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.