My mother charged at me when I ran at my best possible speed because if once caught she would have no mercy on me like Taxman. I had to maintain a distance that the bamboo cane she had could not make a contact with me.
I could hear her shouting, “Oh devil on the earth! Why did I give you birth? Oh God! When will I attain salvation from the vicious cycle of rebirth, for the acts of this blasphemous son has broken the tradition of the family, that I cannot even disclose without shaming the family. He has further summed up to my already accumulated sins that I have to account for before You.”
Then she threatened me, “Let your father return you devil, I will brief him and be ready for the treatment that will not be very pleasing.”
Within seconds I was now beyond her reach. It was great solace for the time being. I attended to the spots of my body where my victorious mother had been able to land the strikes of canes before I could run. The pain on the body had subsided with the train of thoughts of the events that were to come in the evening with the return of my father when my mother eavesdrop my acts with all exaggerations that she called ‘brief’.
I called my sister, eight years elder to me, already married having kids, the only other family member to fall upon to resolve the issue, “Sis! It all started with mother. There is nothing that serious. I ate mutton with Harry at his room and had one drink only.”
The previous day Harry had organized a party at his room and I joined. They served a dish that I relished. I asked, “What is it that so exotic? I love it.”
The others sitting there looked towards each other and exchanged smiles, “SKJ it is mutton.” I started sweating. I had committed the most despised act of our community eating meat. Anyhow they convinced me there being nothing wrong it. I accepted. Then they poured a drink that I reluctantly refused to take. On insistence I gulped it in one go. For the first time in my twenty years of life that I had lived without non-vegetarian food and alcoholic drinks, I realized what I had been missing.
My sister screamed from the other side, the scream being louder than war cry, “Mutton!” I felt as if sky had fallen on her house. I did not disclose about alcohol.
She again screamed, “You ate mutton? Swear! Did you? I don’t believe it. From where the Evil found you to sin against the faith of the family, where not a single descendant of ours ever touched even the utensils used for storing meat, what to say of eating. Today you have rendered yourself impure and penance can only emancipate you. Oh Lord forgive me for his sins.”
I had no access to her appearance though I was sure that she must be wailing as if dearest member of her family had left for the voyage to Almighty unexpectedly. I was worried about the savage treatment in waiting from my father. He would have condoned any crime but not the impious act of gratification.
I was convinced that no one except my sister could save me. She had assumed that she was responsible for my care and all that went wrong with my actions were the failings of my parents. In that hour of great distress I pleaded, “But sis, you reason it out. See how many of around us eat meat. Many even drink. It is quite acceptable these days. Once it is no act of sin for others how can it be for our community?”
This did not go well with her and she hissed from the other side, “How ignorant you pretend to be? The faith forbid eating meat and prohibits alcohol. All the relations shall exclude us from community and no one shall betroth a girl for impure creature like you.”
I wished to convince her and I cited some examples to vindicate my stand, “Sis, now even Sharmas and Shuklas drink. I have seen many of them eating chicken.”
She got more furious, “Again on that! I want no explanations. Swear not to indulge in that henceforth?”
It was no worth reasoning with her. One she was elder to me. Secondly she believed herself to be righteous. Third she had never opportunity to taste meat and alcohol. Fourthly there was no other sin as grave as indulging in merry making with those two elements.
I had to make earnest efforts to put in best words in my mouth so that I no more annoy her, “My sweet Sis, none other than you care for me and for that I am indebted to you. I am convinced you can make that old couple understand. Otherwise I can foresee all the hell that will break through. The ugly situation shall force me to abandon my home and set out as wanderer. You will not like me going rebellious against parents for mutton and wine, so insignificant things in the modern world.” I guessed the last arsenal of leaving home worked and she melted.
I heard a stern voice from other side, “I will talk to mom. But I don’t want a repetition. You have already defiled the honour of the family and I must believe that’s beyond repair.”
The strict discipline that our community followed in eating habits was unparalleled in the world. It is only vegetarian food without garlic and onion. Despite having relished mutton and wine I had sworn after having my first encounter with mutton and drink that I would repent for my sins and never would have it again, since the faith weighed heavy on my mind.
I vowed before my sister, “Never shall I go near even the shop that stores meat. I will change my way where lies the shop of wine that has ruined millions of families around the world. I swear by you, by mom and dad.” That was more than enough to convince her.
She dropped the call. I knew she would call my mom and convince her. I had to wait for two hours to find out what had happened. In the two hours I prayed to God to send a messenger in my sister to my mother so that the war at home could come to an end with truce. I prayed to departed souls of my ancestors to plead my case before the Divine Soul.
She rebuked me from the other side, “You moron! Even drinks? You did not tell me that. It took me two hours to convince mom. She wasn’t ready to relent.”
I was convinced from her tone that things had settled for now. I felt at ease. Since the fear of any punishment had gone, I replied to my sister in arrogance, “Come on sis, out of the two hours, for one hour and three quarters you and old lady must have discussed other issues from the ladies around, dressing, sales and all that.”
She hissed from other side, “You rascal! Don’t come to me next time.” Her call was disconnected.
My prayers had been heard and I started moving towards my home when Harry called from behind, “Hi man! What’s up?”
I narrated all my sufferings. He had all sympathies for me and left me for his room but with bait. He remorsefully said, “I am sorry for all the sufferings you went through and none else than I is the cause of it. Today I and John had prepared mutton biryani. Whiskey comes free to us; some gift to John from his uncle. So I had called you to join us. If you wanna, you are welcome.”
I nodded in negative. He moved ahead leaving me sulking. The very thought of whiskey and mutton flooded my mouth with saliva involuntarily flowing. I wished to follow Harry for another round of drink.
The phone rang. It was my sister, “Hi Sis!”
She warned, “Don’t you dare break the tradition again.”