Thursday, October 09, 2008

Death: Home Delivered

He was probably close to 80. Yellowed teeth (a few missing, probably 'coz they were too yellow), hollowed cheeks and grey hair so light, it was like a dense fog that settled over his scalp. 

He stopped me outside my gate. I presumed he wanted a lift somewhere.

"Can you do me a favour?"

His voice definitely didn't hide his smoking preference. It was a hoarse whisper at the loudest.

"Where are you heading towards?" he asked. 

"Oh, I am sorry, but I am just going to the junction. Not anywhere far."

I rarely like the prospect of giving lift to strangers. Humanitarian considerations have taken a quiet back seat, thanks to Bangalore newspapers.

"I want a small help from you. Can you buy me a pack of cigarettes?"

Now this was more than just a regular dilemma. This has become a moral issue. One of conscience. The man was obviously hiding his desire for nicotine from his family. Else I'm sure he'll have an able-bodied son or grandson to get this task done.

I decided to play the white samaritan.

"I am really sorry. You shouldn't probably be smoking at this age. Plus your family might not really like it. I'm sorry."

There. I have said it. Being someone who smokes a strict four cigarettes everyday (never less,  often more), it was a dire decision for me to make. Does it imply that I don't care about my health as I do about others'?

I brushed the dilemma off my white samaritan uniform. After all, he was pretty old. I wouldn't be smoking at that age. So it's best he too doesn't.

I couldn't get that old man out of my head. I kept thinking. He was asking out of possible desperation. A desperation for something that might seriously affect his health. Now if a packet of cigarette can have such an effect on me, what about euthenesia? Both are questions of personal choice. But to hand it to them, you need someone else.

Can I pull the plug on someone suffering from a possibly terminal disease?

I remain a huge advocate of euthenesia. I am ready to keep money aside for a flight to any country were euthenesia is legal, and get my plug pulled. But who will pull it? If my life doesn't go into progressively deeper ditches, I am sure none of my close family will.

And if ever someone asked me to stop his aching heart from its miserable journey, I don't think I can. There will be a dear someone, somewhere in the world who wants to see the ailing man live how much ever he can naturally. Who am I to decline their needs? Who am I to decline the dying man's needs?

See why this is a question of moral dilemma more than just of personal choice? There is no answer here. My hands are empty. Probably yours too.

As I came back after my short ride. The old man was still there. I don't think there passed anyone else who granted his wish. Will the cigarette pack make his today brighter and tomorrow pitch dark? Is that what he wants? Or a bleaky today and a bleakier tomorrow?

I didn't look at his face. I couldn't stand the question anymore. I was too scared.

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