Occasionally, I’d be sharing some personal experiences, opinions, memoirs etc and I will be doing that through my ‘Diary of a Wayfarer.’ This is the first entry in this diary and if you don’t mind, come take a ride with me, no, wayfarers don’t ride, they walk, so come take a walk with me.
I recently saw an Indian movie, ‘Guzaarish’. It’s about Ethan Mascarenhas who presents a show, Radio Zindagi which he refers to as ‘the most joyful show in the whole world.’ You can’t fault his claim about his show being a joyful one as all he does is put smiles on people’s faces, with several testimonies and commendations pouring in regularly; he is a source of hope and inspiration for millions. He has also authored a book, ‘Learning to fly’ which continually motivates people especially quadriplegics. The movie begins with a listener calling-in during the show to testify of how Ethan saved him from committing suicide a year ago. In the next scene immediately after hosting his joyful show on radio we see Ethan, in a swift switch, making a request to be set free – he wants to file a petition for euthanasia, mercy killing, a procedure not permitted under the laws of India.
Ethan was, in his prime, the biggest magician of his time, he had suffered an accident fourteen (14) years earlier during one of his magical shows and managed to survive, thanks to numerous surgeries and therapies but the serious injuries to his spinal cord reduced him to a quadriplegic which meant that he would never be able to move any part of his body, apart from his neck! So, for the past 14 years he has been at the mercy of machines, nurses and doctors. He can’t even scratch his nose if the need ever arises, and the need does arise regularly!
Ethan, the giver of hope is giving up hope, and everyone is taken by surprise. Everyone sees him as a comforter, but deep inside he is in dire need of comfort. His nurse thinks he is mad, his doctor takes his request as a joke, the law is against him, the media is feeding fat and making money off his story; the only people he thinks he can turn to are those who know what pain means and whom he had offered succour to in time past. It is payback time; his audience can convince the court to grant him permission to die well. Surprisingly, his radio show audience only see his request as being both contradictory and hypocritical. They fight against the grant of it. They see him as a liar and a failure! No one cares to know that Ethan’s kidneys and lungs have failed beyond remedy. No one remembers Ethan for all the comforting words he has ever shared, for the strength he has had and the hope he had showed in holding onto life for fourteen years. He is considered a bad loser when all he wants is to leave the stage while the ovation is still going on. All that Ethan needs is compassion, sympathy and empathy.
I am an emotional person, no doubt, but not when it comes to the world of ‘make believe.’ But I nearly shed tears watching ‘Guzaarish’. If I had watched the movie all alone I could have let myself unrestrained but I was watching it in the living room. African men are machos, the African man shouldn’t shed tears like a woman, said Okonkwo, the protagonist in Chinua Achebe’s evergreen novel, ‘Things fall apart.’ God forbids that an African man sheds tears in public, tufiakpa!
I could relate with Ethan’s story because I have found myself in situations where I offer hope to people while still searching for hope for myself. I have had my weak moments when I needed people to be there for me. I am entering this movie in my ‘Diary of a wayfarer’ because I’d like people to know that there are times when the helper needs a helper, when the human comforter needs a comforter, when the counsellor needs a counsellor. After lending a helping hand, providing a shoulder for others to lean on, there are times you also need people to help you share in your pain.
I relate well with Ethan’s story because I have been there, not at the point of death, though, but at that point where I can’t speak encouraging words to myself; at that point where I can’t find the words that I can use in reassuring myself; at that point when I need someone, a friend, to do for me what I have done for others; at that lonely and scary valley of the shadow of death when I need a friend to be there for me in my time of need. More often than not, friends have failed me at that crucial moment! Rather than be friends, they betray me and become preachers, resorting to theology, giving words devoid of hope, behaving like those in James 2: 15-16. Where did they leave the story of Jesus on the Mount of Olives, few hours before his crucifixion – ‘where there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, STRENGTHENING him?’ (Luke 22:43). The angel didn’t preach to Jesus, rather he strengthened him!
I am not trying to root for euthanasia through this piece, no. I only used the movie to bring out a point, that oftentimes no one is ready to be by your side when you are weak, not even those you have helped when they lacked strength. No one tries to care about you; they all rush to judge and condemn you without taking time to understand you. No one cares to lend a helping hand.
My dear friends, if I ever come to you in my weakness, don’t label me a weakling. I am no macho, I’m no superman. The strongest of men also have weak points and trying times. If I ever come to you in my ‘down’ time, it’s definitely not the time for sermons, I know what the Holy Book says; all I need is for you to hold me up, whisper encouraging words to my ear, reassure me of the things that I know but now find hard to believe. It’s just for a while; I will spring back on my feet and will be strong again, (Proverbs 24:16). It’s just one of those times when the helper needs a helping hand.