September 2006: How’s life from a non-drinker’s point of view?
Right off the bat, let me establish that I don’t drink. At one point of time I would add ‘never ever’ to my ‘I don’t drink’ statement, but now that I’ve had alcohol eight times (ginti se!) in my whole life, the ‘never ever’ tag no longer applies. Nonetheless, I can say that I’m not a social drinker—each of those eight times, I’ve gotten completely drunk. Completely shit-faced. It’s a very funny feeling looking at the world from behind a haze of alcohol. It’s rather like seeing everything through a honey-coloured filter while spinning on a top: all things are beautiful and nothing is stationary. More on what I think of the world when I’m drunk—and what the world thinks of me—later.
I don’t really know why I don’t drink. Maybe I don’t care much for what alcohol does to/for me in small quantities. (The jury is still out on what I think of what alcohol does to me in large quantities—I’ll keep you posted!) Maybe I don’t like the bitter taste—I have more than a sweet tooth, I have sweet teeth, and alcohol, well, just tastes terrible. Maybe I don’t think it’s worth the calories—I need to give up something for all the sweet calories I ingest. Maybe I’ve watched too many social drinkers slur their way through fauji parties to want to be like that. Maybe I’ve listened to too many lectures delivered by my mom to my dad about his drinking—thought it’s surprising they’ve affected me when none of her lectures against smoking have.
I honestly don’t know why. But even when I turn down drink after drink at parties, very few people actually take me at face value when I say I don’t drink. You see, I am cool, dress well, speak well, party hard—and people believe the two just don’t match. On further probing, I say, ‘I don’t drink on principle.’ This adds to the coolness factor and my whole woman-of-substance-and-mystery persona. And this really throws my friendly host, besides being great party conversation, especially since my dad worked for an alcohol company and I’ve written this trashy little e-book on alcohol. (I know, tell me about it—the things we starving writers will do to keep the home fires burning!)
Not drinking has made me very popular with a certain section of the population. Firstly, I am a very cheap date. Secondly, I get invited to all these society parties, with my society-type friends, where I am very out-of-place with my kajal-panda eyes and jhola. I have always marvelled at my own popularity. I fit in everywhere, I thought. I am fun and friendly and oh-so-popular! It was only recently that I realised my popularity had its roots in my being the designated driver, a cheaper alternative to employing a driver or taking a cab. Of course, this realisation has done wonders for my sense of self worth.
But boy, have I been drunk! The first time I got drunk was in Jaipur. I was there with my parents, all of 16 years old. At this party a friend kept handing me this pretty blue drink. It was a beautiful blue, and in my mind, anything blue is attractive and positive. And it wasn’t bitter. So I drank and I drank, in spite of my mom warning me that it was quite potent. By the end of the evening, I was completely smashed. Sufficiently lubricated, I ended up telling my parents about quite a few indiscretions I would, under normal circumstances, have paid to keep from them. My first taste (quite literally!) of how alcohol can make you say and do things that you may not have said and done in a more sober state.
A few years later, I was seeing this guy. The Christmas-New Year’s holidays came along, and I wanted him to come to Goa with me. I begged and pleaded—all my friends were going. He said no and we didn’t go. Three days before New Year’s, I was single again—dumped and heartbroken. I was all alone in the city—with all my friends on the warm, sun-kissed beaches of Goa. I decided to get drunk on New Year’s Eve, all by myself, miserable and pathetic, as my parents went out partying. My maid watched amused as I proceeded to blow chunks a few minutes before the clock struck 12. And that’s when my parents called to wish me. My maid, in a well-meaning attempt to shield me from the consequences, told my parents I was in my room with someone, and that the door was locked so I couldn’t come to the phone. I spent the New Year drunk and heartbroken, with my parents furious with me in the mistaken belief that I was locked in my room with a new boy.
Though it still escapes me why anyone would want to have sex with a drunken woman. I’m convinced—and this comes from personal experience—that men who have sex with drunken women suffer from latent necrophilia. Really, how else would you describe someone who would willingly sleep with someone completely unresponsive! I have refused to turn over, cooperate, kiss or even wake up to acknowledge the sex that is being had with me—yes, I use passive voice deliberately.
Anyway, coming back to my interesting drunken episodes. A few weeks ago, I was at a little celebratory get-together at a bar. I was goaded into drinking, and once I decided to drink, I went at the free booze like a true alcoholic. I drank four Long Island Iced Teas like they belonged to Lipton and not Long Island. Soon I was drunk as a feather in the wind. In the company of close friends, I decided to close my eyes and go to sleep, queasy as I was. Except, I have noticed that seats get remarkably slippery when you’re drunk. I kept sliding under the table, and would wake up sitting there, facing someone’s crotch. I also remember having to pee a lot—alcohol does really fly through your system, doesn’t it! I finally fell asleep on someone’s lap, and was woken up only when it was time to go home. I was being, well, the word may be supported or dragged—I’m not quite sure which—out of the pub when I realised I wanted to puke. I threw up on my friend’s shoes, and then again on mine. This someone has since sent me a laundry bill, for the large saliva stain on his pants on which I had drooled when asleep, and another one for new shoes—to replace the ones I puked on. By the time I was taken to the ladies’ loo and was made to stand appropriately poised over the sink, I was done. Anyway, I was driven home in a taxi, asleep on the back seat. When we reached home, however, I heard the negotiations between the cabbie and my friend—and was conscious enough to do the calculations for him and tell him that we were being over-charged by a hundred bucks. I don’t think the brain ever really shuts down, you know.
The one great saving grace is that I don’t get hangovers. Not at all. My dad tells me this is hereditary—he never gets hangovers either. For this supernatural ability, I have been persecuted, branded a witch, and have nearly been burnt at the stake by my friends. ‘What a waste of such great genes,’ they rant. I have even had marriage proposals from men who, aside from my beauty, brains and all of that, have wanted to pass on this great ability to their children.
Through all my drunken episodes which I’ve enjoyed thoroughly, I’ll say this when I’m sober—I’d much rather watch people drunk than be drunk myself. I’ve seen some really funny things happen.
People say you’re the most honest when you’re drunk. I certainly hope that’s true. I met Tanya when I joined college. Tanya is this stunning, composed girl-you-want-to-be type person: not a hair out of place, never had a clothes-that don’t really match episode. I thought she was snooty—and realised she was just shy. Anyway, by the third year, Tanya had thawed and we’d become really close. A few months ago I got a call from her, late in the night. Nothing new there. I picked up my phone and was taken aback when I heard my formerly shy and unexpressive friend declaring undying love and her ‘forever friendship’ to me. Of course, when I called her the next morning, I convinced her that she had declared a diametric deviation in her sexual preferences and had wanted to leave her boyfriend for me!
Yet another one of my friends once came back home after a party and had almost convinced his parents of his sobriety, when he asked to be excused to use the loo. He then proceeded to walk into the kitchen and pee into the sink all the while proudly grinning to himself at having pulled of his little farce.
I am done now, I think. I prefer my woman-of-substance-and-mystery persona to being the mysterious substance on the floor. Henceforth, as far as I’m concerned, the Romanovs belong in Russian history, Old Monks in Dharamshala and any Royal Stag I meet will walk on two legs.
An edited version of this article appeared in Man’s World in September 2006.
I still don’t drink, though I’ll have a Bailey’s once a year or so. I have got trashed once since I wrote this article 12 years ago, on the insistence of my spouse who said he’d never, ever seen me drunk… Verdict: I am a boring lightweight who falls asleep soon after one drink. And yes, he verified—drunk, I’m as terrible in bed as I said I’d be.