Weekly Writing Challenge: From Mundane to Meaningful – The Suicide Mission

The inevitability of death is the only constant in our mundane existence, the one thing you can truly depend upon. Mathematically speaking, the probability of us dying eventually is always 1 – few events around us can make the same claim. Even though we tend to lose ourselves in our worldly affairs and ignore this reality from time to time, it always looms ahead of us, lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right time to make its move – you’ll never know what hit you when it finally grabs you by the throat, suffocating you, and sucking out every last vestige of life from your body. I’m sure most of us never want to grow old, never want to die, be immortal, but that is not the case. Death always finds a way to catch up to you when you least expect it. There, however, still exist individuals wishing to escape the drudgery of life, embracing death as a means to an end. These are people who have hit rock-bottom, and then some. Circumstances shove them in the middle of the fiercest sea-storm, miles away from the shore, and believe me they swim hard, waiting for the currents to subside, the huge waves to flatten out so that they can come up for some air, but that doesn’t happen, with nothing to keep them afloat, no one to throw them a life-saver, until all that is left for them is to take fate into their own hands, inhale one last painful breath, filling their lungs with water, burning their insides, and ending it all.

Yesterday was an extremely busy day at the office, what with all the business meetings and a work-load that knows no end. I ended up getting late (no surprises there), and it was almost 8:30 p.m. before I got up to leave for home. I headed into the pitch-black parking lot, finding my way to the car with the little light emanating from my cell phone. After putting my laptop bag in the back seat, I parked myself into the driver’s seat. The engine roared to life as I started it and gave it some gas. It was downright spooky in the parking lot so I hurriedly turned on the headlights. I put the car in reverse, took a slight turn to the left, shifted to first, and steered it towards the ramp. Once on the service road, I tried hard to maneuver my car through all the water that had accumulated on the road due to recent rains, all the while praying to God for saving me from any invisible potholes and open sewer-holes, and breathed a sigh of relief only after taking a u-turn onto the relatively-dry main road (i.e. Shahra-e-Faisal). I eased into the fast lane, all the while checking my rear-view and side mirrors for any rouge drivers in the insane traffic. Suddenly out of nowhere, a man jumped out from the shadows and started making his way towards the center of the road. The guy was thin, about 5′-8″, slightly balding with unkempt hair and wearing a dirty shalwar qameez. The only thing I could think was, “Has he lost his mind or has he gone blind?” I slowed down my car a bit to get a better look at what was unfolding right in front of me. What happened next was nothing short of insane. This man sat on the road and lay down on his back, as if it were his sofa at home, not caring for the cars speeding past towards and around him. He actually looked at peace with himself, a sad smile on his face, staring right into the eyes of his sorry existence as if mocking it, as if what he was about to do was going to liberate him. Thankfully, the speeding drivers saw him lying there and slowed down. A few motorcyclists stopped in the middle of the road and tried helping the man on his feet. He struggled, shrugged off the motorcyclists and pushed himself in front of a speeding Corolla in the next lane. It was at that exact moment that I had to take a right turn and the man slipped out of my peripheral vision. I do not know whether the car crashed into him or was the driver able to brake just in time. It was all I could think about when I reached home. I could feel the onset of a slight headache, my mind racing with questions that may never be answered. What happened to him? Did he survive? Why did he resort to such a thing? Was suicide the only way out? What were his last thoughts? Did he have any family?

People say that when you hit rock-bottom, the only way you can go now is up. I say what if there is no rock bottom? What if the conditions become so bad that you have no other way out? What if getting up in the morning everyday becomes a chore? What if the only feeling you have left is that of worthlessness? Unfortunately, the recent socio-economic scenario has turned life into a nightmare for the common man. Joblessness is everywhere, and that makes things a lot worse for him. A thousand rupees seems more like a hundred, with the ever-increasing inflation and prices of even the most basic human needs far out of his reach. Pride does not have a place in this society and he has to resort to begging if he wants to support his family.

Had he been a celebrity, he would have made headlines, the media making sure everyone knew of the circumstances leading to his suicide. People would have held vigils in front of his house, thousands attending his funeral, mourning the sad demise of the great man. Heck, even his suicide attempt would have made page 6, if not the front page. At least then I would have known the fate of that unfortunate man. But he was just a common man with nothing extraordinary going on in his life; not someone worthy of any attention. All I could hope for was that he was safe, and that his brush with death had put some sense into him and helped him put his life in perspective; it sure helped me prioritize mine.

Originally posted here.

Parenting for Dummies: The First Trimester

What goes on in the labor room, stays in the labor room. Some progressive hospitals let the dad into the labor room to enjoy (seriously?!) the whole 360-degree birthing experience, but more often than not, the dad and the couple’s close relatives sit in the waiting area, praying for the health of the mother and the baby. Just like in the movies, the father-to-be can clearly be distinguished from the lot as the one pacing the entire length of the dimly-lit corridor, biting his nails (or indulging in some alternate idiosyncrasy), waiting for the nurse to come out with some good news; a scene straight out of a silent movie. It could be hours, even days (God forbid), till you hear from the hospital staff, and when you’ve given up all hope, a nurse sporting blood-splattered scrubs (the source is better left unnamed) bursts out of the labor room screaming, “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” (or a boy). What follows is nothing short of a miracle; the silent ambiance is ruptured with shrieks of joy and cries of “Mubarak Ho, Mubarak Ho!” (meaning Congratulations). From my personal experience and fairly recent induction into daddy-ville, a possible sequence of events that follow include:

  1. shedding a tear (or two) of relief, or even a full-blown outburst (believe me; no one will judge you)
  2. seeing the baby for the first time
  3. shedding a tear (or two) of joy – again; no judging
  4. checking on the mother’s health
  5. sharing sweets with everyone
  6. seeing the baby again
  7. your mother and your mother-in-law arguing over who she resembles
  8. saying the Azan (Muslim call for prayers) in the infant’s ear
  9. seeing the baby some more (you just can’t seem to get enough of her)
  10. having some more sweets (Pakistanis will be Pakistanis)
  11. shortlisting baby names (if you haven’t decided on one yet)
  12. meeting your wife together with the baby and crying some more
  13. giving the baby something sweet to taste (honey, in most cases)

And then the baby comes home, bringing with it, two invisible companions (who are very real in every other sense) named “Sleepless Nights” and “Ceaseless Crying”. You have no choice but to welcome them into your humble abode; no compromises. Waking up at hours unheard of somehow becomes routine. People at work mock/pity you as you walk into your office with bulging red eyes. You seem to be running to the doctor every time the baby sneezes. You used to think your wife was high-maintenance; well guess again! The formula milk and the diapers, the cleaning wipes and the bouncers, the bottles and the sterilizers, the rattles and the swings, and loads of other things-that-shall-not-be-named, don’t come cheap; and don’t even get me started on the filthy expensive vaccinations. But wait; there’s another intruder that creeps into your life and needs no invitation; “Postpartum Depression”. Your wife’s mood swings, an essential part of her hormonal imbalances, may drive you to the edge and back; tears of joy might turn into a crying frenzy on how she would be a terrible mother. In her defense, after what she’s gone through, she deserves a breakdown or two (hmm… make that a hundred). As a loving husband, you must hold her hand through all the highs and lows, and make sure she knows that you are there to support her no matter what.

The last paragraph should pretty-much sum up your life for the first three months after the baby’s birth. But as soon as the baby crosses over into her fourth month, most lucky parents (myself included) see a visible change in their lifestyles. The baby becomes more responsive, starts cooing, even ga-ga-ing at times, might even recognize you, bestow you with a smile or two, and seems to settle down into a sleeping pattern. Sleeping for four (maybe even six) hours isn’t just a dream anymore. Life somehow seems much more settled. There are a few outbursts, a tummy-ache here, a little gas there, but all-in-all, you feel blessed after having gone through what you have in the early days.

My daughter is a little over five months old now and she keeps getting more adorable every second. I can barely restrain myself from taking a bite off of her cheek. There’s so much she has to offer, be it a sincere smile, or a gentle caress, but more than anything, she has drastically changed my perceptions on learning; it’s NOT a one-way street as perceived by most new parents. Read my other post entitled What my five-month old taught me for further details.

NOTE: Being a father, I’m writing this article from a dad’s perspective and from my own personal experience. Even though it has a lot of religious and cultural influences, you may be able to relate to most of my experiences.