Pulling the Plug

I have to confess I am no angel. I am a sinner, and like every sinner I have a past. But I have always taken it as a matter of great personal pride that there are some sins I have never even imagined of committing. Murder is one such sin; taking another person’s life is something I have always regarded as a godly job. No matter the impulse or the hate, I have never felt the desire to take someone’s life. However, I was never tested.

A wise man once said to me that a true saint is a person who turns down the impulse when he is given the opportunity to commit a sin. I was never given the opportunity to murder someone…until now.

I am always told that I was born with many talents. I was gifted with a photographic memory, a love for reading, a voice ideal for epic narration and a knack to play with words. But I had a troubled childhood in a blessed family. I was the odd one out that turned me into a spoiled lonely brat with many sins and secrets to hide. I was a person who aspired to become the next Marlon Brando or Franz Kafka but who didn’t actually know how to use all those talents that everyone always told him he was wasting.

Cover of "The Godfather (Widescreen Editi...
Marlon Brando on the cover of The Godfather (Widescreen Edition)

So, I became a no-one instead. People who know me often describe me as a person with no consistent personality, no principles and no morals; a man who stands for nothing…and stands with nothing.

In October 2008, I got married to a girl I didn’t deserve; she was very beautiful, kind hearted and understanding. She came from a joint family and understood completely what it meant to be a married woman in Pakistani society. She was sensible enough to quickly pick the lifestyle of her husband and his many eccentricities. She was a natural, and mingled in her adopted family so quickly and so perfectly as if she had always been a part of us.

Most of all she understood and supported her husband in all manners; his vulnerabilities, his fiercely independent mind and a need for personal space and privacy. She was a perfect wife that a man as wretched as I was could have ever dreamt of. But, our marriage was less than perfect. It had many of the ingredients of a miserable married life which a Pakistani in-laws can provide to a daughter-in-law. What was worse was an unending streak of bad luck.

In my long quest for a dream career, sometime after my son was born the year after our marriage,  I started experimenting with food outlets in the city. I have always loved eating, and food business was a natural choice to experiment with – after all food is the greatest Pakistani entertainment of all. In all those experiments I ate something rotten somewhere, as Lahoris would later discover that ‘butchers’ have been selling donkey meat disguised as mutton, and thus ensued a 3 years long struggle with a very fragile stomach.

As my stomach health deteriorated triggering several other metabolic complexities including a hormonal imbalance, my fledgling food business crashed as well. I realistically went bankrupt. Now out of health, work and cash, I was treated like an irresponsible waste of space  who had no sense of duty towards his wife or child. I once had to endure a full month when my little boy was sick and I had no money to take him to a doctor. It was a torment I would never forget for the rest of my life. In all that poverty and misery, there was only one person who neither ever doubted me nor left my side. It was my dutiful and loving wife; a very brave and strong woman of character quite unlike her husband. She held her ground and my back and never complained.

In late 2013, I found a job in my alma mater and some reasonability in life started to return. My health also quickly started to stabilise and my wife couldn’t be more grateful and happy. But just when we were thinking that life finally has started to normalise, it was my wife’s turn to sounding health complaints. It was the morning of August 19, 2014, she woke me up way earlier than my normal wake up time with burning fever, stomach cramps and vomiting. I took her to the emergency ward of Doctors Hospital, Lahore, and there it all began.

We went to doctor after doctor who ran tests after tests with medication piling by the day and ultimately the doctors ordered an endoscopy. The biopsy result came a week later making my worst fears come true. She was diagnosed with a type of cancer I had never heard of in my entire life – and I come from a family which has doctors right and left. I was told that it was an incurable type of cancer with no medical hope for definitive treatment or survival. The prognosis was monstrous and the life expectancy was only three months.

As doctor pull the blood out of her, we fear worst results

Many of the doctors advised that an attempt of treatment will cause her an unimaginable amount of pain without putting a stopper to the disease – and this ineffective but painful treatment would be very expensive. In short, the attempt to treat her was not only very costly but medically futile. I was told that she was dying anyway and I should best not waste away my financial resources for a lost cause. But, I decided to go ahead with every possible therapy available come what may.

It has been almost two years since that day and she still survives albeit her condition and earlier forecasted life expectancy. But the war against Mesothelioma has been long and exhausting physically and financially. All that struggle was made excruciatingly painful by witnessing her misery and by the truth I was hiding secretly without letting her know – that her disease was incurable and it was only progressing no matter what the doctors do, that it is only a matter of time before my boy loses his mother for good.

But the greatest challenge has been emotional. I cannot remember a night in these past two years when I could peacefully sleep, and when my own home has not haunted me. My domestic life was in tatters, and my little boy who wouldn’t sleep without his father’s arm to use as a pillow was forced to live with her maternal grandparents away from me. People right and left, kith and kin, would advise me to leave her to die, plan ahead and prepare to move on. They would tell me to focus on my own life, my own health and my career.

Against all the odds, my insistence on her expensive treatment had made my family’s resources quickly run dry and I had to use my real and online networks to raise financial donations to help continue with the fight. Those donations, although substantial, have long been utilised, and I stand forced to look for financial help yet again.

After several chemotherapy sessions and two debulking and resection surgeries at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, the disease is still there and only growing stronger preying on its victim like a vicious, bloodthirsty beast. She is extremely fragile and shabby, and often has to be carried to places being incapable of carrying her own weight. As per the medical counsel, she is only inching towards her penultimate battle for breath and it might only be weeks away not months.

Today, I carry another secret, another chance to sin. I have been offered an opportunity to murder her. The doctors have told me that there is another, new, chemotherapy drug that they could try and use on her and attempt to slow down the inevitable. But the trial would entail all the miserable side effects of a chemotherapy plus a higher risk of an adverse outcome followed by the inevitable quicker than expected. Given her downward spiral to death anyway, the doctors tell me that I could decide for a gamble and test the drug which is even more expensive than the previous one. I can now decide whether I will wait and watch her slow walk to the valley of death or decide to test the drug and risk pushing her to her grave earlier than medically anticipated.

I am now given the opportunity to play god and decide to pull the plug or let God do His duty and pull it on His own. And I am now in a fix, should I let God murder her for all our sakes or should I murder the wife who did not abandon me when I needed her. After all, I am a man with no morals.