‘Writers Retreat’ is a new exercise I’m doing with Nive Gajiwala and Shachi Nelli, two aspiring writers who happen to be friends of mine.
Every day, one of us will suggest a brief to the group. The challenge is to produce 500-750 words, on that day, on the assigned topic.
Day 2’s topic is ‘Alcohol’, assigned by me!
You were forbidden, when we first met.
You were forbidden and I was curious.
I was so young. 15, maybe? My friends and I, we decided it was the right time. At a bar, a filthy, grungy, disgusting dive bar — dirty and dark and black, downstairs, in the basement, just off Khao San road.
No place for sheltered teenagers.
But it was fine. We were all together, and you made us feel merry, and in the car to the next party, we beatboxed ‘Tipsy’, because that’s what teenagers do.
When I was nervous, you made me confident.
You took the edge off. You loosened up my smile. You stopped my mind from racing.
You helped my nerves — my ‘social situation’ nerves. My ‘there are girls around’ nerves. My ‘what the hell do I do!’ nerves.
You destroyed me, for the first time, in another club, in an another part of Bangkok. You were clear as water, but deadly. You let me go overboard. It’s the first time we had a bad time together. I was horizontal. In that club. Puking my brains out. Aung carried me home, and somehow I made it up the stairs, but before I passed out, my head spun, and I was worried that I would die.
You helped me grown into myself. You cleared my anxieties and calmed my mind. You proved that I was a man, that I could pull my weight, though not hold my own, in fraternity competitions. You were masculinity. You introduced me to many beautiful women, and helped me and them find the right excuses to make the right choices. I was still only a teenager, but you were helping me grow up.
Your friends became mine, when I moved to Mumbai. They were just like me: young and ambitious and confused. I spent all my money on you, because you made me hang out in places I couldn’t afford. But what else could I do? I had no homies, and no Hindi, and no charisma, in an unfamiliar city that overwhelmed me in every second.
I’m a thinker. You made me a doer. You made me a jumper, a talker, a comedian, a DJ. You convinced me to sneak into Olive one Thursday night, three months after I moved into Mumbai, because I was enraged at being barred entrance to the restaurant for being a ‘stag.’
When I climbed the roof and jumped over the back door, I thought I was the man. The bar staff found me, though, and kicked me out, and told me that if I ever came back, they’d break my face.
You made me wild and fun and gave me stories.
But I think at some point, it became all about you. I forgot who I was. I forgot I could do things, and say things, and be things, and relax without you.
I used you to numb me, and you did. You numbed me into a painless stupor, for a while.
I don’t blame you. I don’t hate you. It was never your fault — how could it be? I chose you, every time. Over and over again. I chose you to be my salvation, my boon, my golden ticket.
Here’s the thing: I like being me. When I’m not at my best, you help me feel better. And I owe you for that. Without you, well, I don’t know where I’d be.
You really fucked my buddy Shravan up, once. You roughed him up, and tossed him around, and on his way home, he got mugged, right here in Bandra, because of you.
So you’re not my friend, and you’re not my family. But you’re not an enemy, either. You’re neutral. You don’t have an agenda or an objective. You’re just a force, a symbol of spirit. You don’t make the choices. We do.
I don’t like being forced to do anything. To work, to write, to exercise. To go out, to stay in, to be in a relationship. Sometimes, I feel like I’m forced to be your friend. But I’m not. Nothing can force me to do anything I don’t want to. Right?
Sure, you help me feel more like myself. But shouldn’t I be able to be able to feel like myself, by myself, without your help?
Again: none of this is your fault. I’ve been in control the whole time. It’s just that I’m only realising it now.
When I’m stressed or nervous or bored, are you really solving the real problem?
You’re not. You can’t! You’re not a problem starter, or a problem solver. You exist. You simply exist.
So what’s the real problem? Why do I need you?
I have no idea.
But I’m trying to figure it out.