Close Encounter with a Senior Grade Drunkard
His wife complained about him: “He is not worried about his children, wife, sick parents, nothing – all he does is drinking. And every day evening he will come crawling back to home…” The lady was furious and shivering with anger. “Life has become so shameful and insulting for us…”
He kept his face down as if he is guilty. “People call him “pambu (=serpant) gopalan”, what an insult, sir” his son said.
“I had given him lot of materials to read on “how to stop alcoholism”…” his eldest daughter, a primary school teacher said.
“Did he stop alcohol?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “He stopped reading…Now he wouldn’t read even the newspapers.”
“We have sent him for counselling…” Mrs Nair said.
“Then what happened?”
“The counselor started drinking. Now he is Gopalan’s close bar mate…” she was very angry. But it was difficult to me to suppress laugh.
Gopalan gave me a pathetic look, his eyes were pleading “save me Uday” I didn’t understand if he wanted to be saved from alcoholism or from his wife’s shouting!
“Gopalan has lot of respect for you. Can you set him right Uday? You don’t like alcohol, right?”
“Akka (elder sister) I don’t drink. I have never ever drunk alcohol. I have not even tasted beer in my life…” I said, “But that means I am a demon and your husband is god.”
“How come?” a shocked look came in the faces of all!
“Akka, in Sanskrit, sura = alcoholic drink. Those who drink sura became “sura”(Gods); and those who didn’t drink came to be known as “asura” (demons)…” I said. I wanted his attention to get him involved in a talk.
“Yes, yes, I am like god” he raised his face and smiled as if he got his life back.
“That’s not right. No god fearing person will drink…” his daughter said.
“Fact is, we even have a god for alcohol…” I said.
“You are joking,right?”
“No – her name is Varuni. She is goddess of wine (sura)…”
“Yes -according to Hindu mythology, Varuni is the goddess of golden liquor, wine and intoxication. The gods readily accepted her and thus they came to be known as suras. But the demons rejected Varuni and were therefore known as asuras…”I said, “Sura has another meaning – immortal. In Sanskrit it is Amrit (Amrut). Gods are believed to be immortal”
“But my father use alcohol in such excesses even to celebrate Krishnashtami” his daughter commented.
“Krishna didn’t say anything about alcohol…Our sacred scriptures do not say anything against drinking…” he raised his head.
I said: “There is no religious ban on the use of alcohol as there is in Islam. Hinduism generally shies away from such absolute dos and don’ts. Hinduism does not have any clear commandments of “Thou shalt not”
“See – Uday is right, didn’t I tell you? Alcoholism has nothing to do with my Bhakti (devotion). If you can show any instances of Krishna’s anti-alcoholism, I would have stopped it…” Gopalan said.
“Brother, generally, alcohol is not permitted in Hindu religious rituals and customs.” I said.
“But what about Krishna, I challenge you. I have read all those scriptures…Krishna was not against alcoholism…”
“Will you stop drinking if I prove Krishna was against alcohol?” I asked.
“Of course…”Gopalan said.
I knew that a drunkard’s promise doesn’t have any values. Still it is worth a try. “Gopalan, do you know, throughout his life, Shri Krishna opposed the twin evils of drinking and gambling!! Having seen what alcohol and gambling did to his brother and his cousins, Shri Krishna always avoided both of these throughout His life…The descendants of Krishna did consume alcoholic beverages, despite His warnings. Intoxicated by drinking wine, they fought against each other and entire clan was killed.”
“That happened because of a curse – Krishna advised them not to drink temporarily to escape from the curse. That was not a general advising for all…It is not said in Gita” he argued.
“Hmm…Bhagvad Gita clearly condemns the use of alcohol. It is classified as “Tamasvic” (harmful substances). Krishna uses the word “amedhyam” (= untouchable) for meat and alcohol. In 17th chapter of Gita, he says that such things are dear only to those in the mode of darkness…”
“But the Hindu deity Kaal Bhairava is served liquor…”he said
“We were talking about Krishna here. However, drinking alcohol is not related to religion. It is a habit. It is related to the behavior of the human being…”I told him, “Our ancestors taught us that the purpose of food is to increase the duration of life, purify the mind and aid bodily strength. If you drink alcohol, you’re harming your own body – that’s violence. Ancient law giver Manu said, it is a papa (I don’t know the exact word in English. It is not ‘sin’) to consume alcohol. The ancient Tamil poet, Thiruvalluvar condemns alcohol, calling it a social evil and equating a drunkard to a dead body. The Indian Constitution strongly endorses the principle of prohibition, a concept that was first introduced by Mahatma Gandhi…”
“Uday, you don’t know its temptation is unlimited. It starts with friends, meetings and social gatherings..It happens to all”
“Not to all. I have attended thousands of press conferences and other meetings all around the world. Everywhere, they serve drinks. In flights they serve. Most of my friends drink. But I don’t. If you decide you don’t need, then you don’t need it…”I said “I am against the consumption of alcohol. I don’t like the drinking culture that is rampant around the world. Alcohol is a huge social problem for the planet. Causes far too much damage to society. Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness. The chief reason for drinking is the desire to behave in a certain way, and to be able to blame it on alcohol.”
“A beer a day keeps the doctor away…”Gopalan said without looking anybody.
“Of course, if you aim his head well with the beer bottle…”I replied
“But Ayurveda uses alcohol in some medications…” he mumbled.
“Ayurveda also clearly say that excessive alcohol consumption can cause or contribute to physical or psychological diseases. But my argument against alcoholism is simple…”
“No matter what, how much ever good you are, you will end up as an adharmic (non-virtuous) if you resort to alcohol. And you know better about the result of bad Karma.”
“Uday, many times I wanted to stop it, but I can’t – you don’t know the conflict that a drunkard faces…”
“If you know the tragedy and misery you cause for yourself, your family and the society, this conflict is nothing compared. Use your rebel spirit to rebel against spirits. We have a small life – let’s touch lives of people around us, instead of wasting it with alcohol…” I said.
He didn’t stop drinking. I heard that he died of liver cirrhosis last week. And the entire family is now dependent on the meager salary of his daughter. His first son -once a landlord – is doing menial jobs on the street, instead of studying in good college. And unfortunately, his first son has become alcoholic, following father’s legacy!
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