. Some pleasant memories in the middle of this chaos.

Sushant and the journey of the middle class

Sushant’s family was never in the limelight on purpose. While he was alive, the family deliberately stayed away from media. Other than occasional conversations about him with friends, very few actually knew that we were his kin. This setup was by design. It kept the relationship clean and honest. We didn’t use the social currency of his association and he enjoyed spending time with us without any burden.

After his unfortunate demise, the family has to step out and defend his legacy and fight for justice. This exposes the family to public, media and scrutiny. We are very thankful for all the support we have received. Family members have started off from middle class and while Sushant reached new heights of stardom and fame, his other family members also progressed to upper middle class and higher economic ladders, on their own merit.

And this is what resonates with the public. Sushant and his family represent the aspirations of India. Sushant and his family represent self-reliance, hard work, economic progression; the great Indian dream.

What happens when the middle class dreams are shattered or when dreams are achieved and then everything is taken away. It shatters the faith of millions of middle-class families. This is why India is hurting so much because it almost feels like the systems in place could not protect this boy from middle class who had made a respectable mark for himself. People are wondering if such a successful person cannot be protected and served justice, will a common man ever be?

I hope that Sushant is served justice, not just for his and his family’s sake but for the sake of over billion Indians, who are dreaming together a new, more self-reliant India, because what has happened is so symbolic that it is no longer only about Sushant. I have a strong feeling that justice will be served because the current situation is very similar to the prerequisite for justice as quoted by Benjamin Franklin- “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

Two months and counting since that fateful night.

We were fast asleep on the night of 13th June which was a Saturday night in the US and Sunday (14th June) afternoon in India. I usually put my phone on Airplane mode on weeknights so that I don’t get disturbed in the middle of the night. My wife turns on the vibrate mode on her phone at night. However, on weekends, I leave my phone on the vibrate mode sometimes instead of putting it on the Airplane mode. The dreadful calls started coming in at around 2 am PST (2:30 pm IST). The phone was away from the bed and of course, I had no idea who was calling and why continuously but I could hear the nonstop vibrations. Annoyed, I got up to check and at that moment, the world came tumbling down. Before I talked to anyone, I read the text messages which were flashing on the screen. Many people including family members were trying to reach us and many friends were asking if the news was fake. I checked the news and was horrified to read that Sushant had allegedly taken his life. I ran over to Shweta’s phone on the other side of the bed and noticed a plethora of missed calls and text messages on her phone as well. And that’s when I did one of the toughest things I have had to do in my life, break the news to Shweta. I cannot forget her reaction and her first conversation with Rani Di. It broke my heart to listen to them crying on the phone and that night changed our lives forever as we knew it.

We started making phone calls and planning our travel to India. We were up all night trying to figure out all the details. We realized that because of COVID-19, it’s incredibly hard to travel or to even get a flight ticket to India. Eventually, with the help of friends in the Bay Area, we found one seat for Shweta on a San Francisco-Delhi flight on the 16th of June. The morning was even more challenging since we had to break this news to our children, Sushant’s niece, and nephew.

Why am I sharing all of this? I am sharing this because it’s been two months since that fateful night and we are still struggling. Emotions are still high and eyes are still watery.  What was taken away from us that night is hard to express in words. Our lives will never be the same again. However, we hope that an unbiased investigation would shed light on what transpired and perhaps give us some closure so that we can focus on cherishing his memories instead of always wondering what exactly happened with Sushant and why he could not be saved. Hence, my appeal to everyone is to keep pressing for truth so that not only us but all of Sushant’s supporters and well-wishers can find peace. 

manishcamera 349

In closing, I am sharing one of my favorite pictures with Sushant. I have many pictures of him but this one is close to my heart because it always reminds me of how sensitive and respectful Sushant was. In the capacity of my brother-in-law, he was supposed to do a ritual at my wedding where he would pull me with my  “dupatta”. I don’t remember what the point of the ritual was but I do remember Sushant being uncomfortable about pulling me in that manner and I had to encourage him to do it and had to ensure him that I did not mind that at all.  Only then did he perform the ritual. Always smiling, always compassionate, that’s the memory I have of him. 

 

The toxic underbelly of journalism coming out to appease their masters?

Disclaimer: I am NOT talking on behalf of Sushant Singh Rajput’s father (my father-in-law). This is an independent opinion. Also, I am NOT a mental health professional so whatever I write about mental health is my own understanding, so please do not use it as an expert opinion.

It’s Saturday here in the US and I received several messages regarding an article by one Jyoti Yadav which said that “the way Sushant’s family has reacted says a lot about the burden of being a son in a Bihari family”. It also said, “What has escaped popular attention is the toxic family structure of cow-belt India, especially Bihar, and how it treats its precious sons”. I wanted to let it go since, despite the tragedy in the family, I have to work just like many of Sushant’s other family members and after a long work-week, I was reluctant about addressing these issues. But decided otherwise since I found out that this was affecting not only my loved ones but people from Bihar in general.

Let me say at the outset that the aforementioned article is unintelligent in many ways and is extremely offensive, not only to Sushant’s family but to Indian families in general. I will address them one by one. Let this be a warning to the unsophisticated writers to not indulge in a disingenuous analysis of the situation.

First, let me handle the mental health piece. 

I have already written a long blog post chiding Barkha Dutt on her handling of the situation here: Barkha, Sushant is NOT the opportunity to spread awareness about mental health! I explain why.  In my post, I had written a paragraph that was fairly kind to Susan because many others don’t even believe her credentials or her story.  Quoting the paragraph here- “My third point is a question on the validity of Susan’s claims. Diagnosing mental disorders is an arduous task and diagnosing someone Bipolar (I or II) is even more so. Not only do you have to observe the person very closely, but you also have to observe them over long periods of time (it takes six years on average to diagnose after the onset of symptoms). Susan very conveniently diagnoses Sushant in less than two months (perhaps over a couple of appointments), with a life-changing diagnosis. And then she has the audacity to disclose this information in the public domain. If we are to believe Susan, another thing which does become clear is that it was Rhea indeed who was seeking treatment for Sushant and not Sushant himself. Prior to October/November 2019 (and certainly prior to meeting Rhea), as far as I know, no one who has lived with Sushant has ever complained about his mental health, nor has Sushant himself.”

Jyoti interpreted it to say that Vishal cannot believe that Sushant was depressed. She also adds, “The fact that the family doesn’t want to accept that their son could have been depressed even after his death, shows how little they know about this issue”. First up, please read my post more carefully to understand what I have said about mental health. Mental health is an outcome of biology and the environment. Let’s just assume for a second (hypothetically) that Sushant was biologically predisposed for depression. You still need to understand the environmental factors which led to his alleged depression. If hostile environmental conditions are brought out in the FIR, that’s because Sushant’s family in India were aware of the situation created by Rhea and her stooges, as exposed in their complaints to the Bandra DCP in February 2020 and SOS calls Sushant gave to his family in November 2019, January 2020, and June 2020. Those hostile environmental conditions could include gaslighting, blackmailing, alienating, covert medication, overt overmedication, and so on. I am not saying that a very hostile environment is necessary for people to fall into depression but in this case, the presence of a hostile environment seems to ring true. If it is proven in the court of law without foul play that Sushant suffered from depression without any hostile conditions created by Rhea, then I will be the first one to accept it with dignity.  

The second aspect of mental health which Jyoti needs to learn about is what leads people to commit suicide. Depression does not necessarily lead people to suicide. There are millions of depressed people who live their lives without taking their lives. People who take their lives need to have three things in common according to the research done by famed scientist Thomas Joiner- capacity to inflict lethal harm to oneself, thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness ( leading to hopelessness).  Jyoti writes- “Sushant’s sister posted a picture on Instagram and wrote that he was not suffering from depression.” For starters, my wife Shweta did not say that. She shared a picture of Sushant’s near future plans from June end and mentioned that he was planning ahead. Planning ahead is a very positive sign of hopefulness. Though it does not guarantee, it still questions the prerequisite condition of hopelessness.

Second, let’s talk about the generalization of toxic Bihari families that can’t stand ‘girlfriends’

This is a preposterous generalization on many levels. Let’s start with Sushant. Many people know that Sushant dated Ankita for at least six years and they lived together for a good portion of that relationship. People have seen great pictures of Ankita and Sushant’s family together and almost everyone knows that some members of Sushant’s family, including my wife, are in constant touch with Ankita.

Sushant then presumably dated Kriti (although he did not explicitly mention that they were dating, so they might be just very good friends) and the last time we met him in July 2017, Kriti met with us as well. We were fond of Kriti too.

e693bead-747a-43b2-8e02-d4f4f47c76c0

This is where Jyoti’s stereotypical “toxic Bihari family” trope gets debunked. The FIR didn’t say that my father-in-law couldn’t stand Ankita. He actually adored Ankita and even stayed over in Mumbai with Ankita and Sushant. The FIR mentions one specific person called Rhea and giving it an anti-feminist flare is toxic journalism. 

Moving on to my family. I am from Bihar as well and my parents don’t have any toxic attitude towards my wife, who was also my girlfriend for nearly four years before I got married and we have been married for thirteen years.

Moving on to the state of Bihar in general. There are millions of well-educated middle-class families in Bihar where there is no toxic attitude towards their son’s girlfriends and spouses. I am sure there are some families with these attitudes but taking the experiences of some and painting it with a broad brush is another toxic journalism masterstroke. This perpetuates false narratives and incorrect stereotypes about families from Bihar and is cringeworthy and outright disgusting.

Finally, let’s talk about the familial disconnect

Jyoti writes, “A family cannot believe that a grown man doesn’t need a woman to tell him about his interaction with the world. A grown man can decide if he wants to distance himself from a toxic environment.”

Let me give you a perspective about human relationships Jyoti Yadav. A grown man can decide independently to distance himself from a toxic environment but a grown man can also be pressurized to distance himself from a healthy environment if there are enough incentives for the pressurizer and there are enough limitations on the part of the pressurized. Giving the FIR an anti-women color is not going to help women Jyoti Yadav.  This FIR is anti-Rhea and not anti-women and let it be proven in the court of law if it stands the ground.