It was in the summer of 2004 when I had my first experience of, what they call, a 'culture shock'.
My family and I went on a Europe tour that summer. My most distinct memory of that tour is walking into a regular grocery shop in London and seeing a bunch of pornos, right besides the newspapers! Since my parents were along with me, I had no idea how to conceal my excitement, and at the same time, casually browse through the magazines - which, by the way, had full on x-rated stuff happening on the cover, with absolutely NO attempts to hide any of the action.
And of course, I also remember how I entered my hotel room, which I shared only with my younger brother (who slept most of the time), switched on the television and saw.. MORE porn! For free! Entire channels devoted to it! And when I went outside for a walk, I realised how 'baniyans' were like the national dress for the chicks in London. Yes, I admit, I was in Disneyland, and I totally fell heads over heels in love with London.
A month later, I arrived in National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra, for a four-year-long rape called engineering. My hostel was filled with all kinds, breeds and species of animals - and I'm not talking about the dogs, lizards, frogs and pigeons, who considered it home sweet home. Misery loves company, and on realising that just to shit, we'd have to travel like 20 metres from our rooms, by the end of the very first day in the hostel, all of us had gathered to pay our condolences and last respects - to each other.
That's when I got my second - and much bigger - culture shock. One NRI kid, just like me, suggested that we wallow, not in self pity, but in bottles of 'daaru'. To say that I was taken aback is like saying I enjoy getting kicked in the nuts (I don't, just for the record). To be entirely honest, I was !@#$!@$ fucking shocked out of my bloody skull! It was like someone had asked me to donate my liver! .. While I was still alive! Or something much, much worse and sinister. Like.. like.. someone had asked me to share my food!! Only it wasn't food, it was my liver. And only it wasn't share, it was donate.
I was so scandalised, I thanked the group for the enjoyable evening I had spent with them discussing our very first respective sexual experiences (and umm.. the guy with the most exciting sex life was the one who got to shake hands with girls regularly) and went back to my room and hid under my bed. It took me some time to make peace with the fact that I had come to a place where people were much more grown up than I was (which is a polite way of saying that I thought they were cunts) and that they drank alcohol.
For the first semester, I tried to convert the religion of people from daaru to plain awesomeness. I tried Chanakyaneeti's saam, daam, dand and bhed to make sure, at least the people I was friends with, stayed off it - or well, didn't drink in my room. I broke bottles of whiskey that came from people's fathers' hard earned money, I threatened my room mate that I'd call the warden if he so much as smelt like he had been within a mile of a daaru battle, and I preached to everyone how they were betraying their parents' trust by drinking.
No, this story doesn't end with, 'And then.. I had my first sip'. From being so contrived as to judging people and dividing them in categories of evil and good, depending on whether they drink or not, to giving them company with Pepsi (bottoms up) while they drink like there's no tomorrow, I still haven't had a sip of alcohol. Or beer. Or mocktails. Or cocktails. Or fruit beer (just because it has the word beer in it). Or Cheeku shake. Okay, the last one's simply because I don't like the sound of it :p
And the irony here is, that people now get a culture shock when they meet me! 'Which planet are you from dude?' 'Fuck, are you serious? You've never even tasted it?' 'Chal, hatt, liar!' 'Mere liye vodka, aur Nikhil ke liye doodh' 'Do you want your Pepsi neat or should I order some water with it?' And of course, the most common of all, 'Is it a religious thing?'
No, it isn't a religious thing. I don't wear a sacred thread and haven't sworn any oath that I'll not drink alcohol until God helps me lose 30 kgs. Nor have my parents so far confessed to being from Pandora. And no, I don't want doodh, I want my Pepsi. Neat, and on the rocks.
But obviously, the next question that everyone asks me is, 'Then how come?' Welll... it's because... *suspense music* .....
To Be Continued