FORCED TO RISE FROM THE STUPOR "Discretion is the greater part of valor" Way of life in Kerala is best explained by the axiom in Hindi, ‘Elephant has two sets of teeth, one for showing the world and the other to munch its food’. There is no need to expose one’s chewing teeth as no one else partners in your gulp. Logical, though I never assimilated this mantra completely into life. I have enjoyed alcohol as a spiritual dip of rejuvenation for the last eighteen years. My frequency of indulgence was once every month that too after setting upper limits on intake not to be tagged a ‘Radio Mirchi’ or a ‘Crawling Reptile’. Off late my own interpretation to calendar was making the month last only few days. We possess an appetite for adventure. People indulge in scuba diving, bungee jumping, parachuting and god knows what not to satisfy their adventure itch. I could never afford above dare devil acts and neither thought of myself to possess nerves to perform those graciously. The ardent movie watcher in me took note of such scenes with admiration wherein protagonist takes the wheel after some shots at the pub. It was to later become the regular and affordable adventure that I indulged and performed civilly over these years. After an age people continue with addictive habits not because they are unaware of its pros and cons but merely because they enjoy its immoderation. I had lost smoking to marriage four years back. Many of my resolutions to quit smoking had tumbled prior to that. First voices of protest of my would be wife against smoking during our courtship made me promise her that I will quit smoking ninety days from our marriage. I had no intentions to quit and would have never uttered those words if I knew little on her bargaining skills. Never had I taken myself seriously but here I was completely outdone by her elucidation of my seemingly harmless resolution. Her differentiation on ‘Man and his vow’ and integration of the same to ‘credibility and character’ made me quit smoking as per the agreed decree to protect all other foibles that I had in life. Hey, there was method in my madness. The smarter I had salvaged smoking for a price. I have since marriage uninterruptedly enjoyed drinks sighting my big sacrifice whenever she bothered into monthly quota of bottled solace. Monthly conferences provided me an opportunity to sozzle after which riding the vehicle home and then a small nap had as though become a prescription for the hallow of energy that drove me for a month. Perfect rejuvenation so provided enabled me to sail a month hassle free. It had reached a time that all arsenal of my wife to confront my monthly spiritual dip had gone blunt and her spree of
attacks on the same had receded totally. Good times end; some getting a pat while others after a catastrophic jolt, my due day laid waiting. Police of our land works proactively and tries to enforce most laws before even they come out of factory. We have seen it with Helmets, Seat Belts, Sun Films and many others in the past. For Police to act; crime has to occur and they take charge only after that. If no crime is done, what role do the Police have to play? With this orientation in mind they pounce on helmetless motorcyclists and would take great pains to shadow pub gates to pass information on motorists coming out after spiritual dip through wireless to distant mobile posts. These mobile posts would then chase and hunt these motorists making their journey back home and book them as criminals travelling on roads under the influence of alcohol. I figure every Police station and mobile posts are given daily targets for such bookings to build state revenue that they are left with no option but to wait till crime has been committed. If our Police were to stand in front of pub gates once in a while and stop people coming out from driving their vehicles under the influence of alcohol, most accidents that they cause while chasing poor drunkards could have been averted. But boy, little do they care on the life of a criminal when the primary orientation that they have is to hunt and nab them down. I had started from home to attend ‘World Veterinary Day Commemoration’ that was held at Aida Hotel, Kottayam on the eventful day of 28 September 2013. My mind was craving to reach Aida to take the plunge into pending quota of monthly spiritual discourse. The caring husband in me thought of dropping wife at her work place in Kottayam before reaching Aida. It was drizzling that we travelled by car. House of my ‘in laws’ falls midway and since drizzling had stopped by the time we reached them, to avert further traffic delays at Kanjhikuzhi, parked the car and took their scooter to make rest of the travel. I will be in a position to tell you what happens at the ‘World Veterinary Day Commemoration’ when it is held next time in Kottayam and this gain in my ability would sum up rest of this commentary. I wanted to hear the distinguished speak on rabies, but cravings outdo carvings. Lunch was served after the Commemoration and many say that I had a sumptuous lunch after the spiritual discourse before jumping onto the Scooter to journey back home. Little do I remember on having lunch? I had cruised smoothly through the major traffic in Kottayam and had reached ‘Kalathipadi’ some kilometers from Aida when I saw a beep behind me through the rear mirror of scooter. Initially I ignored it as an escort vehicle to some Minister of Kerala State. Kottayam is so flooded with Ministers who ply on roads to attend marriages and funerals in their respective constituencies that there is hardly a day that pass without the sight of a State car on our roads. As the beep and horns kept increasing something from inside told
that they were specifically after me. I decided to run for life and sped the scooter powered by Japanese technology at its maximum. 2000 model that the scooter was raised only its voice with increases in the throttle. Kerala Police was technically more competent for the chase. They too were riding a mighty Japanese innovation on four wheels that is preferred by most Ministers as State car these days. One Japanese technology was getting outdone by another. I had realized that there was no point fleeing as they were hell bound to book me and would care little to bump me down for that purpose. I would have gone two kilometers further when a thought of my daughter made me slow the scooter. I was snapped as if a Hare gets pounced on by a Cheetah in Discovery Channel. Kerala Police gave me a chauffeur driven ride in their mighty air conditioned vehicle to the nearest Police Station with an escort of a Civil Police Officer who followed us on the Scooter I drove. At Police Station I was made to remember Robert Browning’s poem ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’. After a series of blow tests, I was given the good news of recruitment to their orchestra. They said I would be required to pay enrolment fees at some local court when they intimate me on the same. The ambience of Police Station had changed over the years. I took note of the quality of floor tiles and furniture and attributed them to be sourced from Local Self Government Development Schemes. Although the stature of Veterinary Surgeon is much higher than a Sub Inspector of Police in Government as per Kerala Service Rules, the former can never equal the clout latter has in society. Quality of maintenance works by Public Works Department at Police Station speaks best on this upper hand. My heart was heavy on losing the race with Kerala Police and cursed the moment when I switched over to scooter from car. I normally ride a motorbike and had I had that, I would never have lost the race. My thoughts took an anguish note later and yearned on the plight of average alcoholics in Kerala. They pay higher taxes per ml of liquor than most other states in India. Our social taboos force them to pay luxury taxes for its consumption in privacy. Confidentiality offered by plush and dark ambience of pubs help them maintain respectable hallow with kin. Occasional alcoholics thus are the biggest donors to state revenue but get further exploited with fines. Why hunt them down as criminals giving no regard for their life? Does our government have no responsibility for their life? Treating alcoholics as criminals on one end and giving many more licenses to start pubs every year is indeed a dual stand. Why can’t our Judiciary stop such crime from happening? Why can’t they make a law, where in drunken driving need to be prohibited by the Pub itself? Thinking in these lines I would have slipped from stupor to snooze. I had no remorse while slipping
into sleep but spree of embarrassments due to my seemingly harmless adventure had just begun. I would have slept for three hours on the plastic chair with arm rests and saw my father vaguely talking with the Sub Inspector while opening eyes from snooze. It was almost five in the evening. I had thought of calling friends once I rise from stupor to come out of the situation with no specks on my linen. Intimating family was the last thing that I would have done. Driver of Police Jeep at the station I was detained was the son of our rubber tapper. He had informed father of my catnap at Station. My linen had just started to get dirty to a point beyond recovery. A feeling of hostility was mounting in me towards the driver for his damage to my aura at home and for spoiling all plans to revive the linen. One but requires two people to guarantee exit from Police Station if detained for driving under the influence of alcohol. I had to so curb the hostility against the Driver and to switch over to eliciting gratitude feeling in my eyes for him while he arranged for the second signature needed for my exit from his accomplice at the station. Another hurdle was in the wait. I had to produce original documents of the scooter to get it released from Station. We asked a day’s time to present the documents and reached home by seven in the evening. Arranged marriages are a network of egos and emotions. It involves not only the couples concerned but also their parents and immediate kin. I saw my father and mother visibly disturbed on the thought of presenting my spiritual status to my ‘in laws’. My father therefore like Pilatus washed his hands off from the situation. I was to face the music all alone. I kept devising strategies to present the situation to my father in law. I was aware of his short temper and knew that best bet to come out of this sticky wicket was to gain confidence of my wife. She was the best ship to sail smooth of the whirlpool. I knew she was her father’s joy and keeping her affront to pacify his anger was my perfect escape plan. To my surprise I did not have to exhaust my entire sympathy gaining munitions store to tune her into my party. She was caring, supportive and understanding of the situation which was also very unlikely of my wife to such situations. She told me to have amicably presented the situation over phone to her parents and that we could collect the original documents of the scooter next day from them. I went to bed in peace early quoting to myself the Malayalam axiom ‘What came as a hill went as a Mouse’. I rose late in the morning after a peaceful sleep to a horn at the gate. My in laws had come visiting home. I felt some fast paced discussions happening downstairs and by the time I reached hall everyone had stopped talking. I saw my wife weeping and mercury levels of all parents rising. Never have I let anyone lecture me on good and bad aspects of life. I knew that
they were going to grill me from all sides. It was a daunting task to squeeze out of situation with minimal injuries to one’s ego. I had to do something before the emotional splash would be all over me. It was time for another vow. I will never indulge in liquor at any social events that happen at Kottayam, was what I managed to utter. I had given more than what they expected. None spoke a word and as an icebreaker their attention was drifted by my daughter to her adventures with alphabets and rhymes. I saw the trademark glee on my wife’s face to have snared me into the vow. The squeaky wheel was getting its much needed grease. You need to be given preparation time before making a vow. If I were to be given a chance I could have rephrased my vow to I would never drive any vehicle under the influence of alcohol from now on. That would have been more than enough. The levels of intimidation that I experienced from Kerala Police had only started. I had just finished with the emotional splash from family that I received a call from an Assistant Civil Police Officer while we were to leave towards the Station to retrieve the seized scooter. He said that people booked for drunken driving by a Local Police Station could be let of the snooze by the powers envisaged with the Station Head. They couldn’t do such a thing to unfasten my hitch as I was presented to them by Highway Police and my attendance was registered also in their call. It was but the prerogative of the Sub Inspector whether or not to seize the driving license and forward it to Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) along with a recommendation to cancel the license. His further concern on my career and plight if the Sub Inspector decides to inform my line superior officers as required by law brought greater clarity to the bargaining. An education at a professional college and that too as a hostel inmate brings some amount of leather to ones hide which wouldn’t wither with slight changes in weather. They released the scooter on production of documents but as I was unwilling had to seize my driving license to be forwarded to MVD. People are ignorant on most laws which make the system to capitalize on most instances while they brush with the law. Gaps and lack of clarity in legal systems aid corruption to flourish. I have seen the so called guardians of law hiding their Jeeps between bushes in small pocket roads just to pounce on poor autorikshaw drivers who after a day’s work return home lubricated in spirit. In the name of justice our Police only manage to snatch whatever minimum these people return to their families. A month later while reading the morning newspaper I received another call from the Police Station. Over phone, the police personnel who spoke to me told that I was summoned to Chief Judicial Magistrate Court Kottayam next day to pay the penalties for drunken driving. He advised me not to attend personally before the court as it is not a place I ought to
be. He suggested that my penalty could be paid by an advocate acting as proxy on my behalf. He suggested the name and number of an advocate and asked me to contact him. I was overwhelmed by the concern of the Police Officer and thought it to be due to â€˜Janamaithry Campaignâ€™ of our Police. Advocate once contacted over phone said that 279 IPC and 185 M.V Act would require me to part with at least Rs 3500/- as penalty and including his fee the total amount I need to part with at his office by evening is Rs 4000/-. When three more advocates contacted me by evening over phone quoting the case report and summons to canvas me for making them my proxy, I had started to be suspicious on the whole concern game. I slept undecided on having a proxy representing me at court but had decided by then to be physically present at the court next day. I reached the court by nine next day morning and came to know that court proceedings would start after the arrival of magistrate by ten. I managed to ask the court clerk on the penalty collected under the acts I was booked under. He told that I need to part with Rs 2000/- and cautioned me not to fall prey to canvassing of black bats. Advocates too so thrive on inhibition an average person had to enter the court. There were almost seven hundred people at the court. I had a chance to interact with many fellow mates who were summoned by court to be penalised for drunken driving. I found many who had made paying penalty a routine affair. Most of them had no remorse and were most sure to return again with a case in similar genre. Their logic seemed simple. On an average they were losing daily a quarter of the amount court would penalise them for drinking alcohol and driving the vehicle. In their permutation and combinations losing four times the amount once in a while to convenience of a vehicle was never treated as a loss. Is then monetary penalty effective in changing a society that ails with alcoholism? We should stop fines and concentrate more on reform programmes of 3 to 7 days duration. Offenders should be made to meet patients suffering from liver ailments and made to participate in service programmes like cleaning the surroundings of the District Hospital. Such programmes as it happens abroad would bring the real change. Government could franchise the conduct of such reformative programmes to Non Governmental Organisations. I managed to pay the penalty of Rs 2000 personally by noon and finally had that sigh of relief I craved for past whole month. Finally, I was free from the clutches of Indian Law. The whole episode left me transformed. Spirits that react only to kicks never elicit reaction to talks. I have mutated from an amphibian to an arid animal at Kottayam. Discretion is the greater part of valor. The spree of the continual embarrassments had taken its toll. An obese higher secondary teacher from my neighborhood who was roughly of my age had left the world and one reason partly attributed for his early exit was his excessive drinking habit. I
see his kids playing at his gates on a daily basis. My weight was nearing three digits and was recently diagnosed with some life style diseases. I was suppressing my gut reacting to the spirituality via chemical mediations for some time now. My craving to carve something to outdo spirituality made me think on limiting my availability to the spiritual dip. The best way to do it was to make my access to spirituality at Kottayam difficult by a vow. Alcohol opens up immense networking opportunities to us otherwise rigid Malayalees. It provides friends, opportunities and experience worth reliving on the same lines without regret if given another innings. We are also known for our foregone conclusions. Ignorant lot among us tends to scale, judge and rank people based on their habits. Transmission of such judgment happens like a wild fire there by creating a brand for the person under fury of judgment in many unrelated public podiums. I have felt three sheets to the wind better as a lifestyle than playing it safe while being scaled by the society. The Malayalam axiom â€˜If you were to lose your nose to a sneeze better loose itâ€™ explains losses that you suffer from such incidences. Spiritual needs are bound to differ from person to person and from time to time. We all run and how better and how far we run before the race ends provides us with carvings of life. My commentary on spiritual needs may neither be treated as a social wakeup call nor an encouragement on goodness of spirit. It is just the verbal presentation of the agony I underwent when forced to rise from stupor. I sincerely hope that it amounts to no agony for ignorant readers who dared to read the narrative. Thank you.