A Dream Of Death


It was a dark dismal place. I remember no faces, just forms. There was a crowd of spectators. I was in excruciating pain and yet I could not scream. My lungs were bursting with the desire to blow out all the frustration but I could barely breathe. I wanted to listen to what the crowd was saying but my mind kept on replaying old memories, the good ones and the bad ones all in a nonsensical collage. There I was taking my first few faltered steps as a toddler and then came the day of graduation. The seconds ticked when I almost drowned and could see the light coming into the swimming pool and didn’t have the energy to kick myself back to the surface. The day I met him and saw his smile for the first time. The moment when my father died. Everything was connected and yet disconnected in mere moments. My eyes were open wide but I saw nothing of any consequence. Perhaps it was the tears or the warm gush of blood from my forehead. I will never know what glistened on my face, but I could smell the unmistakable reek of blood, sweat and fear. I knew I was hurt and the fear should be in my heart. But my mind was frozen in the past and the present was nothing but a haze. The heightened pain caused my delirium as a blessing and I could separate the physical agony from the mental torture. I was watching in awe as the execution proceeded. The thought that all my memories and ideas and words will be wiped clean and I will be lowered into a hole in the ground and people will tell the story of my demise in every way except what I would have written it as. I smiled in my head. My face was incapable of making the muscular effort to do so.

There was one glimpse that shone through all the mist. I kept on seeing my brother among the faceless crowds. My long deceased brother was watching with tears rolling down his face. He was always closest to my heart and aware of all my joys and miseries. I blinked away the scarlet blood to try and catch another glimpse of him. Maybe he was there after all or maybe I was about to join him in the afterlife. The very thought of reuniting with my dear departed made me cry and laugh at the same time. It sounded like a wild cry and I heard the crowd hush down. The prisoner was maybe asking for mercy. I breathed slowly and deeply. Mercy was not to be asked or expected of the vile. Why would I seek ease where there is none left to offer. Why would I attempt to save my life that was already wasted? I have always had a high nose and my courage has lingered on the brink of madness. I saw an ethereal light surrounding me and then there was no pain, no suffering and no crowd. For moments I kept searching for some vision or sound or smell and I found nothing but a very white spotless canvas in an eerie silence. But my mind was still active and thinking am I dead. Is this how it ends? Where are the angels and the relatives and the promised gardens? There was nothing but a white out.

From a distance I heard some mumbling and I strained every ounce of my energy to find some sign of the here or the hereafter. And then, I woke up. All the lights, colors and sounds came flooding back and I was in my room with warm sweat and tears staining my face and pillow. I will never know until the moment arrives if it was just a bad dream or as is usual with my dreams another premonition of what is to come in future. I splashed cold water over my face and brushed away the dark locks where moments ago I felt matted blood and crumbled bone on my forehead. The dream was too real to be a mere figment of my imagination and yet I cannot think of any situation where I would be so tortured and executed. I breathed deeply and smiled at the face in the mirror. I still have time to smile, breath and speak until that day. No one will stop me until my time comes. I may be dying soon, but so is everyone in the world. And if I know myself, that day too I will be in a haze, smiling for memories that only my mind could pull out and play with. I will be a dreamer and a poet till the end.

 

The Glyphosate Controversy


What is the crux of the Glyphosate controversy? Some corporations insist that this is just a harmless chemical in the most widely used herbicide while some scientist and activists disagree. When I found out about the debate I applied common sense and looked for the usual suspects. The David versus Goliath battles have been going on between banner holders of humanity and the corporate giants since times immemorial. The question is who gains what out of his stance? The corporations have invested millions of dollars in launching and advertising products that have finally paid off by becoming a household name and a necessity in our everyday lives. Their stakes are so high that we can and do understand their reluctance in owning up to any problems that may arise in those popular products. But the question arises if human life and suffering is worth more than all this money or is it just collateral damage in a money driven society? I reminisce upon the Ellen Brocovich vs. Proctor and Gamble case and wonder if she had been silenced or discouraged how many more fatalities would have happened? It may be an extreme example but not an uncommon one. As a medical professional I cannot ever forget the images of the Thalidomide babies imprinted in my memory from medical school. Those families will never forget that product. It produced babies with fins. Someone was irresponsible enough to think that the collateral damage will only happen to other people and they will be safe. What is safety if the lines are all muddled? How do you ensure you will not be harmed by a chemical that has not been tested by a third party who has nothing to gain out of its failure or success?

Someone very heartily debated that the pioneers of tobacco industry are in the frontline of the battle against cancer so why can’t the corporations making herbicides test their effects on human health? I winced as a physician because I know for a fact that the cigarette is a fine human invention where forty carcinogens are combined in a small, thin roll of tobacco. I will not say it CAN KILL you because the truth is IT WILL KILL you. And no amount of million dollar advertising or advocating will change this blatant fact. I remember one of my patients who had been a chain smoker for forty years, debating endlessly  the harmlessness of smoking while we were counselling him on the extreme procedure we were about to perform to remove his jaw and most of his tongue for the fungating oral cancer he had. It was as if he was brain washed and could not see past his obsession and addiction. I also remember sitting by his bedside after the procedure when tears were rolling down his cheeks and he kept shaking his head. If it was not for humane reasons and patient privacy, I would have loved to share the effects of smoking as a counter ad campaign against the advertisement of beautiful girls and handsome boys smoking while having the time of their lives. That party would have ended there.

Coming back to Glyphosate, GMOs and the whole charade. Do we know for a fact that they are turning up in our foods, mother’s milk, body fluids and environment? The answer is yes. What is the level of toxicity? When asked of the corporations they quoted a very high figure that seemed impossible for anyone to be exposed to. If even we paid heed to that quoted number, I know that a lot of symptoms can precede death. Lethal dose is not the question, the actual point is that if tiny traces of this chemical are found in our food, water and environment every day, what amount are we accumulating from the womb to the grave? Do we know for a fact that Glyphosate has harmful effects on human health? The answer is painfully obscure. The people who gain millions of dollars by selling these products are also pretending to study the effects of these products on human health. No one in their right mind would trust these studies. As a physician I would advocate one universal line of action only. Whenever you want to truly judge the efficacy or toxicity of any drug, chemical or product, let the researchers be unbiased and neutral personnel who are not paid by the beneficiaries of those brands. It is impertinent to understand that we and our children will only learn after decades how we were affected by this. In hindsight no one can minimize the suffering of a nuclear holocaust or Thalidomide. It becomes a scientific, medical and human nightmare that we shamefully whisper to the next generation of scientists and doctors only to forget the lesson as soon as the next corporation versus humanity debate arises.

Managing The Ailing Pakistan


After sixty eight years of independence from the British Raj we stand tall as a nation of proud Pakistanis. We have produced some of the finest brawns and brains in the world and contributed immensely to international sports, music, literature, science and technology. We have always reflected unlimited tenacity and perseverance in impossible times. The question remains that if we have all the talent and spirit in the world what is holding us back? The answer is simple, the country is run by Goons and imbeciles. But in a nutshell this answer is not enough. It may be a very true observation, but it is not a solution to our problems. Most politicians around the globe are sleazy, dishonest, back stabbing liars and cheats. Ours are no different. And the ones who are of upright character are known and loved as leaders like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the father of our nation. As a doctor, I have learnt the value of interpreting complex data into simple understandable terms and then finding simple step by step solutions to myriads of difficulties. That is known as a management plan. And I propose one for my country to be resuscitated after saving it from the Goons and idiots that refuse to step down from the Government and just let the poor country breathe.
To begin with we must understand the basics ourselves. It is not easy being a small country like Pakistan with vindictive and venomous neighbors. From the very beginning we were cheated out of our rightful land, rivers and assets at the time of Independence in 1947, thanks to the penultimate leniency and love of Lord Mountbatten for the Indian side. We will not stoop into the details of how his beloved Lady Mountbatten had her heart and much more leaning towards Nehru. History has a way of preserving truths, even the ones nations choose to forget. For us it’s like sitting next to a bully in school, knowing you have to perform at an optimum even though you will be threatened, harassed, beaten and cheated in every way possible and if and when you turn to others for help, you will face mockery, slander and scandalous lies. Kashmir has been one of the sore spots ever since and the human rights claims of the United Nations is mocked and ridiculed by the great democracy of India every day. Unfortunately, the world turns a blind eye to bullies. So, ill-fated as this historical background is, I would like to put it in a coffin, nail it down and bury it for good after befitting mourning rituals. There you go, history is dead and gone and tomorrow is another day. Let’s get back to life and work and make today and tomorrow count. Point one of my agenda is to just stop cribbing.
Primarily we need to know what problems we have. I will reiterate this soft reminder that no country or nation on this planet can claim of not having any one of these issues. The proportions or severity of ailments may vary but the symptoms are predominantly universal. So, any chest thumping, ridicule or criticism by other nations is juvenile and perverted. Poverty, illiteracy, corruption, law and order issues, injustice, terrorism, food and water shortage, bad and unaffordable healthcare, power breakdowns, bad governance, natural calamities are the first scoop from a brimming cup. These problems are humongous individually but when clustered together they seem unsurmountable. So, I propose breaking them down and taking them up one by one and even fragmenting them further and finding hundreds of thousands of small workable solutions than an Abracadabra that will just make them poof away. Anyone who tells you how horrible life is, give them a piece of paper and ask them to propose a solution. He who is not providing a solution is a part of the problem. From cleaning a trash heap outside your house to building airplanes. Let’s do it. Ask yourself what you can do. Can you plant a tree in your house? While you are at it, pick a fruit tree like Guava or Citrus. It will cost nothing, grow with minimum care and will need a very small spot in your home. I see it as a mini food stamp. Can a nation of two hundred million people starve if every person just grew a tree in their home?
Now, the ground reality is that things are not as simple as well. We have politicians who are antisocial, runaway schoolboys. They will trash entire cities so that they can play with and park their fancy buses and trains but they will not build bridges and dams for the long term welfare of the country. People will starve and die without medical aid while they buy fancy villas and palaces around the world. They will lie to the nation about internationally signed treaties and business deals imagining they will live forever and enjoy the money they are hoarding. They will seek political asylum in foreign countries and run criminal mafias from abroad. If they had been educated properly and had picked up a single book of world history they would know that even Alexander the Great left the world empty handed. The good news is, they will all wither and die like their predecessors. The seeds of crime, apathy and terrorism they sow today will be reaped by them and their children tomorrow. And the reigns will come to our children one day. So let us educate our children, protect them and make them capable of being heroes and leaders. Teach them the difference between these petty politicians and true leaders. Of course I will educate my child and so will you. But the nation will prosper and the world will be a better place if I also remember to educate the child of the criminal and the beggar. This collateral education will ensure that my child is not harmed in life by a criminal and he does not spend his life giving his hard earned money as alms to the beggars. They can and will work together towards a better future. Anyone who smiles at the simple heartedness of my dream makes me cry for the death of his dreams. How will you ever achieve anything if you do not have the will or the desire to achieve it?
Now back to basics. We have an upcoming water shortage and we need dams to store the bulk of monsoon water that causes annual floods and devastates crops, villages and infrastructure. What if the politicians don’t make big dams like Mangala or Tarbela because they are too stupid to do anything remotely useful. Can we have water reservoirs in every village? Maybe if I allocate a few acres of my land, dig trenches and push the sand towards the sides to make embankments, add concrete and rocks. Don’t I have a free water reserve after the monsoon is over? How hard is that? I know it can be made but I am no engineer. Where are our hundreds and thousands of bright engineers working around the globe in reputable organizations? Come and fix this small glitch and make a contribution of your engineering excellence. Let us make mini dams and dam the political circus. Once we do that, we will make small grid stations for hydroelectricity, build solar parks and give cheap electricity to everyone. And if we have water and electricity, our fields will grow crops. It is inevitable. So, water and food go hand in hand in a primarily agricultural country. If we do it on our own, maybe the few people in power with workable ganglions will follow our lead.
The next on my list is crime, corruption and justice. I have written on the subject before and I will reiterate my take on this. Human beings harm each other if left unchecked. Period. We need laws to be implemented and we need good governance. We have some excellent policemen, lawyers and judges in the system. Is each and every one corrupt, vile and ignorant? That cannot be possible. For every ten corrupt officers of the state, if one honest lawyer takes up one case on moral grounds per year and strives to get a positive verdict we will accumulate positive citations over the years. If every judge decides to expedite justice and not let the lawyers use dilatory tactics, justice will prevail. If one out of ten policemen decides to discourage criminals, the law will be respected. And when criminals are handed out punishments, the crime rate will go down. All of these are mathematical certainties. When these rules have been followed in the past, the law and order situation has improved. So why do we have a national memory loss for all the good things that worked. When you feel better doing something, for the love of God keep doing it!
Now on my very personal area on healthcare. I have recently been exposed to the metamorphosis in healthcare and I will proudly say that whatever should be done is being done now. The University of Health Sciences and the Pakistan Medical Association have some amazing people with great insight and vision. I have had the good fortune to meet some of the pioneers who are changing the face of healthcare in our country. The encouragement of continued medical education, discouragement of quackery and introduction of an elaborate plan of action is up and running. The effects may be slow but will trickle down from the tertiary care to the primary care and things will improve. However, all doctors practicing in other countries, myself included, have the moral obligation to commit a part of our time and talent to the country that made us who we are. The poor patients that we examined, operated upon and studied for our medical licensure deserve a fraction of our gratitude. We have free clinics or colleges in every city and village and I am sure when you visit back home, you will find one near you to dedicate a week or two of your free services to. It is your choice whether you teach medical students or treat patients but just dropping nickels and dimes in donation bins is not enough. We paid petty change to get our degrees in Pakistan as compared to the hundred thousand dollar medical school loans in other countries. We owe this to Pakistan. Let’s teach and treat.
Last but not the least is education. Even though we have small schools cropping out of every nook and corner of the country there is a great difference between the quality of education being delivered in various institutions. The lack of standardized education in the Government sector has come under scrutiny time and time again. The Ivy League private schools with the rich clientele are producing ignorance of a new variety. We do not need foreign educated individuals who consider themselves above the common man and unfortunately are more illiterate to their own culture, literature and language than the children from the Government schools are to Cambridge syllabus. We need to improve the syllabi and bridge the divide between these two extremes. When we emphasize that the quality of education be improved in low income group schooling, we must also inculcate national pride in our elitist schools and tell them that if your children quote Shakespeare and scoff at Mirza Ghalib, you are not imparting good education at all. So when we educate our children, it is important to make sure the children of our servants and staff are also being sent to school.
My dream is to have every child in school in my lifetime and if I can afford it, I will pay the family a stipend of one thousand rupees per child and give two wholesome meals during the school day so that the incentive for education does not struggle against poverty. Every child who comes to school will be fed, clothed, vaccinated and seen regularly by a Pediatrician. The parents just need to send them to school. And somewhere among these little girls and boys, we will sow the seeds of future doctors, engineers, scientists, leaders, artists, musicians, writers, sportsmen and philanthropists. We will teach them to dream big but walk with small steps until they are strong enough to take big strides and carry the torch of humanity, morality and goodness for future generations. These are boundless oceans of dreams, hopes and aspirations. We may not be able to make them come true individually but if each of us carry a small handful we can pitch in and make the world proud and thankful that the small country of Pakistan was created by a great leader and visionary in 1947.

Pakistan Zindabad! Qaid e Azam Zindabad!

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Au Revoir


There comes a time in life when one starts assessing one’s decisions over the years. A part of our mind finds solace in the integrity and morality of our selections but a greater wisdom passes judgment on when we should have plunged in deeply and when we should have watched from dry land like everyone else around us. We are humans and when we opt to make all the right choices all the time, we have a tendency to get lost and be damned to a sainthood status. One might be going to Heavan after death but sainthood does not offer much of a life. Among many muddled thoughts, I am at a point in time where I am questioning everything about my life. I have never made a bad decision or taken off at a whim. I regret the excess of righteousness and wisdom that I have practiced in my life. And while I ponder endlessly over how I could have taken a different course in my journey, I know that I never had a choice. I am who I am. From earliest childhood memories, I watch myself as a third person observer. If a four year old kid can save her candy from school for her younger brother, she is showing her natural spirit of generosity. Unfortunately, the child who gets the free candy will never remember the sacrifice it involved. Today I am sharing one of my worst tribulations in life. The curse of selflessness.

I have been hurt time and time again by people I can die for. The worst part is my own inability to hate them or return their meanness in the same coins. I am a Type A personality and have always been able to achieve what I aim for but where my heart kneels all the wisdom in the world fails to teach me self-preservation. I have been cheated over and over again by the same people and every time my emotional attachment leaves me helpless. I am condemned to running to their aid even when I know they are only crying wolf to manipulate my love. At times I am angry and I tell myself I will never let them fool me again but even the thought of their pain makes me suffer and I can only ease my own affliction by helping them. It has become a vicious cycle and I know I must break it for my own sanity. People who do not love you cannot be taught to care if even they have blood relations to you. Unfortunately we are manipulated in worst ways only by people who know how deeply we love them. I need to learn to be selfish and self-centered once in a while.

A friend was making fun of how I seem to be a trouble magnet. I was saddened when I heard this perspective. I am a problem solver. Naturally people turn to me for their deepest concerns and seek my help and advice. I have helped friends and foes alike and kept their secrets buried deeply in my bosom. The worst part is that I take problem solving for my family and friends so seriously that after a while they forget that the trouble was never mine to begin with and when I took to tackling it head on, I did it with such dedication and commitment that everyone forgot I was helping them and not myself. I remember watching cartoons in my childhood where the protagonist is be fooled by someone and only realizes it later and feels a donkey’s head instead of his own. I have felt like that so often that I wonder if that is the actual head I carry around. I wish I could ask why kindness and gentility is considered synonymous with stupidity and cowardice. I wonder if there is a solution to such a basic personality disorder. I have the martyr syndrome and whenever trouble arrives guess who opens the door. I wanted to tell my dear friend that I am not cursed, only over blessed and excess of everything is bad.

Last but not the least is my intrinsic ability to rationalize and cajole the worst case scenario to a more palatable alternate version. I could love a madman and call him slightly eccentric. I have the tendency to see silver linings in clouds of nuclear holocaust. I have such unflinching optimism that life has to let me down and like so many people close to my heart, it never fails at that. Today, I am purging my heart and soul of all the things that make me extremely proud of who I am but hurt me immensely every day. I need to learn to step down from the pedestal and live on a human level. I need to let go of my high expectations of myself and give myself the same leeway I offer everyone else. Most importantly, I need to steer away from people who do not understand or reciprocate my love. While I write these lines I can feel the burden lifting as if just shouting at the top of your lungs somehow makes you breathe better. No science involved. I am sending out this self-analytical rhetoric into the void and all I wish to hear is that it’s okay if you don’t measure up sometime. God knows nobody else does either. I want to reach out to all those who love me and advise me off and on about how I should change my own reaction if I cannot change the people who hurt me. I hear you and this is my solemn undertaking that I take your advice to heart. And to the ones who have unanimously let me down and made a habit of it, this is the final score. I am taking charge of my life and putting an infinite distance between us if you do not change for the better. Someone who truly loves me suffers because I suffer at your hand. I am choosing that love over the love I have for you. Au revoir!

Massacre At Peshawar School


I have been trying to write a few thoughts on the horrific events of 16th December 2014 in Army Public School in Peshawar but my pen refuses to budge. The death of a child is a tragedy beyond the grasp of human intellect. The inhuman, barbaric massacre of a hundred and thirty six children is incredible. I watched the footage and the pictures in disbelief. The dear, innocent faces smeared in blood were impossible for a complete stranger to view. I wonder how the parents received the dead bodies of children they had dropped off at school a few hours ago. I wonder what mutated version of humans can do this atrocity to young school children. The nation is shell shocked at this tragic disaster. I want to share a few thoughts about what I saw, felt, heard and eventually thought.

The course of events unraveled as six fanatic gunmen entered in an army run institution in Peshawar. They called forth the kids whose parents were in the army and then one by one they executed them with AK47 rounds to the heads and faces. Many faces were beyond identification and blood and brains were scattered all over. Those who ran for their lives had bullet wounds to other parts of their bodies as well. Some children were spared because they were covered by dead bodies of their classmates heaped over them. Only one student of grade nine and one of grade seven survived the massacre. Most of the killing was done in the school auditorium. Where this story has the most ugly fiends and monsters on a killing spree, it also has some unsung heroes. A twenty four year old teacher stood between the mass murderers and her pupils. She was burnt alive by them and even during that painful ordeal she was shouting for her students to run and save their lives. A young, newly married woman had the heart of a lioness. The principal of the APS school was saved by soldiers of the Pakistan army and brought to safe grounds outside the school but she went back in saying my children are being killed. She was shot dead but she managed to save many lives in her heroic act of sacrifice.

I am awed and inspired by the bravery of all the teachers and children who lost their lives or limbs in this sad time. There is a footage of Lady Reading Hospital where one section is cordoned off and has countless bodies of children lying side by side with their families weeping at their martyrs. Almost every head is heavily bandaged. As a doctor I know what insane amount of work load must have befallen the staff of the Government Hospital. The countless number of injured had to be treated and stabilized. This is an act of kindness for the parents to cover the brutal wounds on the heads and faces of the deceased. But how does the staff doing all this service look at humanity with respect again. We live in a world where people can kill in the name of religion, country, social class or family. We live in a sordid world and if I had the choice I would go back to wherever I came from happily. Not much of a world we have. Everyone who has experienced this catastrophe suffers from post-traumatic stress.

There is one last video where the carcasses of six crazy men, none of them of Pakistani origin, are being shown to the spectators. They have been killed by the gallant soldiers of Pakistan army. One of them has an ugly satanic tattoo on his back. They all look like the monsters they truly were. And I think of one thing only. Good riddance. These are not Muslims, these are not Pakistanis and these are not humans. Period. No one with even an ounce of humanity, honor or faith can do what these barbarians did. However, there is a very important lesson for the rest of the world in this incident. We in Pakistan are at ground zero of the aftermath of the war on terror. We have been killed in more numbers and in more brutal ways than any other victims of terrorism. We are not part of their damn groups, we are the target of countless bombings, shootings and hatred. These people have attacked children of the army personnel fighting the war against terrorism. What hurts most is that these worms slither and crawl among us, killing our own and the world finds fault with our dear country. We may be many things but we do not support terrorists. This one incident is a huge neon sign for the world to connect the dots. The world is a global village now. What happens to one nation spreads like a plague and affects others. Whoever is behind the funding, strategy, training, recruiting and implementation of these ghastly plans needs to be thrown off the planet. Nothing less would solve this humongous problem. This is my little note of random thoughts at one of the most harrowing incidents I will ever watch or hear of. Please help us stop similar atrocities across the globe. Enough is enough and we will take it no more.

2014 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 35 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Shades Of Gray


Life teaches priceless lessons along the way. We are taught in our kindergarten years to recognize colors. And there comes a time when we consider ourselves masters at identifying each and every shade in the palette. Blue, green, red, black, brown, yellow and white are all crystal clear images in our minds. The clarity taught at those tender years is not merely an education, it is our ancestors’ attempt to give their children something to cling on to when the colors start merging and the lines between them seem muddled. These thoughts have been lurking in my mind for many years now and finally my pen has chosen to shed some light on them.

As one grows older the definitions and meanings seem to be conditional and perspective at best. Anything can be anything and anyone can be anyone, all one needs is to be able to change the paradigm of observation. As a perfectionist I would love to cling on to ideals of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, intelligence and folly, worthiness and triviality. But then again, aside from religious, moral or hypothetical ideals, I know of no person who is absolutely good with no amalgamation of evil in him. I have never come across untainted intelligence, morality or character. Everything is relative and thus it seems humanity is more inclined towards error and imperfection. The ideals impregnated in our young minds are to override the natural ease to sin and err. Thus, the necessity of a formative inculcation of morals, ethics and character makes complete sense in a world that does not encourage it.

The obligations imposed on nobility of character seem an additional encumbrance and inconvenience in life. However when we observe the heroic and amazing outcomes from such circumstances, we see humanity rise above its mundane standards as heroes and saints are born. The life of any exemplary human being is embedded with trials and tribulations, but the fact remains that the story of this life far transcends the biological age of the person. The legend always outlives the hero and as the story is told and retold to infuse the positive character of the protagonist in the minds of the masses, the hero grows to magnanimous proportion. We tend to add fiction to the fact and forget that the life when lived was a day-to-day struggle, with immeasurable misery, deceit and sorrow. The glory is mostly posthumous and rarely the heroes are commemorated in their lifetimes.

All this observation reminds me of the famous poem by Robert Frost. The road less travelled by has always been my personal favorite. When we chose to live exemplary lives and be better than everyone around us, we forget that we must make extraordinary sacrifices and give up on the dream of a normal life. To get exceptional rewards one must forego the common pleasures and not complain about the deprivation of ordinary joys. A hero at a warfront loses life or limb to pay for the medals of courage and endurance. A saint practices abstinence from simple indulgences to rise above his congregation. It makes complete sense that we humans need the presence of a God and religion in our lives to justify the hardships endured, hoping for a reward in the hereafter. Otherwise all the collective stories of deities, moral and ethical standards are a futile effort to make the world more inhabitable for our future generations. There are a hundred shades of gray in a life where we were taught to expect black and white. The only way we can get pure white or pure black is to remove all other colors that muddle our canvas. All those other shades are the colors of life one has to forgo to become larger than life.