Tuesday, November 10, 2009
How I got drunk as a five year old
Right as a kid, I had this spirit of adventure and mountaineering. I used to climb kitchen shelves, bedroom almirahs, as I knew the most interesting items were kept out of my reach. My parents didn't know about my climbing skills then yet - they still were under the blissful belief that keeping things out of my reach - on my two feet - was enough. I usually used to conduct my climbing adventures when they were NOT around.
An apparently less active but equally guilty partner in these activities was my younger brother. He had only recently began to speak fluently, and was content sitting on the floor, watching me climb and goading me in his own crooked manner -
"Hey, whats that green bottle on that shelf above you?"
"What's that package up there? It wasn't there last week. Pity its so high."
"That one over there has an interesting smell, but I don't know, you may check it if you like, upto you..."
My amma took me out with her only once, when she was visiting her friend. While they were busy gossiping, I crept into the lady's room, ransacked the make-up shelf and came out covered with layers of Pond's Cold Cream, Fair and Lovely, and Zandu Balm.
I was less than 5 years old then, and my brother had just turned 3.
Since then, my parents used to lock us at home whenever they used to go out visiting friends. They thought my quiet younger brother would be a civilizing influence on me. They couldn't have been more mistaken.
One fateful evening, I decided that I got bored of climbing shelves and almirahs, and set my sights on the sofas in the hall. Behind and above the sofas were the drawing room showcases, where all sorts of interesting showpieces were kept. In fact, my father had then recently been to US and had brought back several interesting souvenirs, which he put in the showcase. Those were the targets of my next adventure.
My brother sat as usual on the floor, pretending to play with his toys but actually looking at the showcase and me alternatively.
The fish took the bait - I clambered over the sofas, stood up and slid the showcase glass cover sideways.
In front of me were several delicate looking bottles with amber-coloured liquid. Actually these were the peg-sized liquor bottles served on US flights during winters. Instead of drinking them, my dad brought them home for the show case.
"Hey, what is that ?" my brother piped up from the floor, in his innocent tones.
I reached for the bottles, gave them a perfunctory sniff, and gulped the contents down. And the next. And half emptied the third one too . All neat. Even Devdas couldn't have downed them like that.
Then I slid down on the sofa, and went off to a fitful drunkard's sleep.
My brother then stood up and prodded me, then shook me harder, calling my name loudly. No response. He went back to playing his toys. After a while, he heard the key turning to the lock, and with that joyous welcome small kids give their parents, he waddled to the door with a big smile on his face and the welcoming words -
"I think Suri is dead !"
In the hall, they found me soundly sleeping (for a change). I suppose I must have kept back the bottles neatly, they didn't notice anything amiss. My brother was content having issued his judgement on me and didn't supply any further details. Amma was happy that I was sleeping soundly instead of being upto mischief (too late !), and put me to bed. In fact I slept so soundly I didn't even wake up for dinner, and woke up only the next morning. My parents were still blissfully ignorant
A week passed.
Then my father's friends dropped by. One casually glanced into the showcase, and joked "Kya yaar, you're not sparing even the showcase booze, eh ?". My parents laughed along with them while they were there, and after they left, they did some 'chintan baithak', and remembered my sound sleep of the previous week. Putting two and two together wasn't difficult.
To this day I don't know why I didn't get thrashed for that. All I remember was that later Amma took me aside and asked me whether I had anything to do with the Black Dog whisky bottles in the showcase.
"Who, me ?" I asked, with wide-eyed innocence.
She looked at me for a while, then left it. She'd probably decided it wasn't worth letting me understand what had happened. In case I happened to like the stuff.