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Monday, October 25, 2010

The Drunk

I threw up again ,the stink rose through my nose hitting my befuddled brain ,even in that state it was revolting ,
The smell of vomit with booze in it and lots of it too is always revolting
All the more if one was lying in a gutter with bilious liquid dirt flowing all around you
Where was I ?
Of late this question had always popped up in my mind clearing the fumes of whisky from my gray cells for a moment ,a fleeting moment when I saw myself and felt disgusted
How long had I sat in the bar ,did I fight with the waiter ,I remember being pushed and kicked by some people there when I had almost fallen on the waiters feet and clung to it begging for a peg more ,empty bottles paraded in front of my eyes The black and red labels ,the vodkas gins rums and later when my wallet emptied the local stuffs those which threw you into the air with the punch ,the sweet release it gave took me into a world so different ,a hazy fog laden dreamland where reality disappeared and one lived like a caliph in surreal exuberance .
Where the hourbis danced for you as the finest of the wines flowed ,where the tongue grew into a snake and explored the nooks and corners of language playing with words and terms and places unknown and un begotten
This was world where there was no barriers nothing kept you back ,one was unleashed into freedom to act to do and to say ,there were no etiquettes here no social niceties bothered you there were no worries like a blanket thrown on fire they just smoked inside you and never popped out
For ages it had been like that this liquid would burn its way into the thoughts and actions of people and change them like nothing else ,it was not the benumbed state of the drug world where one was in a state different that was like death and rebirth for I had meddled with that too to get better punches ,but this was a world unlike anything else .
Little did I think I would become part of this world ,the one that I despised and the one whose inhabitants I scorned and cursed to the depths of hell as the dark side of society ,I was always against taking drinks and would opt for softer ones even in parties where it flowed and friends would prod me to have a drink ,I was never attracted to it to me it was something which would change my senses from me and that was something forbidden and dangerous
How did I of all persons become the drunk I am today !
Was it the bout of happiness or the pangs of sadness or the yearning of lonliness that took me through this dark path to hell I don’t remember much these days everything is befuddled and strangely abstract there are no more clear tones to my life it has taken a softer and hazier look with the edges blurred all the thought process is there only in my efforts to get my next drink ,remember having sold most of the belongings including the house to meet my piling debts many cheated me and exploited my helplessness my family left my wife tired of my violence and strange behaviour ,digusted with my intermittent apologies and bouts of violent drunkenness, my darling children were afraid of me and my friends shunned me and looked away when they saw me ,I had fallen to the depths ,all efforts to pull me out of the pit were failures the temples the swami is, the hospitals all gave respite for a short time with me going back to the pleasures of Bacchus like a good Samaritan who returned .
And today I have woken up in this gutter smelling my vomitus
The few coins in my torn shirt pocket jangled as I tried to get a hold on the edges of the gutter and pull myself out ,finally I managed to extricate myself and lay on the roadside it was raining washing away my dirt but not my sins ,I didn’t realize there were tears of remorse too mingling with the wetness of my cheeks ,my children grew large and my heart welled with deep sadness at my sorry state
where am I today from the brilliant marketing manager with the stars in his eyes and racing up in his career to a street drunk in the gutters my job had gone first ,my boss needed no excuse to kick me out as he knew I would surpass him one day with my skills so he did his best in the early days of my habit ,money was no problem then and friends too I had loads as I had saved a bit ,a palatial bungalow and a couple of cars ,the jarring lectures by the wife and the strange looks by the children were the only things that gave me a guilt but I just passed it off for the pleasure.
I knew when to stop and I would ,was my oft repeated statement and as far as the job was concerned I had so many offers .only thing nothing fructified nobody wanted a wino working for them and slowly my reserves dwindled and so did my good time friends they just vanished into thin air like genies
There were willing lenders who slowly and steadily took away my properties my family left me as I was unlivable I moved into a single room slum apartment drinking my days and nights off
To me that was the only life I knew and the days went ahead in a flurry of swallowing and vomiting the vile liquid. I hardly ate if at all it was only those spicy snacks that came in bars and arrack shops I needed to nibble them to swallow the bitters
I was a looker at one time turning heads with a resemblance to the local cine idol but now my hair had fallen become grey and was all muddled up my gaunt cheeks and wasted body made me look like an Auschwitch survivor and I had lost a couple of my fine white teeth being kicked by characters in bars .
Most of the bars knew me and had tolerated me a lot ,slowly their patience had fallen as I never paid the bills and was in their tables till late in the night and became a nuisance
So that was my state I was as deep as possible in the shit as one could be

I felt someone offering me a hand then ,surprising somebody would do that to drunk on the street ,I took the offer for I wanted to rise from the slush ,it felt soft and was the hand of a teenager ,it was familiar too and then it struck me it was my son how did he come here and at this time of the night he was 15 of course but still they lived far away
was I dreaming ?
“ Papa come “ he took me into an auto there was somebody else with him an older person he moved to make room for me and we chugged off through the lanes
I slumbered still clouded in my thoughts and was shaken awake after some time I went in to the house of probably the person who came with my son I was taken to washroom given new dresses and I remember lying on the soft beds and then it was bliss
Till I woke up and ached for my peg I looked around the room frantically searching for my habit and was about to burst out when the man accosted me and made me sit on the bed
He was stern and talked to me succinctly some no nonsense words
his child studied with my son, he was in the armed forces taken retirement now and in business he would be taking me to RHIMA the deaddiction centre in Kochi west run by the Indian medical association ,he had to do this for he had promised my son who had come to him and wept a few days back and he was somebody who didn’t go back on their word ,he was a man who one did not argue with
I gave a sarcastic laugh and told him had been to many such places and nothing much happened
I would go back to drinks I knew, he said try this once too for the sake of your family your son and this did the trick my heart went out to my son and his soft hands
shortly we were in Rhima and Mr Mohandas the manager gave me the briefs and the rules ,
A doctor assessed me they gave me some pills to stop my craving and some food and I fell asleep
The first few days as always was hell I treid all the tricks in the book to get a drink even trying to bribe the other inmates but nothing worked Rhima was firm and at the same time soft with its inmates .
slowly I fell into the pace and with other inmates lived along without drinks a small surprise for more that 20 days my son came with his friends father and he seemed happy to see me presentable
I had shaved and worn clean clothes and regained some semblance of my old self
I attended the meets the gatherings did some gardening slept a lot and days flew.
I left the place in a month ,somehow this time it worked I had a difficult time in the first six months but Mohandas was there just a call away and most of my friends in the A A meets were there to help me and prevent my fall into the pit again
it is now along 6 months since Rhima saved me I got a small job and moved into a better place my son visits me but my family has still not moved down
the hurt is deep and would take more time
slowly my debts are dwindling and the sun is up in the horizon thanks to my son and RHIMA

............Was written for RHIMA Deaddiction centre Cochin run by Indian medical assn cochin West my branch

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thai Tales

The chennai international Airport confounded us with chaos and confusion .
It was Haj times and one had to trudge a long distance sans trolleys which just werent available ,Chennai city definitely deserves a less shoddy airport than this .
We were off to our four days sojourn to Thailand for a get together of my wifes classmates KMC 79 batch reunion .

The tour itself was courtesy Diana Travels ,and was arranged with finesse .
After exited sightings of old classmates and thier families ( my batch was 77 but I knew most of them )we were comfortably enconsed in the orchid themed Thai airways flight .
The colourful and tastefully attired airhostesses and stewards welcomed us with a very ethnic Sawasdee and folded hands ,from that moment the Thai culutre ,history and its similarity to Indian specially Hindu culture intrigued me .
The menu unfortunately designed by Michelin star chefs was tasteless and disappointing so much for michelin stars !even the vodka shot could do nothing to change its tepidity .
In three hours we were at Suwarnabhumi airport which was somewhat similar to terminal three Dubai but more eastern ,orchids were everywhere and the royal family beamed on us from above
The taxis were rainbow coloured and striking ,it was a wet morning and the rains had made it cool and nice .We alighted into our luxury coach .
Mr Ramanan one of the Directors of Diana travels had accompanied us and he introduced us to Mr Tim our guide for the tour .
Tim said he was a direct descendant of the last emperor of China ,we did believe him because he was a wonderful man with his quaint chinese english and quiet demeanour akin to Jackie Chan in Karate kid .
Our itinerary was packed and we had no time to waste ,we moved on to Pattaya which was around 2 hours drive from Bangkok airport .
On the way we went to Sri Racha tiger Zoo ,after breakfast we saw some shows of tigers ,elephants crocodile etc which were absorbing .
After lunch we checked in at A1 Cruise hotel shaped like a cruise ship facing the sea ,a couple of hours of sleep made us fresh for the evening .
Things happened in Pattaya only at dusk ! famed for it nightlife and sex tourism It seems during the Vietnam war American soldiers found physical relief in Pattaya and thus orginated the famed nightlife of Pattaya .
Pattaya also had a side of it for families with no lurid intentions !
We went to one such famed show called the Alcazar show .
It had beautiful ballet pieces with excusitively dressed women beautiful and gorgeous ,we wowed at thier subtle sensuality ,flowing dances ,sparkling colourfullness and stunning visuals ,after this feast for the eyes and the senses we could see the artists at close quarters as they gathered in the lawn outside to bid us farewell ,it was then that we came to know that the sinuous curves bubbly chests, full lips and rosy cheeks all belonged to lady boys and not women !most of them would give our Bollywood/Tollywood heroines a good competition .
with the ladies and children heading for a much needed rest some us of men folk headed to explore the famed night life of Pattaya ,the place was full of massage parlours with different possiblities suggested ,in one place the girls were all lined up behind a glass screen and the selction was done by numbers with the smiling girls joining the person selected and going off with him ,after our voyeuristic tours we went for one of the live shows with seductive Russian lasses some among us were made to accompany them in the dances too ! (no details please )

By midnight we took a tuktuk ( an extended auto which can carry around 10 people ) we refused Tims invit to a round of more pleasure places and returned to our rooms soberly, to our wives with honours intact .
Morning we were off to coral island which was reached after an exciting speed boat ride
there was parasailing and underwater walking
I tried the latter and enjoyed it
we kneeled wobbly on the ocean floor with a huge head mask giving us oxygen from the boat above ,fishes of all kinds nibbled our bare skins as we felt corals and sea anemones guided by expert divers .
Many went for the parasailing including all from my family which I heard was great fun ,
I limited myself to taking photographs for posterity .
after a nice dip in the sea we returned back to our hotel by boat and lunch

we then went to Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, situated between Pattaya and Sattahip on Sukhumvit Highway, had a modest beginning 40 years ago as a fruit orchard on 520 acres of land but has become since then one of Asia's leading botanical gardens with a collection of palms, cycads, shrubs and rare species of plants.
In 1954 Mr.Pisit and Mrs. Nongnooch Tansacha bought 1500 rais (approximately 600 acres) of rolling hills and valleys at kilometer marker 163 on Sukhumvit road in Chonburi province. The newly purchased land was anticipated to become a fruit plantation. But as fate may have it, Mrs. Nongnooch during a trip abroad, was inspired by the beauties of many world-renowned gardens and decided to turn it into a tropical garden of ornamental flowers and plants.
we also heard a story from Tim that the lady named it after the person who saved here from imminent death and died in the process but I could not authenticate this from the web
The shows were elegant and traditonal and the garden was exotic
We then went to the famed Gems showroom where a train ride gave us the history of gems and thier making ,the showroom one of the largest in the world had a wide choice of stones .
we moved on Bangkok after a long drive and post dinner checked in at East Inn hotel exhausted but happy .
every single detail of our tour was meticulously organised with enough time for sightseeing ,shopping and all other needs it was safe secure comfortable with delicious food .
in this post I would recommend all readers to go straight to Dianna travels Chennai for any of thier travel needs .Mr Ramanan one of the directors of the firm with more than 3 decades experience and an old Sita travels hand was a wonderful friend and guide to all of us .they specialise in corporate tours .
The next day morning after a sumptous breakfast we went to the Golden temple ,we managed to take snaps of its towering spires in spite of the constant drizzle
The reclining Buddha was long and massive .
Thailand followed Therawada type of Buddhism and the majority religon was Buddhism .Hinduism and sanskrit names were very common and one found lot of references to the Ramayana with more than nine kings called Rama ,one of the kingdoms in ertswhile Thailand Ayuthayya had its lineage from Ayodhya ,many of the main roads were named Rama 1 Rama II etc after the kings the Sukumvit road ,Suvarnabhumi airport ,the huge showpiece in the airport of the Hindu legendary Amrit churning using a snake ,the folded hands greetings definitely showed the historical links existing between ancient India and Thailand its heritage and culture ( food for a seperate blog ) I was discussing this with Dr Dhanasekaran in one of our moments of rest a very intresting aside of the trip .
The country has given great importance to tourism as it has enough to offer
Moving away from the sex tourist label Thailand is focussing more on its rich culture and history with excellent infrastructure and tourist friendly comforts and safety feutures ,
We Indians have a lot to learn from this small country .
The afternoon was dedicated to shopping ,we walked amongst the narrow bylanes filled with people reminding us of south Mumbai the huge IT mall with hundreds of electronic shops but Dubai was definitely a better bargain place with more choices .
Evening we were off to a grand cruise in the Chao Prayya river with ornate temples and highrises lining its banks the bright lights reflectd in the moving waters as the huge ship cruised under many bridges ,tables heavy with food the deck resounding to pounding foot as peppy Tamil and Bollywood numbers kept us on our toes dancing our blues and letting our hair loose .
The river was Bangkoks soul in its begginings but the famed boat market is no more today with the city having grown with its skytrains ,metros buses colourful taxis tuk tuks and even motorbikes where one could get a pillion ride to anywhere .
The last day we went to a safari park with the bus taking us around a forest with deers sambhars rhinos giraffes and on the on the fenced other half reclining tigers, lions lazing around in thier natural surroundings oblivious to the curious humans and thier clicking nuisance,the trickling rain wet lakes grasslands knorled trees and the misty climate made the safari one of my most memorable experiences .
post lunch we had in our plan some more shows which we wisely skipped and made up with a restful chat with old friends under a canopy of greens
we then were off to, by now our old friend Swarnabhumi airport and its duty free offers .
we bid farewell to Tim the lastest emperor and his benign smile ,
we bid a goodbye to Thailand itself a land of simple people hospitable and friendly thier rich culture deep spirituality innate beauty a land where there was freedom to choose the subtle or sensous as be your choice with no judgements or prejudices ,
where one is treated as a mature human being with the power to choose and enough choices to choose from
Back to Chennai Airport and to our dear India

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