It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. All my cousins were here for a couple of days. All the ladies in the family had gone for shopping and most of my brothers have dozed off due to long journey. I don’t have a habit of sleeping in the afternoon so I was sitting wide awake in dim lighten living room. One of my nephews saw me and came to talk to me. He was smart child in his early adolescence. Good in sports, academics, an all rounder. His talks were much mature than his age. While talking we came on a topic of how culture influences one’s life. I told him my incident of alcohol addiction and its rehabilitation. As he grew more curious, I started speaking.
Culture plays a very prominent role in our life. We tend to adopt the culture of the country we live in. This processes are usually subconscious, hence we are unable to differentiate between acceptable or unacceptable things. Living in a conservative culture like India, many things which openly accepted by western culture are tabooed here. During my college days, even I got into something which my parents highly disapproved.
So, it was the time when I was pursuing my bachelors in Business Administration from a University in Atlanta. I was young hence a little naive, unable to differentiate between the beneficial or harmful things. I got immensely influence by the western culture as all my friends were from different cultures. Partying and drinking was a normal trend there and I thought that the people who did that were cool. During those three years, even I got into a habit of drinking. In a way, I had got addicted to it. I could not even stop when my parents came there on the weekends. Seeing me getting so habituated to drinking, they feared my health as well as career.
Like any parents, my parents also tried every possible means of rehabilitation to save me from the cage of alcohol addiction. But my habit of drinking regularly from past 3 years made it next to impossible for me to forget, making all their efforts go in vain. Their worry for me grew more and more with each passing day. My stubbornness came in my way of rehabilitation. They feared that my future would be dark if I failed to forget my addiction. They started assuming that I am drinking because I am not contented with my job of a software programmer.
Now, they started forcing me to go to Yale University for my MBA. They thought that changing the place and the friends I live with will help me forget my addiction. Even after my million tries to explain that culture in western countries is almost same everywhere, they refused to hear anything. I had no other option but bow down to their decision. I had already received a scholarship from Texas Education Board so I left my job and flew back to India. I came back to India with a mindset that will relax here, go to club, play tennis, go for movies, and have fun with friends. But a miracle was waiting for me.
When I came back here, I met few of my old friends. One of them was engaged in promoting education among slum children. He had planned to organize an event on the 1st of January for the children and wanted me to speak on the importance of dreaming big and showing them a glimpse of the world outside India. As giving inspirational speeches was my topic of interest, I immediately agreed. While promising, I totally forgot that day before that was 31st December.
I went out with my friends for a new year’s party. I got completely drunk and partied till 4 in the morning. When I went home I realized that I had an event to attend the next morning at 9. So keeping the alarm, I dozed off. I woke up as planned but the hangover of the previous night still prevailed. I had consumed so much liquor that there was no way I would get fresh in a 4 hour sleep. I was not in a condition to go but I was a type of person who would keep my promise no matter what. So I got ready and went. I reached the venue few minutes before time. I had to wear sunglasses in order to hide the redness in my eyes cause due to excessive drinking and lack of sleep.
I inquired about the topic on which I had to speak and to my surprise they had changed the topic. According to them, there were very high numbers of cases reported of teen drinking so they wanted me to make them aware of its ill-effects. I thought for 5 minutes and went up on the stage with an approach that will face whatever will happen. I pulled the entire speech well without anyone doubting my consciousness level.
At the end of the speech, there was ‘Query Round.’ As most of them were submissive, there was silence in the crowd which I thought was good for me. From among the crowd I heard a sharp voice piercing the silence. It was a small boy of around 10-11 years of age. His question baffled me and shook my conscience. His question was simple. He asked me in his typical regional accent, “Sir what you told is absolutely correct, but do u drink?” I was stunned. The world around me disappeared and the boy’s question started drumming in my head. I got totally blank. At that time, I saw a saying by Gandhiji scrawled on one of the walls. It read, ‘BE THE CHNAGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD’ and that was the turning point of my life.
I thought of lying him that I don’t drink but it would hurt my conscience and that one small lie to that child will haunt me for my lifetime. Hence I decided to speak the truth. I told that boy, “I do drink. But from today I promise that I will never touch it again.” The roar of clapping emerged from the audience. And from that onwards till today I have not touched the liquor again. At the end of my story, there was a huge smile on his face. It seemed as his respect for me grew by leaps and bounds. Before we could talk further all the ladies came from shopping and we ended our conversation there. It was a nice experience talking to a genius like him with such vast knowledge.