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HindustanTimes Wed,24 Sep 2014

O Captain, My Captain: Dear Robin Williams, you changed my life

Vishakha Saxena, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 12, 2014
First Published: 16:01 IST(12/8/2014) | Last Updated: 01:14 IST(13/8/2014)

I tried hard not to cry at work as I thought about Robin Williams.
 
In almost every role he played, Williams made his way to people's hearts. Even as the creepy, lonely man in One Hour Photo, who collected photographs of a random family he came to like, he was just the lovable and innocent man struggling with his loneliness. We all have our demons after all, don't we?

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Read: Celebs pay tribute to Robin Williams
 
When younger, I was this short, bespectacled, squinty-eyed girl who struggled with people. I remember a time when I was told I was too dark to be friends with. Later, my eye was too squinted for them. Who wants to talk to 'looking London talking Tokyo' anyway? It would be an understatement to say it didn't get under my skin. My confidence took the worst hit. I was too 'ugly' for friends, for dreams and I had no one to smack my head and tell me otherwise.
 
I had just gotten to Class 11 when I saw Dead Poets Society for the first time. I had heard a lot about it, but never really cared much until one bored night. And it might sound like a cliché but Williams changed my life. The English teacher who taught his students to chase their dreams, to believe in themselves and more than anything, identify themselves, inspired me too.

Read: Depression and death: What pushes Robin Williams of the world?
 
I cried when Neil took the gun to his head. I cried harder when half his class stood on their desks chanting 'O Captain! My Captain!' as Williams’ Mr Keating was forced to say goodbye. I learnt that life was not about validation - from anyone. Am I perfectly sure of myself now? Maybe not, but I don't second guess myself every step of the way. And therein lays the beauty of Williams and his acting.
 
For me and many others, I'm sure, 'carpe diem' means what it does because of Williams.
 
It wasn't until I saw a friend's tweet "He did not die. He got sucked into a board game. Don't you all worry." that I finally cried. Not for an actor who took his life, but for a human being who spread smiles and fought his depression with laughter, as long as he could. I cried for thousands of others who turned to his performances to get over their depression - even if just for a little while. I cried for myself and the dreams that I'm busy chasing.

Read: Robin Williams, a comic supernova felled by depression

 
"Remember, suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems," says Williams over and over in a Vine that went viral after news that the actor was found dead in his California home on Monday.
 
But don't remember Williams as someone who committed suicide. Remember him as the man who changed lives, unknowingly, with his humour and his beautiful acting.
 
Finally, don't let the last words you hear from him be those from the Vine.
 
"What's right is what's left if you do everything else wrong." - Robin Williams

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