Friday, March 26, 2010


His name is Shera and I’d met him before once or twice when I accompanied Rekhi Uncle to his farmhouse where he’s the keeper and lives with his wife and kids. However I was oblivious to him being severely alcoholic. He’s a short, 30 something, extremely skinny guy with unkempt hair and I wonder if his liver is functional at all. He grins and laughs a lot, in this fashion: first the facial muscles around his nose contract, lifting his upper lip and then he lets out intermittant gusts of air through his vocal chords which make him sound like an old diesel engine being cranked.

Shera was in Sector 47, where I live (and so do the Rekhis, a house away), to take care of the stuff in the community centre where arrangements had been made for meals and stay of the guests for Harman's (Rekhi uncle’s son and my friend of more than 11 years) wedding. I was asked to help with the procurement of some stuff for which Shera was to accompany me on his rehra (small tricycle cart) and haul the stuff back to the destination. Suraz and I reached the place at 7pm and a very drunk Shera followed on his cart, dodging the traffic and escaping possible accidents by whiskers. The stuff was loaded on the cart and Suraz and I proceeded to some other destination redirecting Shera back to the community centre, lest he’d reach somewhere else. While the stuff was being loaded I instructed the men to dust the articles before loading them and whatever I said to them, Shera repeated in a slurred manner grinning at me and oscillating to and fro from his mean position. Only God knows how he rode that cart back. Anyway at dinner he was getting on my nerves because he was trying to be extra nice to me and kept bugging me with enquiries about my well being. He did a resonable amount of work, bringing all the food and arranging chairs, all the while swinging wildly left and right but he never dropped anything. This despite the fact that if you’d get a glimpse of him standing, you’d bet he couldn’t stay that way without falling down. That was something I appreciated a lot but he just annihilated that appreciation by approaching me with that silly grin and asking if I was alright yet another time. I steered clear of him from then on.

Then next day, I heard that he got a sound beating from Rekhi uncle for some escapade of his, again in a very drunk state. Perpetually drunk in the three odd days he was there, be it morning, afternoon or night. Shera told me of his horrific previous night at the community centre when he was all alone and mauled by mosquitoes. I wondered if the mosquitoes enjoyed the alcohol in his blood and hence had a cocktail party on his body. He told me he didn’t like being alone and swaying with joined hands he begged me to send some people over at the community centre so that he had company. I had no clue what to say in response to that request.

His outdoor services were required again and in the afternoon, Shera followed me on his cart. The place was closed and I called up the owner who asked me to come an hour and a half later. Shera was irritating me as usual with his silly questions. Since I was to go elsewhere, I told him to return at that stipulated time. It was very hot and he was perspiring heavily and with a stupid grin and a garbled manner he asked me to accompany him again. I told him it wasn’t possible and that he’d have to do it on his own but he repeated his previous sentence like he hadn’t heard what I’d just told him, though this time with pleading eyes. Suddenly I was filled with sympathy for the guy. There was a human being somewhere in that living wineskin and he knew how helpless he was trapped in this snare of alcoholism. He probably knew that only death would liberate him. My temper eased and I tried to explain it to him that he’d have to make the trip on his own. An hour and half later I checked with Rekhi uncle if he’d sent Shera to get the stuff but he told me that Shera didn’t have a phone. I went to the community centre and looked everywhere but could only see the cart; Shera had disappeared. I went looking in the kitchen and the cooks directed me outside while they laughed hysterically. As I neared the door, I saw a hand covered with flies. I was aghast to see Shera lying in a corner with flies covering his face, including lips.

“Is he dead?” I thought aloud. But then he opened his parched lips that made a few flies take off. He took a few deep breaths, smiled and then turned to one side and continued sleeping. I shook him, pulled at his hand, legs but to no avail, he was sleeping under the influence. I went inside and brought a big glass of water and poured it on his eyes, that only made the flies go away; Shera was asleep and there was nothing I could do about it. I went alone and hired a rickshaw to do Shera’s job. This rickshaw puller was a very sweet guy and was so keen on doing his job right that he didn’t bother that a part of his rickshaw broke as the stuff was being loaded. Cheerfully he hauled the stuff to the destination for which I tipped him. I thought of the contrast between the richshaw puller and Shera. Both were poor and had to do manual labor to make ends meet, the former probably worked harder but wasn't drowining himself in alcohol.

That night was the cocktail party but it was just another night for Shera. He downed a full glass of neat whiskey in a gulp that set everyone laughing. Of course he was quite drunk before he did that. Despite the sight of him, I felt more remorse for him than contempt. It’s understandable when people mock him or just ignore his presence. I feel sorry for all those who indulge in excessive drinking. There was a point of time when I too indulge in excessive drinking and even paid a price for it.

Shera’s doomed unless he’s pulled out from this quicksand. I wonder if his drunken world is more pleasant than the real world. I wonder if he perceives people as appreciating him when they’re actually making fun of him, I wonder what dreams he sees when he goes to sleep after downing a one too many (as usual), is he a star in his dreams, does he have palaces, cars, women and all that money can buy…not to forget a humungous bar with his choicest country liquor. Is that the reason he smiles when he’s asleep? Only he knows the answer. The real world’s too harsh for him.

1 comment:

the saint said...

Fantastic Bro...I hope that he sobers up just enough to realise his folly.. That apart, I think even God must have given up. It's a tragedy. A life wasted. I wonder if he ever dreams of his childhood. I wonder if he associates with anything in this world apart from the warmth of alcohol. I wonder if he appreciates his own life. Will he respond to any help to put an end to his alcoholic dependence?
Shera is just one example. There are millions out there in India. Both Urban & Rural. The implications are enormous. But that is another subject altogether.