DURBAN – ‘I WAS prepared to give my soul to the devil to take my child’s pain away,” said a grieving mother who fought the odds to save her gay son from heart-wrenching depression.
Nirupa Maharaj, 53, revealed the tragic events that ended with her son’s death.
“Parents need to listen to their children. We need to stop criticising and let people live,” she said.
In 1991, Maharaj, a single working mother, noticed her son, Akshay, was “different” as the 11-year-old loved being in the kitchen, playing with make-up and creating hairstyles.
“He was my life and it never bothered me, but because he was an introvert he was bullied and ostracised at school,” she said.
Akshay’s first suicide attempt, at 11, was at the Surat Hindoo School in Durban.
“My child left a suicide note at the prayer lamp which said he couldn’t live in this world any longer. I ran to the school from the city and hoped I would get there on time. I found Akshay as he was about to swallow headache tablets,” Maharaj said.
She said her child had battled with constant bullying, the lack of a father figure in his life and a struggle to accept his gay identity.
At high school he had a “tortuous” life and was physically beaten. Maharaj would hear him sob in his room but felt she could not ask him if he was gay because he needed to say it himself.
Maharaj said: “On a Sunday morning, when he was 16, I walked into the lounge and saw him start to panic and perspire. I asked him to talk to me and told him it didn’t matter who he was.
“He then sat on the floor with his head on my lap and burst into tears and said he was gay, ‘please forgive me’.”
After an emotional day, Maharaj assured her son she wouldn’t abandon him and she was his foundation.
In 2007, when Akshay, 24, returned from the UK after a hotel management internship, he became badly depressed.
“Being gay was more accepted in the UK but still a taboo in our community,” Maharaj said.
In October 2015, Akshay attempted suicide twice. He consumed all of his anti-depressants on the first attempt and later slashed his wrists with a scalpel.
On both attempts, Maharaj reached Akshay minutes before he could die.
“I saw my child lying on the hospital bed with a pipe in his throat and tears rolling from his eyes He asked me to forgive him, but I kept telling him I was his foundation. At one point in hospital he said I should smother him with a pillow,” Maharaj said, tears welling.
Akshay died this year on February 21.
“I had an intuition and ran to his flat which was in the same building, and called the police to open his door.
“The shrieking and banging still rings in my head. As I stormed the apartment I saw him lying on the kitchen floor. He had slipped on water, and died instantly from a gash on his forehead.
“I knew God wanted me to pick him up again, but this time to lay him to rest.”
Maharaj has urged parents and communities to accept differences in people.
For help with depression call the SA Depression and Anxiety Group: 0800708090