I swear I will never drink again.
Not even a swig. Ever.
Even if I’m in a bar and under the expectant looks of my friends
The waiter asks, ‘And for you, ma’am’,
I will make a solemn face, and unnerved by my peers’ views,
Say, ‘I would like some orange juice’
Or a mojito perhaps, when my palette needs the taste to differ,
But it will have to be one without any liqueur.

You see. I’ve sworn I would never drink again.
Even if it is that bubbly beer mug in the gent’s hand there,
Or the fine rose wine that the lady is swirling there,
I will pay no heed, and sip from my meager alcohol-less treat.

You see, alcohol seeped in my life through ink
Even though I had found, to much dismay, that butterbeer was clean,
There was still mead, and taverns and tweeny dwarfs chugging down mighty jugs
And there were barrels and ships and swanky pirates draped in rowdy music cheering rum
And in case you lean more to the quieter and pensive side, you’d still find
the bookish guy with toppled glasses sipping a red blood wine.
And even as I held them bound in my hands,
This emerged as the one aspect I could live of these fairy lands.

You see, I am a little of romantic. And I love to glorify things
With characters as numerous as the number of letters in a book.
So I’ll order a whisky, a Johny Walker preferably,
assuming I had enough money,
And sit on a bar like Tony Stark,
The loner who has everything and is yet somehow sometimes distraught,
And act the part.
Until, I bring the shining glass to the edge of my mouth,
And take a whiff.
And scrunch my nose.
And keep the damn thing back down.

You see, I can’t help it. My friends don’t get it,
“Why do you have to smell it?” they ask.
But how are you supposed to not?
I can’t help that the effective radius of my nose,
Kind of covers my mouth
And when I tilt the mug
The rim of the glass and the tip of my nose may get a bit snug
And you really can’t take a sip while breathing out!

So I guess I’ll put the perfect Iron Man imitation on hold. Indefinitely.

But you see, I still like beer. And other alcohols – mostly the colorless ones.
And the sweet wines. Those still work.
And I’ve had rum before, but it terribly screws up my stomach,
So I’d eliminate that option.
And hence we gain peace.
Until I get home, and sleep.

You see, I hail from a family of careful eaters.
Imagine my stomach as the newbie in the gym
where others of its kind have honed their strengths
by pulling up on spices coached by packaged meals.
Now give this stomach an overexcited brain
which cannot accept that ‘getting high’ and ‘the amount drunk’ are two different factors
each having its own tracker.
So not being drunk (yet) does not mean that I have not drunk (much)
or that it’s not affecting my (over-nourished) stomach.

You see. The drinking part is fun.
As is the trying out different tastes part.
And the I can feel the world spinning as I pee part.
And the I still feel I’m the most sober part.
And the occasional ‘what the fuck are those guys doing?’ part.
And the ‘Okay. Let’s carefully check the bill (as if)’ part.
It’s all fun!
Until I get home, and sleep.
And my poor stomach can’t hold it in anymore.

You see, I feel my body in its entirety reject
All the shit that it had been forcefully fed
And with each tremor and retch
Tell me of the utter torture it underwent.
I try to reason with it, still.
With water, sugar, ORS, juice,
But it does not listen.
And has forsaken all trust on my judgement.
One whole night it continues the toil
And I, forced to resort to aid packed in silver foil,
complement it, as if to not draw attention, with a small swig of water.
And with that, finally, it starts getting a little better.

Through all this I believe I’ve finally learnt my lesson.
I swear I would never drink again.


Except maybe a little sip.


More Poems

How I embarrass myself where I don’t want to most

That is, in front of people I like.

And people I want to like me back.

More precisely, here, a guy who works in a cafe which makes the best coffee in town. And I love coffee.

First, something about me. If I have to describe myself in one word, it would be awkward. Not the cute awkward. No. But the uncomfortable bumpy ride in a car when you’re holding in your pee kind of awkward. I’m usually quiet but when I do say something, it is totally out of place and just plain random. Picture Luna Lovegood. That’s me when I speak. Only stick a weird smile to that face. Because for some reason I always find myself smiling when I speak to people no matter how inappropriate it is in the situation, and I can’t help it. Awkward right? Now you get the idea.

Today I walked into the cafe again. It was my third day visiting the cafe and the fifth day since the cafe had opened. I had coincidentally walked into it on its first day and had been taken in(head and soul) by the Siphon coffee they had. It’s hard to find cafes that actually brew coffee in India. So it was a rare gem.

‘You again!’ one of the chefs remarked. The cafe had an open kitchen where you could watch the chefs preparing your orders. Like in a bar. Albeit with healthier stuff. Mostly. If it’s not obvious yet, this is the chef. The one I want to look cool to(or at the least, not ruin myself with my terrific social skills). The cafe had an informal air about it where the owner roamed about chatting to customers, exchanging opinions and small talks. Somehow I had ended up talking to a number of chefs on my first visit owing to my fascination with coffee. Still I hadn’t counted on being remembered so to cover up my surprise I chimed, ‘Hey! That’s kinda rude!’ and sat down smiling. Fail! As if on cue, a thousand buzzers went off in my mind. In the world of Inside Out, my feelings panel would be ringing the ABORT siren with all its might. Why did I say that? He works here! If any customer calls him rude, isn’t that bad for him. Even though I had made it apparent that I was joking. What if had cost him his job? Did the owner hear that? And so my mind went on accusing me of more and more serious allegations I had no defense against until the waiter came to take my order. I hurriedly ordered my Siphon and opened my laptop, doing my best to type away my embarrassment through my assignment.

Maybe, it wasn’t so surprising that he remembered my face. The last time I came here was the second day the cafe had opened and he had recognized me from the previous day — ‘You came here yesterday, right? You were pretty interested in the coffee and all.’ ‘Yeah’, I said, feeling a bit flattered. And then jumped into another discussion about the various coffees they offered, before stopping when I had to word what I was saying in three different ways to get my point across(remember the awkward part?).

I was dying to move to the table adjacent to the kitchen so I could watch the chefs work a little(which was fascinating) between my assignment. But owing to my overthinking cranial nerves, decided it would be too weird to move now that I had settled myself on another table. I struggled with my food(I’m a messy eater) and relished my coffee, as slowly as I could, so that I could finish my assignment and stay in the cafe a bit longer. When I could stall no more, I shut my laptop, put it in my bag and made my way to the billing machine.

As I paid the bill, the owner came up to me and started inquiring about the consistency of the coffee(he too mentioning that it was the third time I had visited). We also talked a bit about the other outlets they had, why they had such a limited coffee menu and what he had in mind for the cafe next. Since I was fairly curious about it (a euphemism), I asked him where he sourced his coffee from, and came to know about a wonderful independent coffee roaster in Delhi. The owner generously gave me the roaster’s number when I told him how I always had trouble finding good beans. While we were chatting I casually said, ‘You know, the first time I came around to this place, I was both happy and a little jealous. It’s such a rare cafe, especially in India but then, I had always hoped to open something like this myself 5–6 years down the line and you beat me to it.’ Fail! Mental facepalm. Why? It was going so good! What are you? A 10 year old school girl confessing her secret hobby? You’re not supposed to say these things out loud! How is the other person supposed to react to this?!

I needed to escape. I quickly paid. Focusing on the bills rather than the person on the other side of the machine(which was the owner again). But as I turned to leave, I saw the chef kneeling beside a cabinet and sorting through the stuff in there. He happened to look up and seeing me leave, did a quick wave. That killed me. The disheveled look with the lopsided specs and the clumsy wave — killed me. And knowing in another parallel segment of my brain that can somehow predict the outcomes of all my impulsive decisions to be regret, to be felt even by the tiniest of my bones, I still bent down (and smiled) and said, ‘Can I get your name?’ Boom! went the brain, but I was too far gone to withdraw now. ‘What?’, he remarked. ‘Your name. I didn’t get it.’ ‘Oh. It’s ____.’ He said. Damn! ‘Thanks’, I smiled. And turned away. But somehow there seemed to be something missing. What is the use if he doesn’t know my name? I turned around again(as the rational cells in my pumped up brain screamed in protest) and said, to no one in particular, ‘I’m Tulika by the way.’ Silence. I didn’t dare look around. The entire cafe seemed to freeze. What had I done? How loud was I? If I could blush, my face would have been a steaming beetroot by then. My mental eye spotted the door and I made my way to it looking down all the way for fear I would catch someone’s eyes and melt to the ground in a sloppy mess.

Once out, I walked a few steps to the right and buried my face in my hands. I had done it. This shot up to the top of my embarrassing moments list. Infact I couldn’t even remember the runner ups anymore. I can never show my face in there again! And it wa-is my favorite cafe. He’ll think that I was hitting on him for sure! What if he was married? He didn’t look old enough. But since when have I been a good judge of age? What if a married guy thought I was hitting on him? Was I hitting on him? And so they went on. Fazing in and out between all these thoughts was the quiet knowledge that he had the same name as my ex crush.