Conditional consumption

  • Avnish Sharma, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 08, 2014 12:43 IST

The chief minister of one of the politically significant states of our country came up with a perceptively meaningful sermon on use of alcohol when he stated that there is no harm in its consumption as a medicine and at evening. Sounding more like a doctor though, he is welcome to his point of view, notwithstanding the media flashing his utterance on TV news channels the whole day may be for want of a better story. This advice on conditional consumption of alcohol reminds me of an interesting incident.

My unit was located on the national highway on the outskirts of Jammu. A number of rivulets, nullahs and rivers cross the highway. These crossings did not have bridges at all places, instead causeways served the purpose. The main unit, residential quarters and the brigade headquarters were separated by these natural obstacles. During flash floods, commuting from one location to the other was risky and at times impossible. The timing of the flash flood, however, determined whether it was a pleasure or a pain depending where one was located at that point of time.

It was the monsoon of 1988. The unit officers and ladies were to attend a formal dining out of a neighbouring unit's commanding officer (CO) organised at the officers' mess of the brigade HQ.

Halfway down the party, it started pouring, thus making the weather conducive for better partying.

It was only after we got driving back home that we realised the challenge of traversing the nullahs, by now gushing with fast-current streams. Somehow managing to cross the first one, negotiating the second seemed impossible. To avoid rain and for want of a better option, our unit doctor (regimental medical officer), a part of our cavalcade, suggested we move into the medical inspection room (MI room) in the vicinity.

Once inside the MI room, everyone started putting their heads together on how to reach home under such trying conditions. Our CO was a strict boss during the day but sublime and cheerful after a couple of tots. The doctor, in a bid to sustain our thinking caps, took out a bottle of brandy, which was a part of the medicine inventory to provide comfort, from his cupboard after express permission from the CO. Everyone got busy with this much-awaited medical comfort.

Meanwhile, the rain intensified and chances of getting into our warm beds seemed a pipe dream. The CO noticed Manjit, the young lieutenant, a teetotaller, seemingly restless. The boss asked his opinion to resolve the ongoing dilemma. Noticing the rain drenched and shivering young officer, the RMO was ordered to administer a large dose of the 'medicine of the moment'. Manjit, partly due to the salubrious weather but more so to please the boss, quickly downed two strong Patiala pegs and immediately came out with a suggestion. "Sir, we can muster a tank from the unit garages. It can ferry us across in turns. Besides getting us home, this would also validate our tank's much-acclaimed amphibious capability." Impressed with the post medicine brain wave of Manjit, the evacuation was duly executed.

The magical effects of alcohol, thus witnessed, became the butt of humour in uniform. Manjit's 'induced intelligence' capabilities made him leave the army to become a roaring success in the corporate world. Cheers to conditional consumption as recommended by our esteemed leader!

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