I was awaiting the digital announcement in the LED light box for the final call to board the Jet Air bound for Kuwait, at the ChatrapatiShivaji International Airport in Mumbai, which was scheduled to depart at 5.55 pm on 10th April, 2016. I had undergone the emigration procedure and checking in time. I had no stress to board the plane bound to Kuwait where I am deputed by my office to conduct examinations. The announcement flashed in digital lights and I shot up and joined the queue, in no time. The airport was in silent mode to reduce sound pollution. To my surprise I found myself the last one in the queue, despite all my vigilance.
We all moved slowly to the Jet Air and climbed up into the craft. It was quite a big one. There were small T.V’s (or Tabs?) in front of every seat. As usual the crew members, one male and the other female, beautifully and graciously performed their safety demonstration. I fastened the seat belt as the plane was about to take off. For the first time I was to travel beyond the barriers of my mother India. I saw the mansions, the skyward flats, and the slums beneath…The hell and the heaven mixed up….The beauty and ugliness of Mumbai was visible from the heights. The urban scenes gave way to blue waters. Yes, I was over the seas and I need just cross over it to reach the Gulf. The plane took a firm forward punch. The altitude was shown as above 10 K.M. The temperature was around minus fifty. All this was quite new knowledge to me.
The plane appeared to have settled in regard to its altitude. It flashed fast, though it appeared motionless. I saw clouds moving past me. The earth with its greenery and waters was not visible to our naked eyes. The crew seemed in a hurry to finish their work early…A bonny, long, lean lass came through the alley, serving food. I just made a survey of the two passengers who had sat on my either side. The one on the left seemed to me having the mannerisms of a Keralite. To verify my surmise I asked him where he was from. His reply was in Trissur Malayalam. “ Sir, I am from Mala and my name is Biju”. Without any further introduction he asked me if I would take liquor. I said,” Once in a bluemoon, Yes…” “Sir, The girl serves liquor to passengers, Smirnoff, sir, Smirnoff!” he said. He went on to ask me if I was not taking liquor let him have my share too. On this I had my mind taking a U-turn. Though I was really not prepared to consume liquor, I began to rethink as and when he had asked for my share. I was not to let him have my share. “Nay man, I too want a peg”, I said. He helped me with getting the liquor with sprite. For the second time he went upto the crew girl with request for another peg…He had one peg in my name too. I gave him half of my second peg. I just drank it up in one motion…Mind my friends, I was without food quite for a long time. The liquor had begun to show its character. I was in hilarious mood. I and Biju began to talk louder. We shared our views; we had become friends as if of very long acquaintance. I was still sober to realize that liquor was the real socialist who had the power to merge gaps and inequalities in society. Had I and Biju remained there sans taking liquor, we would have kept our tongue-tied till the very end of the journey.
After liquor we were supplied with many other delicious dishes, the tastes of them were not felt exactly… There were the dessert, the salad of fruits and vegetables and beverages too. The liquor, the food, the Air Condition all had caused my brains to take a blissful sojourn in the lap of nap. The announcement for landing precautions roused me from the slumber. The plane touched the land with a big roaring din. I am about to land on a foreign land for the first time in my life! Immediately on arrival I went upto the queue to collect my luggage. I was there for one hour to reach the counter. When I reached there I was told to first get my VISA first. I went to collect the VISA and I got it stamped for immigration by the Kuwaity authorities. I had many doubts in my mind. Hesitantly I asked the Kuwaity woman in the counter regarding the next steps. The woman looked up with scorn and I think she had softly muttered, “out”. I had the first incident of humiliation on a foreign soil. I felt the same feeling as Gandhiji had felt at the Pretoria railway station when he was thrown out from the train because of being an Indian, a coloured man. For getting my luggage I had again to stand in the queue for yet another hour. By the time Mr. Tanveer who had come to the Airport got upset for not having any word from me. My friend Hareesh also was there.
I went out of the Airport which was never a match to the one in Mumbai. MrTanveer and Harish were together awaiting me and were relieved to see me. Harish gave me 100 Kuwaiti Dinar for incidental expenses as I had only Indian currency with me. I and Harish bade adieu with promise to meet in week-end. I went with Tanveer by car to my lodgings. As soon as I reached the room I had rushed into the bathroom to vomit whatever I had taken in the plane. The salad, the rice, the dessert, the beverages all went out. I thought I would die as never had I in my life vomited. As for me vomiting seemed impossibility prior to this. I vomited and vomited till nothing remained in my stomach. The nausea was there still. I was curious to see Mr. Tanveer off. He went out in confusion. I was relieved that now I could vomit unseen and unnoticed… Again and again I vomited. I felt penitent for taking the one and a half peg of Smirnoff. I could have given that to Biju. I did not give it to him maybe because I had a feeling that it was my rightful due and that I should not part with that. I was also learning from this experience that whatever was given for free or on discount should not be taken for granted unless and until I really was in need of it. The liquor alone might not have led to this plight; there could be other reasons too…
From the above narration you are not to have the misconception that I drink occasionally. Of course I do not drink occasionally. I drink only once in a blue moon! By this bitter experience with liquor I am further gone farther from liquor. The warning, ’liquor is injurious to health’ is not merely letters of ritualistic, statutory character; conversely it is literally true that liquor is really injurious to health. I am looking forward to a world sans liquor… Intoxication has to really come from within, from one’s own inner self, as everybody has the innate potential to experience the Spiritual Intoxication. You need just to allow the mind to avail the time for fermentation with patience. You will be rewarded.