NARAYAN LAVATE, 89 YEARS OLD, said he went to the blood bank and told them: “Take all my blood!” It was January and he was standing in the middle of the room when he told me this, extending his arms out at the punchline. But this is not a joke. Narayan is serious, even though he seems, at times, like a performance artist. He wants to die. He has wanted to die since 1952; possibly before, but that is the first time, and only time, that he tried to kill himself by walking into the sea at Mumbai’s Girgaon Chowpatty, opposite his alma mater, Wilson College. He remembers this was at 11 pm. He was caught by some people who brought him back to solid ground and would not let him go in again. So he left, dejected. The first, of many rejections, in his pursuit of death.
Narayan has convinced his 80-year-old wife, Iravati, that pursuing death is a worthwhile enterprise. She laughs at his projects. When he showed me a circular that he had put together, offering the sum total of their savings to anyone who would kill them, she let out a loud laugh and said, “Really, he is a very funny man!” I first met the Lavates in January 2018 when I went to interview them for the media organisation I was working for at the time. Their candour on such a grim subject surprised me and soon I felt compelled to make a short film on them.
Narayan told me of another idea: asking the state to give him and his wife death in place of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi. If two people have to be killed, a man and a woman, he said, why not kill a different man and woman instead? One woman is as good, or bad, as another, and the same goes for men. When talking about potassium cyanide, a subject about which he seemed particularly enthusiastic, he cited “Hitler and his beloved Eva Braun,” who took this poison in 1945. That year, Narayan had turned 14.