Allow me to conceal my identity and simply call myself Tipsy Gypsy. For decades I had been a resident of Ralegan Siddhi, a village made famous by Anna Hazareji. But a few years back, the missus and I moved out to a nearby town. You may wonder, why this change of address? Well, it all goes back to the time when I served in the army and had acquired the habit of knocking back two shots of rum before hitting the sack. But post-retirement, when I came back to Ralegan permanently, I found myself a square peg in a round hole. For in my absence, anything to do with ethyl alcohol had become anathema in the village. In fact, many of my ex-colleagues wondered why I chose to go back to my village. “All you can do there is whine and dine,” a major with a sense of humour told me over the phone.
Since imbibing spirits in this part of the world is a very covert activity, I even toyed with the idea of injecting myself with my daily fix. That way my breath would not smell and I could get high on a very small dose. But I was strongly advised by a doctor friend of the dangers involved in intravenous administration of alcohol. So I heeded his opinion and continued with my practice of sneaking in quarter bottles in my socks. Now, before I forget, I must tell you that after my retirement I took to tailoring as a hobby. In fact stitching has been a passion ever since I learnt that buttons are more important that bullets in keeping the shirt on your back. But that’s beside the point. You see, all the hard work with scissors, thread and needle did not erase the guilt I felt every time I poured myself two large pegs. And almost as if to rub salt into the wound, the wife, a teetotaller who even stays off coffee, said that I deserved to be flogged for inebriating myself in an alcohol-free village. That’s when I started seriously contemplating moving out of Ralegan Siddhi. But despite shifting to a new town, I could not quite get over my guilt complex.
Incidentally, during my last few days in Anna’s village something happened which changed my life. I stumbled upon the early writings of Sadanand Sade hidden in a steel trunk near a mango tree. Local myth has it that Sadanand briefly visited the village in 1760 before he left for Bombay and caught a ship to Marseilles. Once in France, he reinvented himself as Marquis de Sade and wrote some highly controversial books in French. But the ‘Fifty Ways To Get Flogged’ that I discovered was written in classic Marathi and I am happy to report that the missus read it with great pleasure. In fact, so inspired was she that she even had a pole put up in the drawing room of our new house. “This is where you will be tied and flogged every time you drink,” she declared. I for my part told her that she must wield the cane like a mother on an errant child. Very soon it became a ritual she quite enjoyed. Why, recently on one of those dry days, she wondered why I wasn’t drinking....
(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)