A couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday, I chanced upon a column in a Malayalam daily, titled 'Avoid being a Fool'(translated). Thought prvoking, eh? Eye ball grabbing, no doubt. My thought was thus prvoked and my eye balls grabbed and dragged to the paper and soon I found myself nestled in a sofa, paper in hand. The column called 'Today's Food for Thought' (translated) is written by some guy with the initials T.J.J, whom I later found to be Fr. Dr. T.J Joshua. Then, right on the next day, I happened to lay my eyes on an article by some doctor dude called Iain Smith who, in some online mag called 'Health News', said that an alcoholic nature killed and stifled many of our creative geniuses.
To the uninitiated, a brief description of the former. The article is a staunch denouncement of social drinking, or any type of drinking for that matter, and it urges its readers, the youth in particular, to follow the straight and narrow path of teetotalitarianism.
It is now a commonly known fact that alcohol in dilute aqueous solution, when taken in to the human body, acts a depressant rather than a stimulant. The intelligent layman, when faced with some important work, seldom reverts to the bottle. S/he resorts to it after the business is done, when s/he can rest and afford some leisure. S/he indulges in it to realease in his taut nerves and let off some of the steam in the spleen.
If time is the great healer, then alcohol is most certainly the great simplifier. It reduces and simplifies emotions. It raises the threshold of sensitivity and phases out the the partucluarly unpleasent ones. It puts a brake upon all those qualities which enable us to rise and shine before our fellow men- combativeness, diligence, ambitiona and the like. Rather, it brings out the qualities that make us loved among other homo sapien sapiens- amiablitily, humour, sympathy and the ilk.
A man who has knocked back a couple of cocktails is barely capable of launching a missile strike against Pakistan, to formulate the budget of a state, to cut off a leg or to conduct Bach's B minor mass. But S/he is infinitely more capable than a sober person to admire a pretty girl, entertain a dinner party or to hear Bach's B minor mass. The harsh, useful things are done by men who are as sober as so many prisoners in the Tihar Jail, but the lovely and useless things are best left to people with more than a couple of sheets in the wind. Pithencathropus erectus was a teetotaler but you can bet your bottom 50 paise that the angels know what is proper at 5 p.m.
Back to the afore-mentioned article. The reverend seems hell bent on equating celebrations with the state of drunkenness. He quotes a few occassions he was invited to where he witnessed people of coming together in great spirits to enjoy good spirits. At this point, I would like to chastise those dudes and dudettes. Who on earth invites a priest to a booze party?
Not content with sermonizing on the evil nature of the liquid, he goes on to lecture about the increased drinking habits among youthful women, subtly bringing out all the entrenched sexism and conservatism in that old mind. The reverend diverts from his topic of the drunken nature of all into the drinking habits of the fairer sex. He goes on to mock this as 'women proving they can do what men do and better' (translated). Really T.J.J, if you want to lecture on drinking, stick to that. Why bring in such blatant stereotypes.
I suppose all human life is divided between those who order by the crate and those who assume that sherry trifle leads to everlasting bonfire and never the twain shall meet except on the sodden battle fields of 'Health News'. You are on one side Doc and all those creative geniuses and I are on the other. My own conclusion would be drastically different. If Hemingway, Beethoven and Van Gogh had not been constant business for bootleggers, they would not have been half the men they turned out to be. If those great men had stuck to orange juice as instructed by the nearest medics in their localities, Hemingway would have thrown in the towel at 'The Sun Also Rises'. Ludwig would have said "Chopsticks is pretty good. Enough. Genugschein" Van Gogh would have stopped when he sold "The Red Vineyard in Arles". And then , where would we have been?
It is no accident of fate, if you believe in such things, that all such men have laboured under the shadow of the corkscrew. Some, like Keats and Coleridge chose to go for the opiates. How else are these giants to survive against pygmies, make the everyday and mundane tolerable and favourable to those whirring intellects, to tone down the effects of numbing normalcy?
How must Old Vince have felt when he woke up one morning to find that the red enamels had all gone mouldy, the cat had knocked over most of the remaining over the only clean canvas he had and the landlady was shouting in anger about the increase in the price of vermicelli?
What thoughts would have gone through Hemingway's prolific mind when he, full of characters, situations, clever lines and much of the spare, tightly written prose buzzing about in his head, found that stationery store across the street from which he had planned to get fresh paper in the morning was closed because the proprietor had contrated German measles?
Worst of all, people like you, T.J.J and Dr. Smith, were constantly nagging Beethoven to get on with his bloody music, what about a couple of symphonies to follow up the ninth, shouldn't take more than an hour or two, the prime minister's birthday is coming up next week and he has requested a special performance, no fees naturally, and oh, I almost forgot, my wife's sister's son plays the triangle, not professionally though, but we all think he is rather good, so I have arranged a little dinner party next Friday so that you can have an opportunity to listen to him, all about unearthing new talent, haha!
I know from first hand experience that alcohol, in contrast with popular opinion, instills love and consideration in the heart of every human being. When full of the stuff, their hearts overflow with the milk of human kindness and their bowels are full of sympathy and compassion. Not a violent thought or act crosses their minds or bodies. They are all for world piece and nirvana. All this is so obvious that I am amazed that no utopian has ever proposed a world system by which every single person is gently stewed, mildly brewed. In my opinion, humble of course, in such a state a person exhibits all the qualities that make him/her toast of the society.
All the great villanies of history, from the murder of Abel to the Treaty of Versailles to the Babri Masjid have been perpetuated by sober men and chiefly by teetotalers. But all the charming things in the world, from Jeeves to 'With Malice Towards One and All', from the nine Beethovan symphonies to the Martini cocktail have been given to mankind by people who, when the hour came, turned from pipe water to something with colour in it and more in it than mere hydrogen and oxygen.