I studied (well, so they say) for my engineering degree in Pondichery. Four glorious years of my life were spent in this beautiful Union Territory, of pristine beaches, French architecture, tranquil places, and sweet people. And that’s not all what Pondicherry is famous for. Well, if you are even remotely aware of Pondichery, you would be pretty sure what I am coming on to. Liquor. ( Booze / Thanni / Madhira )
Call me a wasted, tasteless bloke, who doesn’t know to enjoy life. But I have to admit that I have never tasted that amber liquid yet (nor have any plans for it in the future), inspite of being surrounded by bottles of thanni. Proud to be a teetotaller. “Yeah right” if that’s what you are saying now, don’t worry, because I get that line (and different tamil equivalents of it) all the time. But then that’s the truth, no cigarettes as well. Perhaps the biggest achievement during my college days ( Next to getting my B.E degree of course 🙂 ) was to resist these very temptations even on being away from home and staying in perhaps the holy ground of drinkers. Well frankly, wasn’t much of a temptation either. Never did like booze and its manifestations on mortals (blame it on Pankaj Udhas if you want) or the smoke and things it does to the people around.
Alright. Before I chase away the perennial drinkers viewing my blog (and they are quite a substantial lot), let me clarify. This is not a lecture on the harmful effects of booze. Well.. not exactly atleast. You see, being a non-drinker among a heap of drinkers, does have some perks attached to it. This is just a harmless recollection of a few.
They say – When in Rome, be a Roman. Well I tried to. A Pondicherian that is. But, remembering the brands and suggesting the side dish was the maximum I could go to. Well, you can’t be less educated than that if all your roomies are part of the tippler gang. The inhabitant of my room, were a bunch of wonderful guys, with hearts of gold. Alas, hearts that can be melted by a bottle of beer. (Ya ya I know, beer is a cool drink. I’ve been told that a zillion times too. Hey wasn’t whiskey recently added to that list. Ow come on, give me a break…) They say that a few sips (or gulps) of the fluid harms no one. But then, a college goers mind understands “moderation”, only as much it understands the “Theory of Computation” lecture. So a college goer party’s liquor requirements at that time were either ‘Fulls’ or ‘Crates’ (Well.. it depended on the financial constraints as well). And it was those times, when I got reduced to the role of a bar-tender inside my own house. The reason for me being conferred the honorable role of a vending machine was apparently because I was impartial in the allotment of resources. Yeah right. It was one of those days, when I had loads of Pepsi to drink, and a huge variety of side dish to feast on, as I sat back watching the wonderful sight of a pack of perfectly normal men being turned into clowns and monsters in succession by an innocent looking smelly liquid. Hmm, I was in heaven. 🙂
There is something to this spirit that brings transformation to men. Once inside those craving stomachs of mortals, it just frees the mind and elevates it to a different plane altogether. And trust me, it is quite a funny ‘plane’. You may never see the amount of emotional outpouring anywhere else than you can when a man is drunk. For some reason, one loses the inability to lie with a sufficient amount of booze inside. I wonder how long, before a polygraph is replaced by a mini-bar. And confessions of friendship, unrequited love for a friend, and life pledges for a fellow drinker are as customary in that situation as Mango Pickles are to a glass of MC. Romeo may have never professed love to Juliet as much as a drunk Raghu would do on a Saturday night to a sloshed Rajesh. “Machaan, nee enoda friend da.” (Dude, you are my friend) I cannot remember how many times I have been told this by the dude sitting next to me, just for passing him that half empty bottle of soda. If only everyone was as courteous when sober, wouldn’t we be the politest race to walk on this planet. And if you are the ‘un-drunk’ among these tipsy crowd, you’ll have a hard time remembering the love stories and crushes that everybody utters. Some with pain, some with utmost happiness. In simpler words, they provide you with the blackmail material when you desperately need a bike to go downtown, or you need somebody to buy you lunch from cafeteria. 🙂 Like I said, it has its perks.
But out of my own experience of losing my pocket FM radio, I can say for sure that booze and technology don’t mix at all. If you are unfortunate enough to have a stereo, tv, radio, computer, a mobile, a whistle or even remotely anything that can play a tune – Beware. These guys can create a raucous, loud enough to wake up Pakistan. Ask my neighbors at Pondicherry. I guess they must have been the happiest souls to see us leave. Maybe their neighbors too. And if you are unfortunate enough to be at the helm of operating these gadgets at these times, get ready for some harrowing times. A DJ wouldn’t have change music that many time in an hour, as many you would in five minutes. I had a beautiful pocket size FM radio sacrificed to the fury of a ‘high’ roomie of mine, just because it did not play ‘Althota Boopathi’ when he wanted it to. Thank God, I did not have an iPod then. Occasionally you may be asked to turn to ‘Raj Sports’, ‘Channel Free’ (I later realized in the final year, that they had meant Channel[V]. However Raj Sports – I am still not sure) on the TV. What was I to do, launch a new channel? Their dance can put the nimblest of bollywood hips to shame. Shakira, move over. It’s the perfect comedy material for a dull Monday, if you can record it and save it. Although your computer / mobile can then become the target of many an evil eye, if word of your possession of their Saturday night jig, comes out. Or worse, your life may be at risk, if you even remotely mention about this to a girl.
Atleast these aforementioned atrocities were confined to the four walls of a room. But it becomes a serious pain in the neck when you are the only sober guy with a bunch of intoxicated maharajas on the streets of Pondy, each one, thinking of himself as the king of the world. I am always inducted in this gang, some times threatened into it, as I am by default assigned the task of bringing the sheep home. Atleast for that night, I become their Guardian Angel, herding them in an auto, explaining to the bemused onlookers, shutting up these chatterboxes shouting at the hero in the cinema theater, consoling the auto driver as somebody won’t stop giving directions to him from behind, I’ve done them all. In other words protecting the general public from these bunch of inebriated men who had beer flowing in their veins that night. Well, actually, vice-versa.
And then on having these guided these rudderless ships safely into the harbor, with the efficiency of a skilled seaman, I am sometimes more tired than them. After having laid down these spirit-filled bodies, in the nearest unoccupied ground space, I can only lay down next to them. And unmindful of the smell of whisky, beer, rum, cigarette smoke surrounding me, and the odd limbs of my neighbor resting on my aching chest, I can only sleep like a log, hoping fervently, that tomorrow will be a better day.
Usually, I am the last one to get up the following day, last one to wake up and see the sober bunch clinging to their heads with a bad hangover. Someone would give me a sly smile, and ask me – “what’s with you dude? Were you drunk yesterday as well.” I would have buried him alive at the very place, but then somebody else would interrupt. “Hey come on guys, he was the one who brought us safely home. We should thank him. Machi, lets have a thanni party tonight at t…”
Usually, at this point, I am either knocking the lights off my fellow room-mate who was bright enough to give that idea, or out at the bus stop trying to catch a bus to Chennai for the weekend. But I believe it is usually the latter. May God save the ‘non-drinker’. May God save this ounce of sanity in this insane world. Hic.…