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Short Story: Strange Bed Fellows: One Heals, The other Kills

There is nothing wrong in having a peg or two but should be taken in right measure.

Strange Bed Fellows: One Heals, The other Kills,  This short story was written by  Denhang Bosai some years ago, which is still relevant today.  As the habitual drinker walks towards the death trap; the wine shop, with fast strides in the early morning, the wine shop boy smiles, seeing the regular customer because he will be earning good money the whole day thanks to ever growing number of drinkers.

As the day goes by, hundreds of drinkers including under-aged boys and girls and hold your breath, women, throng the wine shop, jostling for space. Seeing the heavy rush in the wine shop the whole day, the Pharmacist in the Pharmacy next door quietly smiles and goes about his routine chores without being disturbed at all. His Pharmacy may not be too crowded with customers now but he is least worried because he knows very well that the same customers who are jostling for space in the wine shop near his Pharmacy will go to him after a few years or sooner than that.

In fact, the Pharmacist is happy to see more customers [read drinkers] in the wine shop because in a few years’ time he will have a windfall gain by selling medicines to these same customers who frequented the wine shop. All these while, the habitual drinkers give a sarcastic smile to the Pharmacist for sitting idle in the Pharmacy with only a few customers visiting him, oblivious of the fact and the bitter truth, that they will visit him sooner than later to take his [Pharmacist] help.

It is appalling to observe that we the Arunachalees take pride in drinking saying that drinking is a part of our culture. But who told us to drink till we die? I have personally lost many dear friends of mine and a number of promising young people due to excessive intake of alcohol. Many prominent public leaders and former Ministers and MLAs have left this beautiful world prematurely because of their uncontrolled drinking habits.

We the Arunachalees must realize that the Indian Manufactured Foreign Liquor [IMFL ] does not suit the type of climate we are in. This IMFL is basically for the European countries and other excessively cold countries. Our people were used to drinking ‘O,’ ‘Apong,’ ‘Nyoging,’ ‘Poka,’ ‘Marowa,’ ‘Khaam’ etc which are rich in carbohydrates and don’t do much harm to our bodies. We must accept the fact that the death rate due to excessive drinking has phenomenally burgeoned after opening whole sale and retailer outlets of IMFL in the state.

There is nothing wrong in having a peg or two but should be taken in right measure. Unfortunately, many Arunachalees get addicted to alcohol and eventually die of liver damage and other alcohol-related ailments. Sometimes, I feel that some sects of Christianity like the Baptist, Revival etc are doing a commendable job by preaching the followers that it was a taboo for the believers to indulge in drinking.

This has greatly reduced the users of alcohol in some places. It’s not possible for the state government to ban selling of alcohol because Arunachal Pradesh is a wet state and a great chunk of the much needed revenue comes from the sale of liquor. But the drinkers must realize the dangers of overdrinking for their own good and safety. Most of the accidents on the roads and domestic violence can be attributed to excessive use of alcohol. In my society, drunkards are despised and looked down upon.

They have no respect and social status. The most repeated advice of the parents and the elders during festivals and other social gatherings wherein alcohol is served is, ‘do not drink till you are drunk.’

It is a matter of grave concern that even the womenfolk in our state tend to drink hard in our state. The evening get-together means drinking in Arunachal Pradesh. No party is complete sans alcohol flowing lavishly like rivers. Today, it’s indeed sad that even the small school-going boys and girls have started hitting the bottle hard. Something needs to be done to arrest this vice and menace at the earliest.

We cannot be mute spectators to the malady afflicting our young children who are our future. It’s a matter of great chagrin and utter frustration that our people have a plenty of time to indulge in vices like drinking and gambling but have absolutely no time to read books.

Some of us have a very wrong concept or notion on what culture is all about. We must understand that culture is a very broad term under which a spectrum of various facets of life flourishes. Culture definitely does not mean only singing and dancing which many think. Culture is the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, belief, value, attitude and passion acquired by a group of people over generations through individual and group striving. Tradition is a broad term. However, in a tribal society, tradition gives a character to its society. Its religion, faith, ethics, social control as well as the festivals, marriage, songs, dances and myths form the basic character of a society.

We must also realize that today, we live in a dynamic world and we cannot remain prisoners of dogmas and Utopian mindset. We must change with the time. Agreed, drinking may have been a part of our culture in the past but like all other prevailing evils in our society, this vice, [alcoholism] that is taking lives, should be done away with. It’s a big eyesore to see hundreds of wine shops all over our state.

On the other hand, hardly a few book stalls can be seen in our state which is a sure recipe for a great disaster. The administration and the Department of Tax and Excise are doing precious little in the state to check clandestine sale of liquor. Liquor is being sold openly without any fear of the law if any, in all the Ghumtis, tea stalls, private residences and what have you? Its available 24 hours everywhere.

Let’s love our lives and drink at a controlled measure if at all we are to drink. The best is if we can be real teetotalers. Having said that, the Pharmacist is having the last laugh and is laughing all the way to the Bank thanks to the huge profits he earns by selling costly medicines to the habitual drinkers who, as expected get seriously ill. But the bottom line is, ‘who cares!’  

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