I am, what you may call, a very tradition oriented person. Not my fault, I have been brought up like this, and I have never, in all my life, sought to have it otherwise. Which meant, I used to go around with well oiled and plaited braids (double, at that) when in school. I obeyed elders, helped amma at home, was a studious person who never got into trouble. In fact I always steered clear of even the scent of trouble. I still remember, my friend during the training days of my first job used to call me her mommy-substitute, for I was forever keeping the bed clean, folding clothes – mine and others, freshening up on dot at 6 and saying my prayers, while living in the PG accommodation. In short, I was the perfect Miss. Goody Two Shoes. And true to the meaning of that word, I hated the concept of drinking or smoking. Like all other God fearing mamis and mamas of my community, I would go ‘siva sivaa’ (patting my cheeks in succession as if seeking atonement for the sin of having thought about these vices) at the mention of someone drinking.
Now, the practice of consuming alcohol for fun is rampant in the youngsters today, more, probably, than it was when we were students. See any Tamil movie these days and you will see young boys (and sometimes girls too, siva sivaa…) sitting around on a terrace with bottles of various spirits and plates of chips, masala peanuts and chicken 65 spread around them. When I heard for the first time that my classmates got together for a drink on weekends, during college, my eyes bulged out and jaw dropped. I vowed never again to talk to any of those ‘bad’ boys. However, being the Talking Tom that I was, I ended up befriending almost all of those very ‘bad’ boys. But that didn’t mean I softened my stand against their drinking habit. Every time I came to know that the guys were planning a ‘party’, I would go about seriously advising the one or two I really cared about. And naive as I was then, probably a bit stupid too, I actually thought that my advice would bear fruit, while actually the guys would shake their heads with all their might and go about their business anyway after they turned their back on me.
Then came my first job, in a new city and a new set of friends. And with them, came a different kind of life, one that I had never experienced till then. Night outs, bike tours to all places near Bangalore, expensive lunch and dinner treats for anything and everything, and sometime even without reason. As my friends introduced me to my first pair of jeans, my mind too opened up to diverse possibilities that life offers. While I still was wary of toeing the line, I dared to venture very near it every now and then. And here, in this new life, everyone seemed to be spirit friendly. Every party, every outing was incomplete if not sprinkled with the blessings of spirits. It was then I learned the names of the different kinds of spirits that exist – they said vodka shots (taken with lime and a pinch of salt), Teachers (and I thought they were supposed to teach), Monks (again siva sivaa…), Bloody Mary, Margarita, and all their sisters and brothers.
There was not much I could do about getting away from all of it. The truth is I didn’t want to get away, for the fear of losing my cool friends and being labelled a prude. So I began to accustom myself to their presence. I began to teach myself not to cringe when alcohol was brought to the dinner table and mingled freely with the other delicacies there. I began to appreciate that not all drinking is bad, and some might even be good, although, I never got around to having one myself. My friends too, good as they were, never forced or imposed their own habits upon others, and knew their limits with the spirits.
So it was after more than two decades of living on Earth thinking that all those men and women who drink are ‘bad’, I switched my opinion to the fact that bad and good are relative terms. What’s bad for one might be good for another, and I really did not have any business judging them all. I altered my thinking to stand firm on my stance to not drink alcohol ever, but did not fret too much if people around me did, as long as it did not cause me any inconvenience or harm. Once this opinion makeover happened, life was much more easier, and much more fun. And I only have my friends (they know who they are) to thank for this broadening of perspectives.