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

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

By Vishalkirti

Disclaimer: I am NOT talking on behalf of Sushant Singh Rajput’s father (my father-in-law). This is an independent 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) and the last time I met him in July 2017, he was with Kriti. All of us were very fond of Kriti as well.

Sushant, Kriti, Shweta and I in July 2017

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. 



Rajesh Kumar is an Indian photographer, digital marketer, social media influencer, business development consultant, and PR expert. He is best known for brand building, digital media marketing, online sales & project management and affiliate marketing and has over two decades of experience as a digital marketer.