Spinning a rainbow of hope

Spinning a rainbow of hope

Prachi Raturi Misra 

White flowers, his favourite cake, lots of candles and some of his favourite people. Everyone ringed in his 18th birthday on 8 April with the joy and love he thrived on. The only one missing was him.

“When I saw him smile in the picture, I reminded myself he was hopefully in a better place,” says Aarti Malhotra, Arvey’s mother who lost her only child to suicide in February 2022.

“Arvey was ragged and sexually assaulted in school for being him,” she says. Battling depression, fighting alienation, disrespect and hurt, he couldn’t take the pain anymore.

“He loved to paint his nails, write, sing. My son taught me that makeup has no gender, colours shouldn’t be defined by gender and being you is the only way to be,” says the art teacher who is now fighting a case with a well-known school in Faridabad where her son was to appear for his board exams.

And if there is anything this massive loss has taught Aarti, a single mother since her divorce when her son was all of six months, it is to carry on her son’s love for life and fight for the rights of other children like her son.

Passing on the light

There are days when she feels all broken and there are days when she feels all brave. But if there is one thing common in each day since her son left her, it is the hope that tomorrow will be a better day for the queer community.

So besides fighting the legal battle, Aarti always finds time to support queer community and their families.

“I recently had a girl call up and tell me that she was battling severe suicidal thoughts. But when she saw how broken a mother can be after the loss of her child, she decided never to take that path. Her words felt like a balm to my soul. I can’t tell you how peacefully I slept that night imagining her with her family, probably cuddled next to her mother,” smiles Aarti.

In fact, why just the community even their families have been reaching out to Aarti who does all she can to hold their hand through this journey.

Of course, it is not easy for a parent. “When Arvey opened up to me the first time, it was something new for me. And no, acceptance wasn’t a cakewalk. But what was important for me as a mother was to be there for my child. After all isn’t that what every parent wants for their child? If I didn’t support him, how would I expect anyone else to?”

Closing of generation gap, she says is extremely crucial for a healthy parent child relationship. This will not only help both of you feel closer but also help your child navigate what he/she feels with your support.

“The child should always have the confidence to share his/her thoughts with the parent. Mine did and I am sure it helped him wade through his journey a little better.

“Arvey and I were very close as mother and son. Our home was our safe haven. From painting together to watching movies, talking, discussing, there was so much we did together,” says Aarti.

And whenever she feels lost without her child, she sees hope when she helps another child like hers, struggling with acceptance or more.

Holding on to hope

This one is a memory that she holds on to, most dearly. And it is as fresh and alive as the smell of Arvey’s favourite jasmine flowers in the still of the night.

And unlike his chocolates in the refrigerator that had expiry dates or his art supplies and nail paint, which will dry up, sooner than later, this one will live on, like the innumerable others that a mother carries with her.

“This is from during the days he was battling depression and it was a day I felt particularly lost and hopeless. And though I keep my troubles to myself, that particular day, he noticed me feeling low. He came close to me, smiled his sweet smile, a twinkle in his eyes and sang, “Everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be ok”. And instantly, I remember feeling better. He asked me, mamma do you like the song. Of course, I did, I told him. And that is when he told me he wrote it,” she says sounding stronger than ever.

And even now, 15 months since he has been gone, this song, still gives her hope. “I think of that smile, that beautiful soul that he carried within and I still find hope.”

Her life she says has a different meaning now. Besides making sure she passes on a strong message to authorities and the society about ragging, bullying and shaming queer people, she also hopes she can help to dispel some stigma.

“I am just a mother trying to get my child the justice he deserves. Because no Arvey deserves to go through what my child did,” she says.

Getting help is crucial

“Even though we are parents, we need to know that we are not experts at everything.

“If we notice a sudden change in our child’s behaviour, we need to seek advice from an expert.

“We reached out to a psychologist as well as a psychiatrist. In fact, Arvey showed tremendous improvement. There was a phase when he was out of depression and he said, he wanted to help other children who were suffering from mental health challenges,” recalls Aarti.

“The ultimate challenge came in the form of a chapter on ragging. That brought back ugly memories of his own traumatic experience,” Aarti shares.

What is most needed besides the family being supportive, is support and help from the society.

Educational institutes, the civil society, everyone needs to be more sensitised.

“Only if everyone spent a little more time teaching themselves and their children a little more about how diverse the world is, it would definitely be a better place for a child like mine,” she signs off.

A mother speaks

  • Try and bridge the generation gap. Sit with your child. Let him/her educate you about something you don’t know. 
  • Give your child the confidence to open up to you. Sometimes all they need is someone to listen, rather than a solution. 
  • Be vigilant of a change in your child’s behaviour. He/she/they could be going through something and your support could make the situation a little less challenging.
  • Seeking mental health support from an expert when you see trouble, is a great idea. You do rush your child to the doctor when he/she/they suffer from a fever, ache, etc, right? Please don’t ignore mental health. It is as important if not more than physical health. I have borne the brunt.