Saptarshi Purohit is officially quitting drinking and whatever bad habits he has accumulated over these goddamn years. Period.
In case you are going to read the whole thing and don’t know me well, there are a few things you should know about me. I stay at Trivandrum (Kerala) while I hail from Burla, Sambalpur in Odisha. It takes 38 hours by train to travel from one point to another. And there are no direct flights either. Nobody in my family knows Malayalam and my parents know precisely two people in Trivandrum.
Without further ado.
Yesterday was a night of “endless” revelry, the purpose of which is now lost to me and in retrospect, the celebration wasn’t called for in the first place. The celebration marking the end of a year which hasn’t been all that great for most of us sounds incredibly foolish. Waste one day to mark the “successful” wastage of yet another year. Ironically, the ones missing from the celebration were the ones for whom this year has been extraordinarily awesome. Spectacular, in fact.
Anyway, the ensuing morning our champion feller here emerged as a no-gooder lowlife, having slept the previous night in a pool of his own vomit and woken up to the stink of the stale vomit with the emanating fumes of malodorous sweet alcohol. The caked vomit was washed off the face and other body parts. Fresh clothes were put on. And that was when the throbbing pain in the head was first perceived.
FUCK!!! I have fucking migraine. I should pop a pill. NOW. And as I reached for the pills usually kept in the drawer, I burped and out came the remains of the food or whatever crap that was consumed half a day back.
Weeping Jesus on a cross!!!
This has to be the worst day of my life.
Calm down. You are just panicking. Have a sip of water.
Gulp. Ah! Some relief.
I reached out for the pills again and opened the drawer. Only to find the foil lying crumpled at one corner with one pill remaining. Ideally, I should be taking two. The prescribed method being: take one at the onset of migraine and another half an hour later. Else it won’t work.
As I sat pondering over what seemed like a cosmic conundrum, the divine forces intervened. The dilemma was solved. I vomited a second time, this time whatever water that had been consumed a few minutes back. No point in taking pills then. Anyway the pain didn’t seem unilateral, and hence could rarely be the onset of migraine. However, now the dehydration and the hangover were to be dealt with. Having no such previous experiences, I decided to call someone who had braved the ordeal a couple of times earlier. The phone was searched for and found. Only to find over 50 missed calls from everyone who owned a phone in the family starting last night at 10 pm and now it was nearing 10 am. And soon enough came the next.
“Hello Bapa (father)!! Yeah, No…I am safe…I realise you have been worried…Haan I understand…but I was not in my room. Had celebrations on the terrace and since the newly acquired phone is both expensive and easy to be misplaced I left it in my room…just returned. No..no need to panic…”
“Hello Mama (grandmother) I know..I understand how families are…It’s okay for you to panic but it was without reason…”
This is repeated over the next 5-6 minutes as the phone is passed all around the family. Mind you ours is a joint family. There have been 15 waiting calls from various relatives which I have rejected meanwhile. I mentally take note to call them immediately after I end this one.
And then another revelation is made. The younger uncle (In case you don’t know and must have to, I have two) has gone all the way to Belpahar, to my junior’s house. Junior here is my junior in college (CET). And the said place more than 200 kms away from my home (rough figures, I may be wrong here but it is not nearby). This drastic step was prompted by the absence of my local guardian here. And my dad had misplaced the phone number of the only other person they know in Trivandrum. 5 of those 15 missed calls were from my uncle.
“Oh shit (muttered under the breath)..okay, I’ll get back to you in a while…let me call him first.”
Hurriedly dial the number.
“Hello Chacha (Uncle)!! Haan..no, I’m okay.(Narrate the whole episode sans the drinking part)…No there is no need to go there…”
Uncle replies he’s at their place already and now everyone around is relieved. And I just don’t know what to say. A moment of silence. Perhaps he can sense my guilt. Father was too relieved and the rest too emotional. Nobody noticed anything unusual. But uncle is not distracted. He also studied engineering; he knows what goes on around here.
Call home, he says. I murmur a yes and disconnect. I start noticing things. My legs are a tad wobbly and I am laughing too much. Maybe my speech slurred too. I normally am very respectful when I am talking to elders and laughing a lot surely is not respectful. I was not brought up in that way. My liberal parents are aware of my occasional drinking.
“You are now an adult. You are responsible for your ways now. All we can do is advice. But remember you should always be in control.” My mom’s very words. And I was yet to talk to her.
I ring up my mom.
“Haan Maa (mom)…(The by now much abused story is repeated)…”
Your mom knows you well. She tells you in her usual nonchalant way she never doubted for a minute that you were safe. Her unshakable faith in her God gave her that much, if nothing else. So she has been calm while others have called people in frenzy.
She then adds, “I knew all this time that you probably have been drunk or have been over at some friend’s place…”
I say, “There was drinking of course”
“I knew you…oh…you have started it again. These are not good things. You are from a respectful family. Just know what you are doing.”
“Umm. I had just one to give them company. I wasn’t even drunk. Anyway mom, I’ll talk to you later. Glory (sister) has been calling for a while now.”
I disconnect. Call up a very tense Glory, Manish (best friend) and Siddharth (distant cousin who has grown dearer over the years, very close now) in that order and reassure them.
Finally, I take a deep breath, sit on the bed and reflect upon the preceding conversations.
One??? You surely had TEN. Probably more. Definitely more. You have lied a lot. With each lie your guilt has been compounding and by now you are literally in tears now. You start to sob. And as you sob it strikes you. You realise the truth. What your inhibited senses failed to pick up. The restless night during which the family members shifted from one side to the other having been unable to sleep is not hidden in their tired voices. The suppressed anxiety in mother’s voice hits you the hardest. How could you not get that??? You are her goddamn son.
That takes a while to sink in. You are unable to believe, yet you continue along the chain of reflections. You realise except for lying you haven’t done much. Perhaps your being safe has provided them some relief. But then you just woke up from a night of alcohol induced sleep lying in a pool of your vomit. Whatever they have done so much for you all over these years comes to you now. Everything is flashing before your eyes now. These are the people who actually care for you. Sure you have friends, wonderful ones acquired over the years. If you die tomorrow they will feel bad for a day. Even less, perhaps. But family (Manish and Siddharth included) will be the ones genuinely hurt. How is the mom ever going to live with you gone??? What about the dad who has though never directly but definitely expressed his love for you in a million of his unique ways??? Who will support him when he needs someone to?? And you shamefaced bugger have you have done nothing but lie right to their faces.
You are crying now. You haven’t in a long time. You didn’t when you faced hardships in college. Never, even when the dismal results were handed out. You have controlled the frustrations well and hidden them deep. Perhaps you shouldn’t have. Bravery has been confused with the fake bravado here. You let go of things and cry your eyes dry. You emerge a better person, at least a resolved one. You will give up all the bad habits you have acquired immediately. Anything that you used to frown upon while you were still at home has to go. It is for a reason advice is sought from the elders. You have to respect and care for lessons that have been learnt over the years. Experience is not over-rated, it never was.
The lesson has been learnt, albeit the hard way. This episode hopefully won’t be repeated.
There is smile on my face as I lie down to sleep the hangover off.