Growing up, the youngest in our Indian family remained oppressive, giving everyone a survival instinct.
My uneducated parents abused my sister and me often. Brothers ran the family. Older brothers from an early age were manipulative and controlling. Parents relied on them for everything. My brothers made significant decisions.
In 1988, my hated father hung himself. The eldest took on the role of Dictator, and my other brother relished becoming Judge and Executioner. My role, the subjugated, deserving punishment. My sister, taking sides with whoever favoured her.
Whilst growing up at home, I hid my sexuality. How until my early 30s is a mystery? One day, the Dictator spied on me and discovered my secret. I didn’t deny it and received a slack punch to my face and angry rant.
Several years passed with the Dictator, ignoring my sexuality, at least that is what I thought. I made a few friends, one of whom stayed my friend and saviour until his death 25 years later. Dr Michael Ford, a devout Roman Catholic. Soon, I realised, I wanted to become a Catholic.
Born a Sikh. On 23rd December 1994, the Birmingham Oratory confirmed me as a Roman Catholic. Gloves off, the family were fuming.
My personal pain came from the dis-belief that a man of Indian descent could be gay and not follow his own religion. My actions had caused cultural chaos and infiltrated an unspeakable taboo. Thereafter, the Dictator expressed his disgust of me, with carp comments when he was not being dismissive. But, the Judge and Executioner took great delight in making crass comments, to visitors.
I thought they had a free pass to mistreat me. After this, the veiled boundaries disappeared. Thereafter, to survive the misery, much of my time was at my friend’s house, my sanctuary. The family hated it. At home, I lived a recluse in my bedroom and furnished it with what I required. This contributed to my debt.
Time passed and the Heran household became no more contented. The Dictator got married. His wife, a veterinary surgeon, usurped the mother-in-law and claimed matriarch of the household. She attempted to join her husband and her brother-in-law, the Judge and Executioner in subjugating me. She had lived in the house for a month before succumbing to the evil vibe. For the next two years, she and I were enemies, and she accused me with several lies. The nature of the Heran household is poisonous. The contagion of evil that beleaguers them, smites.
Two years later, I came home after work and saw my sister-in-law leaving with her three young children for a women’s refuge. I gave her my mobile telephone number, never expecting to hear from her again. She left her husband, beginning of June 2001, not returning to him until a decade later.
My friend Michael helped me escape home, 14th June 2001. Circumstances had taken a turn for the worse, and it had become untenable for me to live there any longer. Staying may have led to me completing suicide. They issued ultimatums and unreasonable conditions for living at home. Michael convinced me leaving was the best thing to do.
I left everyone for the first time. From then, I had no family, and it scared me, not knowing how I’d cope. There was no going back now.
After two weeks, a call on my mobile telephone caught me off guard. It was my sister-in-law. We talked, she had heard of me leaving home, and she provided a glimpse into her new life. We met in secrecy alone and with her children until autumn 2017. She told no one. On her mobile telephone, my details disguised under a woman’s name. Perfect.
I didn’t consider I shall despise 2016 for eternity. One Sunday night in March, I bid Michael good night. The next day, it emerged he had dementia and lymphoma affecting both sides of his brain. No one diagnosed this. As if overnight, someone or something had flicked a switch. Seven weeks from diagnosis to death. Four weeks at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, 12 days palliative care at home. I took leave from work and cared for him. I watched him die.
In tears, I went over to Michael’s bed and hugged his lifeless body. I kissed over his face. Then, I kissed him again on the lips, sucking in the last of his breath. I wanted Michael within me, his essence and to die.
The next afternoon, people from the funeral parlour arrived to take Michael’s body away. For the last time I hugged Michael again, kissed him on the lips, and sucked in any remaining breath from his body. I watched them removed his body, place it in a body bag and drive off with Michael in the back, a piece of cargo.
We planned Michael’s funeral to take place just after mid-May. Two days before, the undertakers took Michael’s body to the local funeral parlour. I had my first opportunity to see him lying there in the coffin, a surreal and chilling moment. Accompanied this time, I visited alone the next day. As intended, I arrived at the funeral parlour. Michael lay in his coffin with a white linen sheet covering him halfway up to his chest. The undertaker had folded his arms. I touched his stony face. Leant inwards and kissed his forehead, then his lips. The taste and the touch of the formaldehyde made my lips tingle.
I took out Michael’s compact camera from my pocket and took 25 photographs of Michael in his coffin. I took shots from various angles, including photographs of the coffin with the lid against the wall. The pictures were of Michael looking serene, sleeping. These are my pictures when memories fade.
The next day at the Birmingham Oratory, Michael’s funeral took place. Afterwards, at the crematorium, I had permission to go downstairs to the furnaces in which Michael would return to ash. I was there moments before the hydraulic pistons jettisoned Michael’s coffin into the fiery furnace. The metal door to the furnace slid upwards, the heat immense, and I had to take a step back and then whilst praying I touched Michael’s coffin and waited. After a moment, the coffin shot passed me. The metal door slid downwards.
The rest of 2016 was tumultuous. I was off work on bereavement leave, receiving counselling. I felt suicidal, so received psychiatric care. My behaviour was abysmal. Instead of accepting help, I rebelled. Paid lip service and told people what I thought they wanted. This steered me toward a downward spiral of uncontrollable destruction. I lied to everyone. With rage fuelling me, I had been planning my suicide for months.
In October, I went back to work after six months. It was a tough time. As days continued, my body was back at work, my mind elsewhere. So, I decided on my death day.
Off work, feigning sickness the next day, I asked God, Michael, the Saints and Souls in Heaven, and Satan to give me a sign if I was doing the wrong thing. Nothing. I proceeded with my suicide plan, having reached rock bottom.
My death day was to be Tuesday 1st November 2016, All Saints’ Day. On Wednesday, 2nd November 2016, All Souls Day, I was still breathing. Death rejected me. Wow, I was useless at suicide.
More psychiatric treatment, an eventual return to work. Reconciled to an unwanted life. A living hell. My needs, my desires, my personal ambitions, I gave them up on my death day.
In December 2016, I made an important decision. I contacted my sister-in-law and told her I had better reacquaint with the family now. Otherwise, I would lose courage forever. In January 2017, I met my mother and other family for the first time since leaving in 2001. Did I make the right decision? I expected the comments, but not resolute denial. The next day, I decided estrangement is better.
None of them accepted any responsibility for me leaving. Nobody understood why I had left. They still blamed me for everything, even when I said they drove me to it. They couldn’t fathom me not accepting to abide by their rules. Despite this, my mother took it upon herself to proclaim my return to everybody as if a celebrity. The wandering son had returned. A few days later she left for a pre-planned six-month trip abroad. During this time we spoke on the telephone and when she returned in July, I visited a few times, but each time I said why I left, she never accepted my reasons and turned it around to be my fault. So, I ignored further visiting requests because her charade of welcoming me hurt too much.
Start of September one morning, my brother discovered her unconscious in the shower. At the end of the month, she died never regaining consciousness. The last to know on the night she died. I visited on my own after midnight at the hospital. Saw my mother and prayed for her. Though, to this day, I’ve shed no tears.
Family relationships were very acrimonious, and both of my brothers showed how they didn’t want me. Said I’d only came back for money and property. They called me greedy and rejected me. My sister-in-law agreed.
Mother’s funeral was a sham. Sister-in-law and my aunt, who hated mother, took charge of the entire funeral arrangements. Many people shed their crocodile tears during the funeral.
With the funeral over, I left and am once more estranged. Michael always said never go back, and now it’s obvious why. Ingrained within the family is vitriol. It won’t ever go away. They dislike looking after their own and could not wait to sell off our mother’s estate.
Around winter 2017, I learned of several suicides because of mental health issues. People were relatives, and others. My cousin a pharmacist, and I realised the effect mental health was having on the minority ethnicities. Helpless, our emotions rising. This the catalyst to start my heart weeping and bleeding for people whom had surrendered to mental health. Eyes closed was not for me.
There are many mental health charities and organisations within the United Kingdom. They do wonderful work, saving countless lives. One notion struck a chord with me: Despite their outstanding work, people are still completing suicide. People from the Asian, Afro-Caribbean and other minority ethnicities. To admit someone within their family even in their household has a mental health issue is tantamount to mutiny because it regiments them in their beliefs and ways.
I am compelled to help the silent voices that have no hope, and think the shroud of death is their only way. I am compelled to do something, to advocate for the people whom cannot share their feelings and their pain and inner turmoil, even with their closest and loving family.
Besides other roles of mental health advocacy, I created my national mental health charity. This was no straightforward task, though I knew my heart and soul would go into it. I needed help, and it was coming. The way everything happened was remarkable.
One evening in late May 2017, I was looking through my emails and opened one to enter competitions for service professionals. Thinking I win nothing, I entered and won two. The first invited me to send a motivational piece of writing to include in a book for publication. The second competition win was to change my life. Serendipity had placed in my path, the required people and opportunity. I won a place on a Social Media program for Speakers, Authors, Coaches, and Service-Based Professionals. Then, by working with the creator of the program, the catalyst to succeed in gear.
I am a Bestselling Author in the Field of Business and my Mental Health Unlocked Charitable Foundation; LinkedIn Profile has garnered several thousand good connections because the message resonates. I am humbled at the response and am determined to keep living. I want to get my message out. Whatever happens, I must do everything I can. In my mind, I had given up my place in the universe and my rights. I need to try everything to get my mental health charity started with integrity and the professionalism required to help curb mental health’s voracious appetite of taking people’s lives.
I help people as best I can. There’s only me, I have no one. Mental Health Unlocked Charitable Foundation is my life. I devote myself to saving lives. My story continues, alas, for now it pauses. Soon we will discover how the story ends. Can it ever be that serendipity pours oil of vitriol over hope?
I welcome you. You humble me. I could not share my story without you. I am not hurting alone. You are too. Your story may be different; it may be similar.