Sunday, April 19, 2009

Getting Drunk on Non-Alcoholic Beverages:A Thought Experiment

The only thought experiment I truly pursued was Scott Adams’ God’s Debris. Intriguing piece of work.

But it has nothing to do with my own thought experiment, except perhaps with the part where I filch a part of the book’s name in order to add character to my title. It’s strange really how hard I find it to name a piece. I’ve been known (to no one but myself) to give up writing about something simply because I was too exhausted by my efforts to think.

But as an author in my Grade 12 English textbook said- ‘Not even a stuka bomber can distract me.’

Research on moral development for my psychology project led to an interesting quote by Mark Twain (who does have a penchant for saying what all of us think, but are too afraid to say) - “Morals are an acquirement- like music, like a foreign language, like piety, poker, paralysis- no man is born with them.”

Wise words.

And in general societal terms I am amoral when it comes to alcohol. (I also enjoy passive smoking. Especially because Papa’s brand of tobacco had an alluring woodsy flavor that borders on being vanilla, but just stops short)

For the following reason.

I always found Dad’s after work relaxation techniques incredibly fascinating. Apart from everything else, it included cleaning and tending to his innumerable (beloved) pipes and nursing his drink.

As opposed to the genial, boisterous and generally exuberant atmosphere in our residence, evenings at a friend’s house were rather somber, where family members tread carefully once the head of the household returned from work. He was irritable, snappy and quick to offence.

He didn’t drink or smoke.

Now in no way am I saying that only alcohol engenders good humor. But my six year old mind fell back on age old tactics of associated learning and I deduced that a reasonable dose of ethanol worked wonders for a man’s temperament.

I have never felt any pangs to consume alcohol. I like being in control and my eighteen year old brain is acquainted with the not-so-rosy effects of alcohol on the human nervous system.

But the idea of intoxication is captivating. On paper, the idea starts off innocently enough, a series of very innocuous changes such as lowering one’s guard, feeling limber, happy, sappy……………..

But more often than not, the likes of Captain Haddock loom large in my field of vision.

The imaginary visuals of lifting a cut glass specimen does seem supremely exotic. A realistic view is usually obliterated by more exquisite frames from black and white movies where a fair maiden with white gloves that went past her elbows and satin heels would delicately help herself to some champagne from a flute that is a refractive wonder. It enables the man with a smirk and slicked back hair leaning lazily against a piece of exquisite furniture to single out the aforementioned woman.

There’s something truly decadent and hedonistic about enjoying the dizzying range of effects of alcohol. Not all. Just the first few. Because excesses lead to hangovers. And hangover’s a bitch.

So they say.

And I’m rather inclined to believe it.

I’d honestly hoped my very limited exposure to the substance would clear away some of these concepts or misconceptions whichever may be the case, that plagued my highly alert mind.

The occasional ministrations of cognac with hot water and lemon drove away any traces of a troublesome bout of cold. But first hand experience of drunkenness still eludes me.

But I did almost discover that one can feel high simply by a thought experiment.

It started by choosing a goblet as the desired glassware for consuming chocolate flavored soy milk. And the choice of music included- Bubbly (Colbie Caliet- do not attempt unless you can stomach a healthy shot of estrogen), Wicked Little High (Bird York), Life Could be a Dream (the Crew Cuts), The Boxer (Simon and Garfunkel ), Thank you for the music (ABBA), Across the Universe and Norwegian Wood (The Beatles, the latter even refers to wine), Changing partners (Patti Paige), anything by Cliff Richards and DEBUSSY!

There’s no physical resemblance between wine (good or bad, red or white) and chocolate milk (soy or otherwise).

One is red, or crimson or some equally seductive color or some precarious shade dallying between transparent and yellow and the other is a colloidal brown (and the heavier chocolate particles tend to sediment and sink to the bottom of the glass).

So looking at the liquid will not evoke any revelation.

But the fact that you’re holding that delicate bit of glassware and not a sturdy glass that would suffer endless punishment alters the way one treats the beverage, no matter what it may be.

Run your finger along the luscious curves of the goblet and then along the fragile stem and the entire perception of the resident liquid changes. The pace, the enjoyment and the consideration that is extended to the chosen drink is also affected simply by a modification in perception and approach to consumption.

By the time the play list ran its course, drinking chocolate milk had definitely turned into a heady experience as opposed to a routine action aimed at further solidification of bones.

Another incapacitating cold brought on another occasion to consume alcohol, even if the quantity was purely medicinal. The timing too was perfect. Three weeks before my exams. What better time to drown in the smooth, golden depths of cognac.

A carefully measured amount was poured into the snifter. Warm water was added and so were lemon drops. I nursed the infusion till it was stone cold, hoping that I’d performed all the motions a seasoned drinker (drunk???) would perform, ranging from sniffing to twirling and swallowing with a studied look of pure bliss on my face.

And I honestly do believe that I felt as though my joints were greased by the time night fell. I almost believed that my head swam. I almost believed that my eyes were going wonky.

The latest in the series of my experiments was drinking Sprite in a beer mug. I persisted with the slow and steady form of consumption even after the fizz had performed a speedy defection. I even hunched over the mug trying to summon dejection from somewhere near my big toe to fit the desciprtion of a generic beer guzzler.

Alfred Doolittle’s rendition of ‘With a lil’ bit o’ luck’ seemed to be the perfect accompaniment. So did Stereophincs’ bartender and the thief.

I’m not the only person who felt this way apparently. Jug Suraiya had written a rather foggy short story called- A Tika for Jung Bahadur, in which a very sorry excuse of a director sits drinking plain soda in a bar, hoping that observers would think of it as vodka and tonic.

The illusion does last.

It does.

Until even the average experimenter discovers that his/her cognitive skills are as active as ever.

CONCLUSION- It’s simply too much hard work to evoke intoxication. I managed to enjoy and spice up the consumption of the mundane, but I came no closer to getting drunk. I merely suffered from exquisite delusions of grandeur, until I lost the zeal to keep up the pretense.

Until I fence with the real thing, I’ll just stay high on life. Or the weather. The shapes in the cloud. Birdsong. Book dust (I’m certain it’s as potent as cocaine). Unfermented grape juice.

I (don’t quote) warble-
“The Lord above made liquor for temptationTo see if man could turn away from sin
The Lord above made liquor for temptation -
With a little bit of luck,
With a little bit of luck
When temptation comes you'll give right in………”


Anandarup said...

My dear Little Girl,
How were I to know that the little one would go on to analyse so deeply what she saw of me! Had I known I would perhaps taken care to be a better human being or atleast attempted to present myself as one. Anyway, one thing I am sure of is that you love me! And that's reason for cheer. CHEERS!

Anandi said...

Come on Dad!
Genetics may play a role in my opinion, but you're really the best Dad in the entire world. And had you even PRESUMED to present some other facade, I would've seen through it (given that I truly am smart) and I wouldn't have liked you quite as much!

Cheers to you too!

Love you!

Harry said...

Kind of odd for a 17 year old to be listening to The Crew Cuts. But this has been a very interesting read. You're perhaps the first person who enjoys 'passive smoking'.

Hopefully you'll put up more thought experiments soon.

Anonymous said...

You'll give right in????

Oh, you can walk the straight and narrow;
But with a little bit of luck You'll run amuck!

Hilarious experiment. You'll have theorists turning in their graves.

VibrantSoul said...

Why do I have a strange feeling that somehow reminds me of a conversation we had a week ago?? :)

I'm going to try this out, chocolate flavoured soy milk in a goblet is alluring... Makes me curious. My dad doesn't drink or smoke, though I think I have a goblet lying somewhere in the house.

God's Debris is lying on my desktop, untouched, oblivious to the fact that I haven't as much as bothered to even open it and see what is written. I think that'll be the first thing I'll do once I finish posting this comment.

PS: We just did The Tiger King today :P

Anandi said...

Missed it by 4 months moron. We had this conversation before my Pre Boards when I'd developed an excessive fondness for chocolate milk. And if I remember correctly it was Mom, who cackled about it first, only then did I launch into an explanation!

And first finish Kane and abel and then go to God's Debris. It's absolutely terrible to ditch one book in favour of another simply on a whim.

AND (remember class 1 when we were taught never to start sentences with 'and') if you liked Tiger King, you'll like Poets and pancakes by Asokamitran even better.

Go ferret that goblet out from its dusty resting place. (Odd that I used both ferret and goblet in one sentence)

Your truly!

Sujoy Bhattacharjee said...

Fantastic job you did there of romanticizing the drink...just make sure that the loony Anbumani Ramadoss isn't around to read this piece.

Anandi said...


Even if by some freaky chance Ramadoss does read this, hopefully, he won't survive it.

And even if he does......I'm not sure I care.

He does have the appearence of a closet drunk if you ask me.