Tales of a Teetotaler

The reason I don’t need a drink is because I’m always high on life.

I have had an inkling of it for a while now. Careful and constant observation has confirmed it. And I am now completely convinced that I belong to the fast-heading-towards-extinction species, otherwise known as, ‘Teetotalers.’

A Teetotaler in today’s world is a rare specimen. Everyone wants to get a closer look, and ask lots of questions. And the expressions that usually accompany the questions are the kind people would have on their faces if they spotted Mike Tyson knitting or Mick Jagger with a crew cut or Maneka Gandhi masticating a succulent bit of tandoori chicken.

“You don’t drink? You don’t smoke? You must be joking!” is the incredulous refrain each time I choose an orange juice over a Vodka or I am the only one not smoking. Now I do joke, yes, but drink or smoke, no.
“Not even a beer?” is the question that typically follows next.
“Beer. Now that’s something I…”
“I knew it! You do drink after all!” a victorious smile usually accompanies this statement.
“…only use to condition my hair with” a crestfallen smile replaces the victorious one the face wore an instant ago.

“So, you’ve never, ever had an alcoholic drink?” is the other most-asked question.

Now, my curiosity could teach cats a thing, or twenty, but strangely enough I have never been curious enough to try an alcoholic drink. The opportunities to do so were, and still are, plenty. But just like I have never been inquisitive enough to find out the flavor of an Octopus or the texture of Dog meat, in the same way I have never wanted to know what an alcoholic drink tastes like. And that’s why I don’t drink. Simple.

So, I’ve never had an alcoholic drink. But, I would be lying if I said I haven’t ever wondered how it would feel to be drunk.

Holi around the corner and the compelling curiosity to find out led me to adventurously glug down two enormous glasses of ‘Bhaang’ (hiding behind a tree, if details interest you.)
While I waited for the Indian version of Dope to intoxicate me, I smiled to myself at pleasurable Bhaang-induced very-soon-to-be-inebriated-visions of myself a) Dancing wildly for the next couple of hours b) Laughing uproariously for the next few days c) Sleeping off the whole of the following week d) Pointing out at Bhaang-induced multiple images of people and laughing some more e) All of the above and in no particular order. And proudly regaling all and sundry with all of the above anecdotes at every given, or forcefully taken, opportunity.

After a good one hour, when I was still ‘all there’ in the head, just smiling pleasantly and not laughing uproariously, and could still see people in singular form, without the much anticipated double vision, I grew suspicious. Only to find out that all I had done was upped my calcium intake. The supposedly-spiked Bhaang was just flavored milk.
The real Bhaang was hidden away and accessible only to people of the inner clique (read people who were notorious drunks and the ones who could hold their drink, and I guess didn’t qualify for either.)
So no, I have never, ever had an alcoholic drink. And now I no longer even wonder how it would feel to be drunk either.

But when repeatedly faced with a multitude of these questions I wish I wasn’t a Teetotaler and could gulp down a drink for some Dutch courage. But I just make do with a deep breath, a resigned smile and patiently answer all the queries, adding the Bhaang incident if I am in a good mood.

This article first appeared in the September 2007 issue of the magazine Complete- Wellbeing.