By Sadho Ram
#Edited by Rabia Mehta“The only difference between a man drenched in his passion and a man peach drunk is that the former knows where he’s headed and why.”My father was an alcoholic. He drank that intoxicating oil unlike anyone else I’ve seen or heard of in my life. He drank it like it was the last thing on earth drinkable. And he drank it as if not for it, his heart would stop pumping due to a lack of lubrication to its motors. The alcohol, therefore, served as the lubrication for his heart and unsurprisingly went on to become the reason behind his every action. I wouldn't mind, as I once did, if today one would say that alcohol was his passion.I’m not sure about the exact year that he started drinking, but I was told by his mother that it was when he had turned 19 and had participated in a Jatra, the folk version of theatre popular in rural areas, performed on a temporary tent-like stage that is built either on the streets, in playgrounds or outside temple premises, by local artists, and is based on issues ranging from religious to current affairs. The purpose is mostly to entertain. The groups associated are largely active during festive seasonsHe was playing the role of a drunkard and, she told me, he mesmerized the crowd with his performance. What impressed the crowd the most was that a boy who had never touched alcohol could go on to enact the role of a drunkard with such horrible honesty. From then on, he was hailed among his friends as the drunkard. And, I heard from her, he enjoyed the attention immensely. She said, “I think it gave him the satisfaction that he’s good. Good at something he had never done in real life. Good at fooling people.”“Slowly the attention, the label grew on him. He started believing and behaving like one. Like a drunkard. You know, I had tried to stop him from playing the role of the drunkard when he had come to ask for my permission, but he didn’t listen to me. As he never did.”I had felt hurt in her voice when she told me this.“And I knew the inevitable was now just outside the door waiting for the right moment to strike; it was bound to happen, given the kind of air that blew around him after that Jatra. And then one night it happened. He had come home late, very late. And when I opened the door, the first thing that came inside was not my son but the horrible smell of the thing that I’ve been dreading since the night of Jatra: Alcohol.”And she had wiped her misty eyes after recalling those scenes from her past.But I’ve observed during the growing-up days of my life there in village with him, that alcohol somehow did not change him. He remained mostly under his own control, even after being drunk. He knew of the things he had done the night before when he woke up in the morning, fresh. He remembered the words he had uttered and in what manner. And most of all, he never seemed to forget the face of the person who thought he was drunk and so wouldn't remember. This was one of the reasons people took him seriously, I think way too seriously, when he spoke, whatever he spoke, irrespective of his condition - drunk or sober. He was after all the stronghold, Bahubali, of the nation’s second most powerful political party and its ally, JMM, in that region (which now falls under State Jharkhand, district Pakur). There was equal amount of fear and respect among people for him, his name: Gulab.I wonder if it was the role which made him perfect or something else that he perfected on his own. I don't know! Somehow no conclusion seems to make any sense. And now that he is no more, poisoned to death, burnt into cinders, smoked into air, one with nature, I think I should refrain myself from coming to any conclusion about him remaining and let him remain what he remained when he was drunk: Almost sober.