I was rolling on my bed helplessly. My friend had long gone leaving behind a dreaded hangover as usual. It could have been around 3 O’clock. On my right was my wife in her deep slumber although our first baby in her womb rendered bit of discomfort that made her moan sometimes.
How I reached my bed that night? I still don’t remember. Last I remember was holding a glass of Special Courier and chatting with Ata Tashi and other regular mates. I remember, it was in Shangrila Restaurant whose underground dungeon like bar offered a best place for my friends and I to hang out, with latest Bhutanese movie songs at full blast.
As I lay there on my bed, I was beginning to look back at my life. While remaining enticed with liquor, I must have missed out several other important aspects in my life. I must have missed out some of my true friends and well-wishers. I must have overlooked certain opportunities. Nothing great was happening anyway. All I got in the end was alcoholic liver cirrhosis that tends to threaten my life every now and then. But there was no point crying over spilt milk. I saw a new beginning take hold of my mind. I was visualizing my life differently now. I’m sure my child in the womb wouldn’t like to see a drunkard father welcoming her, as she enters the world for the first time.
So I dialed a monk friend of mine at 6 o’clock in the morning, “Lop Drungchen, is Goenkhang open today.” I got an affirmative response for that. I got up myself although a pain on my temples had been terrible. Got in the bathroom, splashed a handful of water on my face that freshened me up for a while. In few seconds, I saw myself dragging slippers out of my house shabbily dressed and holding kabney on my left.
I don’t know exactly, since when I got exposed to liquor. But for sure, I grew up with it. There were times when this young kid would get in the circles of oldies sipping in equal share while elderly chit-chat went on. There were times when this boy would require a bottle of Ara in his bag while travelling to the school. At home grandma and mom would lovingly save some of their shares for me to drink when I come on holidays. And as I grew up, my grandma and mom would allocate me a quota – a bottle of it daily. I was kind of their Cheche in the family. They didn’t realize that their Cheche was getting addicted. But this was something that came along with their love and affection, which I must not deny.
In the school, I had my own circle of friends who would share my passion, a passion that no teacher would like to see it, hear it or even talk about. Drinking on weekends went on unnoticed. Fortunately this circle of friends got through to the college which only showed that our drinking together and pursuit of learning are to go on. Yes it did and now it is left onto our destinies to break up this circle. Unlike in schools, college days were free with no sticks following us, and our drinking culture was gradually happening in an open field. A decade ago, our destiny stepped in when we got placed in our respective jobs. Thereafter we lost contacts, but I do hear only well about them through some other friends.
My destiny took me towards east where only headquarter had modern facilities – limited lines of telephone connectivity and erratic power supply from its mini power house located nearby. Old wireless set in front of the dzong was still operational. Road network just ended at the entrance of the dzong. Only entertainment that kept people engaged was volley ball which was seasonal again. In such a situation, life wouldn’t have been better without few gulps of Ara or a bottle of beer after office hours particularly for a young bachelor like me. This saw me picking up friends and soon a circle was established that would go on until mid night’s time. It was a never ending affair until the day – Zhabdrung Kuchoe of 2007 instilled some sort of awakening in me.
After making about four turnings uphill and climbing a couple of wooden stairs, I was at the door of Goenkhang removing my slippers.
“What brings you here today?” There was my friend at the door smiling.
“I come with a purpose – a purpose that’s going to change me here after,” I said.
“Are you serious?” he couldn’t believe this.
I smiled at him as we got into Goenkhang. I prostrated thrice before alter while my friend stood near it, performing a brief prayer. Then my friend picked up the Bumpa and I cupped my right hand to receive holy water. He poured in it the holy water that would cleanse me from stains and smells of liquor henceforth. That day, holding holy water still in my hand I took a vow – “this day onwards I shall refrain, alcohol for ten years.” I was literally praying myself that I be given strength and courage to serve my country at the best of my abilities.
As my prayers went on, tears welled up my eyes for I will not be seeing my friend for ten long years. That was the time I realized how intimate it has been to my life. Every bit of my body cells is used to it and at that moment I could feel millions and millions of it bidding farewell, all together sadly. It has been my friend and companion until now. I celebrated my joys, happiness and successes with it. It helped me hide my tears during times of my deepest sorrows. But it has also caused me more harm than good, so must I refrain. Doctors say, our body needs it, but not in access amount. For me, there has been no limit, which only suggested my foolishness. I no longer wish to let my foolishness ruin my life because; I have seen with my own eyes, some of my friends end their lives painfully. I cannot afford to follow their suit at the moment as I still have lot more to repay my country. I shall help my parents and relatives. I shall help my wife to raise our children properly, for even helping raise my own children is a drop of my contribution in the larger pool of nation building process.
I took in the holy water and again prostrated three times to conclude my vow.
I walked out of the Goenkhang as different me – a sober man, as you would find me now.