Saturday, August 4, 2012

The road less travelled, the road not taken

Humankind’s will to survive, to live has always provided instances of exemplary determination to continue.

History has often recorded such events. Against all odds, Hannibal crossed the Alps with dreams of victory in his eyes and elephants and scantily warmed foot-soldiers for an army. He achieved this mammoth feat just to prove the world that the Romans could be conquered and that Carthage had a will to survive, a will which was far greater than any other Mediterranean kingdom at that age. He was successful, briefly. The Romans eventually captured the Carthagean capital and rounded Hannibal off, cut his supplies, leading him to an eventual defeat. His loss was testimony for Rome to use and dominate the world for centuries to come. 

Hannibal’s story is far more than a history lesson. His expedition, though classified as a failure, had a strong moral takeaway. We all have our Rome and we all, ironically, possess a Carthage too. We have our dreams and ambitions, a place in the future where we would want to be, and then there is the realization of where we actually are. That realization sometimes gets too big for us. Weighed down by the enormous task, we shrink ourselves in small crumbles of hopelessness and gaze into solitude. We first distance ourselves from our friends, then family and finally our own being. Logic, reasoning, argument: vague properties of a fruitless mind. We shut the door too hard and cry out loud when the pain stings our feet; we had left a toe in, just enough for a beam of light to scrape through. This is where our Carthage falls. This is where the Roman chivalry of despair ransacks our present and leaves us stranded on the road with no origin and a very foggy destination. 

Recuperation is a Herculean task, but no an impossible one. As we tread on the road less travelled, we accept that we cannot hitchhike nor piggyback. Help is necessary just to stand up, and not to provide a shoulder to walk. Hannibal fought on until the very end, when only a few of his commanders were all that was left of the might Carthagean army. Even without almost any artillery to defend themselves, he never gave up. Sure, it sounded ridiculously easy to walk out of that old warehouse and surrender to the enemy. It would have ensured that he lived; Rome took pride in showcasing defeated leaders to its people, restoring confidence within them. But Hannibal took the road not taken. 

Realization often lands a punch to the gut that knocks us down. We try to get up and it shoves us back down again. And again, and again, till we ourselves notice that the punches get weaker, get slower. Our oppressor grows tired. We could then duck the next blow and land one back, knocking the fangs out of it. We look down at the fallen terrorist, grin a bloody smile and walk past over its body, our hands still stinging from the blow.
Hannibal’s road may have been too extreme. He claimed his own life. But that was his road. Each of us is the designers, contractors as well as labourers of the roads, the paths of life we choose to travel on. In the end we have to decide – is it a highway to hell, or a stairway to heaven?

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