Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On High Booze: The Story of Dru(n)k Yul

Disclaimer: Any autobiographical reading into this story would be unfounded
Dorji was a keen boy. He had a twinkle in his eyes that bespoke his mind. And he had a mind of his own. He would watch with intent as the men went out to the field, as the women went about their chores, as buildings were erected and as huts were pulled down, as officers adorned in their official grandeur made their rounds, as shopkeepers plied their trade, as children fooled around, as love blossomed with spring, as summer brought about its abundance, as autumn harkened its bounty and as winter-chilled mirth played out in his beloved hamlet.
He grew up as his parents’ chechey. They were already old and he was their only child. So, he grew up in the cocoon of their love and indulgence. They couldn’t bear to have him off their sight for that split second when something untoward could befall him. And they could imagine a thousand things that could go wrong with him at any moment. He came to love them for that.

Time passed and Dorji was ready for school. It became the most difficult test that Dorji’s aging parents had to face yet. There was no school close home and they knew that Dorji had already grown too fond of them to be wrenched away so abruptly from the parental protection they had thought nothing of till then. So, they decided to move with Dorji to the nearest town where he would enroll into a public school and they themselves set up a small shop to start off. It was only a matter of selling a few family heirlooms and the father’s skills as a village henchman did the trick. Very soon, they found themselves reveling in the success of their new occupation and did not regret leaving behind their centuries’ old ancestral home.
Life was not all that smooth for Dorji though. He was used to his parents’ protection and school was a wilderness which he didn’t foresee coming. He had dreamt of a heaven where his parents’ care would be eternal even as he himself blossomed. So, he wept cats and dogs on the first day of his school. But he would let the tears dry in the depth of his heart. Unscathed by any worldly concern, he had grown into an idyllic person who need fear nothing. He was of the saintly stubborn kind.  All that his parents could see was a stoic surrender. His teachers thought he was rather tough for not crying and wailing like the other kids. His mates were in no condition to notice anything in him.
Life went on. He did not exactly like his new life but became used to it all the same. He even managed to find a vent in art. As other children scribbled furiously to clear their exams, he sketched a bold dragon on the front page of his sheet. It took some supplication and a fair share of gifts on his parents’ part to make him “considered pass.”
He loved his parents’ tales of charming princes and he loved it better when they overwhelmed their nefarious adversaries who often reminded him of the inconsiderate teachers in the class and the big bullies outside. He would build mud castles fit for these heroes.
Life moved on again. He was growing fast. When he was not engrossed in those senseless juvenile obsessions, he watched TV. Yes, that idiot box (though he would argue it was a more humane, not to say a better educator than all the teachers in his school put together) did eventually come into his home. It kept him good company and he was more than glad with what it offered him. He was taken places, he met new people, learnt of new cultures and quite mastered the English medium. Granted it was all vicarious, but then he liked it better because he could not find it in him to embrace the real world around him that never quite match up to the ideals and standards that he envisioned.
Life must move on and this time Dorji got a state sponsorship to enroll into the most prestigious college of the country with relative ease. But unlike before, Dorji was now starting to outgrow his boyish self and his parents too had to find a way to finally let go of their boy, though he was a boy no more. At eighteen, he had the dash of his father’s earthy brawn and the wisdom unmatched by his peers. It was finally time to say goodbye to his beloved parents and so he did, with a heart as heavy as his visions.
Dorji found his new home unsatisfactory at best. Quite unlike the new man’s welcome in Hollywood’s glorification of college lives, the most hyped college in the entire country was no more than a collection of a few concrete huts put together in poor taste. The gym that could keep him company all day long was no more than a store space for a few rusty bars. The library which could have made up for that disappointment was basically a heap of old university textbooks collecting primordial dust. The hostel was unpalatable and the mates, a bunch of self-important ignorants. There was nothing to lift the poor man’s heart.  
It didn’t help that he had not the essential life skills, apart from his lofty ideals, to take in stride these setbacks. All his life, his parents did his dirty works, including pulling the necessary strings when he was struck. But now he was faced with a situation, he didn’t have the help of his parents, he didn’t know how to handle the situation himself and he was not sure if he wanted to learn it now given the general apathy of his surroundings
His academics wouldn’t suffer though. English literature was a fantastic escape from the more mundane predicaments of the snag he was in and he took to it like a fish to the river, with joy and gladness in his heart. Learning about the mad genius of the characters in the books and the creators behind them gave his unworldly sentiments a whole new life. He could now be satisfied with nothing, he could stop at nothing, he thirsted for wisdom and he wanted the life as they were in the tales, which for him, was basically the BA English course. His learning there was an outpouring of the enormous blot that had formed on his soul. The results of his exams and the numerous assignments he did in inspired moments of epiphany were a misleading picture of the storm forming in his soul.

It was around this time that a realization dawned on him. The realization that was unworldly. A realization of his dreams, hopes and visions. An escape from his immediate reality. The first sip of some obscure Indian beer was a joyous relief. He has since been flying on the wings of Bacchus, never wanting to come down from that high.

After that he drank for a variety of reasons; he drank to be a part of the bunch, he drank because he was fed up of playing the good boy, he drank to be a man, he drank to express his rebel, and let himself be heard, he drank to compete, he drank to escape, he drank because he was upset, he drank for some ungodly ideological reasons. And then he grew so used to drinking and that he started to drink just for the heck of it.

He convinced himself and many others around him that for those who live by an ideal bigger than just bugging for a three square meal, alcohol was a perfect expression of the soul and the ideals within it. He found that no disgusting, insociable crook ever drank. They feared that it would render them incapable of getting on with their art of skimming the milk. It would have been a compromise on their petty obsession with amassing the biggest possible haul of ill-gotten loots. On the contrary, his knack of putting things in context also found that those who drink, socially or habitually, are those who have (or had) a vision of the ideal world, who are a little bemused that in this crooked world, no good thing can come out and that they are always much better people behind the stench on their breath. He knew too that alcohol is no poison and if there is any such thing, it is in the person who drink and that the person himself cannot be blamed for the poison is created when good intents are left to rot.

It occurred to him that those who live with the Bacchanalian excesses are set on that path by the crooks of this world who never drank themselves but coerce and induce the habit in others, by way of rendering every good venture and thoughts impossible right at inception. It was a war out there, waged by the crooked non-alcoholic on those people who would and could have changed the world for better. So, he figured out that if the battle line was thus drawn, he had better perish on the side of his fellow Good-Hearts than defect to the Heartless Crooks by becoming similarly callous to everything else other than their own wellbeing.

The story can take any shape from here. But I am no yarn spinner and this is not so much of a story as it is a commentary of a drunk on another of his kind, an alter ego if you will. I can’t take the story to its logical end because there is no logic in this madness. Dorji could outgrow his habit, kick it and become the man he once promised to be, whatever that was. Or he could simply drink away the little that is left of his life and become an indelible guilt on his parents’ bosoms. Unfortunately, it is not just the story of Dorji. It is the story of a hammered country, of a Dragon Kingdom on high booze, of Dru(n)k Yul.  

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