India shed a few tears earlier this week on Monday when it learned of Saira Sirohi’s tragic suicide. Saira, just 16 years old, was a prodigious national-level swimmer who had amassed 110 medals across various age categories over the years. She had been identified as an elite talent, a future Olympics probable, and only some months ago, swam for 15 hours without stopping at her school pool in Ghaziabad covering a lung-busting 38 kilometres.
It’s not often that we post news to get you down, but we felt this tragedy merited some introspection for parents, teachers and coaches alike. We will never know why Saira did what she did, even more so because there had been no indication of her distress. But, sometimes, the amount of pressure we put on our children’s delicate shoulders is simply unacceptable.
In an age of all kinds of coaching, teaching and parenting – tiger, helicopter, lawnmower and what have you – spare a thought for our children who are subjected to various forms of explicit or tacit pressure. While Saira’s is a deeply saddening and extreme case, it’s a message for all of us to not try and live our dreams through our kids. Much as we would like them to ‘succeed’ – whatever that means to you – every person has his or her own destiny to chart out.
As mentors/influencers at the grassroots level in any sport, the most we can do is provide our guidance when solicited and offer a patient ear to what children are saying. Along the way, celebrate the victories, learn from the losses, and roll with the punches. Help them find happiness in the effort, not the results. Let them know that each one of them makes the world a special place. Be grateful that your children come to train with you every day. Spread the love. And before you’re off to bed today, send healing thoughts to Saira’s family, friends, teachers and coaches who have to somehow make sense of life and move on.
Farewell, Saira. Your loss is India’s too.