Sometimes I wonder if my mental techniques of remembering places I’ve visited are a little weird. I usually recollect moments by the books I bought or movie theatres I attended. Sometimes, it’s about the people – strangers even – that I encountered for a few minutes or restaurants I ate at, or farts I passed while bunking in the same room with friends (go back and read that again. You read it right the first time around).
Of course souvenirs – such as my shot glass collection – are visible reminders. Still, I wonder if others link their travel memories to obscure happenings like I do.
A little while back, during a family event, one of my younger cousins had a little too much to drink for the first time. As his friend carried his unsteady self to bed, we sat out giggling – it’s allowed to be mean when the family is concerned – and my sister happens to mention, to my mother, that “aren’t you glad we never did something like this?”
That got me thinking. In case of my sister it was probably right, but as for me, could it be that – to paraphrase an iconic dialogue from Usual Suspects – I had pulled the greatest trick ever by convincing the world – my parents – that I never had too much to drink?
While I am not proud of any of these moments, they do stand true. Now, as a husband and father, I am also glad that I never took my drinking beyond a limit and whenever I did cross it, I lucked out that nothing wrong happened to me or anyone around me. I did always make sure, even when I was drunk, never to drive or misbehave, and I’m glad and thankful for having that much sense even in an uninhibited state.
Over the years, my preference for drinking alcohol has matured into being something I enjoy and cherish for taste and not something that needs to be done to “fit in” or look cool.
My cousin woke up with a mighty hangover the next day and with little knowledge of what had happened the previous night. Even though I doubt he reads my posts, this one is dedicated to him, because moments like this do happen, but it’s up to us not to make them a common occurrence.
Also, Mom and Dad, in case you do read this, now you know the truth.
Hotel Drago, Lago di Garda, Italy – The very first time in my life I had wine. I might have had a sip or two earlier, but it was during a fall trip from college that I had my first ever proper glass of wine or five (glasses of wine).
A group of us had descended into a relatively cold and rainy Italy, staying in the beautiful Lago di Garda region, exploring essential cities Likes Venice and Verona. The wine was in the air, and it was a time when I coined the term “unpacking” – inside joke. You can see I’m still proud of that.
I had purchased a pack of three wine bottles and with no plans to carry them back had organised an impromptu “get together” in my room. It included informing my trip roommate – with whom I did not get along – that I needed the room free as I planned to speak with my girlfriend – imaginary – for a while. Yes! I know it was a stupid excuse and I know he knew that it was just an excuse but I was young, and he couldn’t care less.
As I had one glass after another, I still remember getting light headed. If you’ve had wine, you’d know that it hits you when you least expect it, but because I was in my room and because it was a small party I never went past beyond tipsy.
What I do remember is lying in bed, half asleep, when my roommate came back. I had my eyes half open in fear as he stood there mumbling, looking at the empty wine bottles, for a good 10 minutes.
I don’t remember precisely when sleep took over me, but it was only after I made sure that my roommate was snoring.
Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany – A sleepy little town some 45 minutes by train from Stuttgart is also where I spent some of the best years of my life. It was here where many ” “firsts” happened and one of those was a “blackout”.
As it happened, I had been awarded a leadership award that very evening in a dinner and ceremony organised by the college I was studying in. My friend, on the way out, had managed to “borrow” two bottles of wine – I say borrow because we returned the bottles. That they were empty bottles is a minor non-significant fact.
We had then proceeded to the student union building to watch a taped telecast of the Oscars. The last thing I remember was sitting down with a bottle of wine in my hand and then…
It was the next morning, and I was in my bed.
It remains a mystery to this day what happened. My friends laughed when they realised I had blacked out. They never gave me the full story, but thankfully I didn’t do anything that drastic or embarrassing – like that one guy who was found in the showers after having shat in his pants.
It was, however, a scary moment in my life, not knowing or remembering anything, and I made sure that it never happened again.
Outside TGIF, New Delhi, India – Probably the most embarrassing instance for me happened at the very place where I grew up. The Priya complex in Vasant Vihar – where TGIF was at one time – is where many days were spent watching English movies and eating at Nirula’s (a local fast food chain). Situated near my high-school, it was the most obvious destination for any and all after-school shenanigans.
Thus, it was also the perfect place for a small reunion. A bunch of us got together for an afternoon drink session which as the name suggests consisted of more drinking and minimal eating.
While I didn’t even feel tipsy at the time of leaving the restaurant, I might have taken maybe 10 odd steps before everything I had consumed in the past two hours came out, in full public view, right there for everyone to see, during the daytime, with the sun still shining brightly.
The problem, I figured, was that on top of not eating, we had had a few different cocktails, and unknowingly I had mixed-up my drinks. These drinks ranging from vodka to whiskey to tequila felt that instead of mingling in the depths of my stomach it was better to be adventurous and explore the outside world through the only way they knew – which was the same way they had entered my body – my mouth.
Amorgos, Greece – This is the one where the weather came to my rescue. Actually, it wasn’t just me, but as we had been celebrating a wedding on the day, one too many Ouzos had been consumed. But, with it being hot and humid, everyone had been sweating profusely and thus, as a result, the alcohol lost out to the weather.
Still, once the married couple had gone back to their room after the reception – to do whatever it is that newly married couples do – a bunch of us sat by the pool and played truth or dare, only to realize that no one had the energy or mental capacity at that moment to perform any dares.
So, we sat late into the night sharing stories, some casual, others personal, and I might have revealed more than I usually do about myself – nothing exceptional, just that I’m a relatively reserved kind of a person normally.
The good part about it thought was that since we had all had something or the other to drink, in addition to the weather, the wedding activities had left everyone brain dead, enough that I don’t believe the conversations from that night registered in memory. It was a lovely bonding session – that sounds dirty – but sadly details of which were forgotten quickly.
Gurgaon, India – My liquid drug of choice – once I had reached the official drinking age… in Europe – was tequila. Besides the taste and the entire ritual of having shots with salt and lime, I always enjoyed the quickness with which it finishes. I’ve never been one to linger on with a glass in my hand “ savouring” my drink – until I started to appreciate wine that is.
It was very much in my city that at a friend’s wedding – It’s always weddings, isn’t it – I ended up having 14 shots of tequila. I had the stomach for it, but the big revelation on this day was that tequila – or rather, excessive amounts of it – has a graver effect on my emotional state.
When someone for some weird reason scolded me – apparently they thought, mistakenly, I was responsible for getting someone else drunk – all I could do was cry. Yup! Not the full-blown tears pouring through my eyes kind of crying but the “what did I do?” “This is not fair”… Blah! Blah!! Blah!! Kind of whiny crying.
This is what I got for loving tequila all these years. Humph!
Hard Rock Cafe, Birmingham, England – New Year’s Eve and I was in Birmingham with my wife – of one year – and best friend, and we had got ourselves seats at Hard Rock Cafe – now closed – on Broad Street.
It was the right kind of getting drunk where everyone was just happy, and we danced and welcomed the New Year cheerfully and happily.
The one other reason I remember this moment in my life is because an hour before midnight there had been a bomb scare and everything came to a standstill for 15-20 minutes on the entire street. Nothing happened, and soon everyone was back to enjoying the night away.
Fuengirola, Spain – It was as simple as my friend claiming that a particular shot was so strong that two would knock me out completely, but even four didn’t. You get the idea right, that if it’s not weddings, it’s shots that are usually responsible for everything that goes down in my life.
I was in no state to drive back for sure though and ended up getting picked for a lap dance by a visiting performer in the club of which I remember very little – except the fact that it did happen.
Still, the drinking wasn’t bad enough to make me want to go skinny dipping in the pool at midnight – or maybe that’s an experience I missed out on.
Sandvika, Norway – My first visit to a Scandinavian country had been full of experiences; walking across the Monet Bridge, witnessing snow fishing, walking on frozen fjords, and eating shrimps for the first time.
Being in the cold can be very deceptive especially when you’re drinking. The warmth that alcohol gives the body makes you forget its effect on your brain.
It was during a house party during the trip that I was encouraged to make drinks for everyone as I had been bartending at the University the last couple of years.
The problem though in such cases, unlike when I am actually working, is that I tend to taste the drinks a lot more than usual and as a result mix-up a lot of drinks.
As I wobbled back, hand-in-hand with my friends for support, a sudden awareness descended upon me, that while I might have been tipsy, my friends and their friends were probably more drunk as they walked on the empty streets, late at night, singing retro songs, on the top of their voices, and giggling at the most mundane of things.
I now look back at that night and simply smile.
That’s it then. No real big revelations or juicy and spicy gossip to dwell upon. However, you now know a few of my “secrets”, and that’s always the first step in getting to understand someone better.