17 years ago today, 14 May 2004, my father, tied to a government hospital bed while held down by nurses, succumbed to poisoning
He was a public works department contractor in the Indian state of Jharkhand, formerly Bihar. He was also a local politician and belonged to Jharkhand Liberation Front (JMM), the ruling state party.
Among his political friends were Simon Marandi, a former politician from the state, his wife Sushila Hansda, and Shibu Soren, the three-time former chief minister of Jharkhand.
Growing up there, I have watched these men and women gather at our house in the village for their late-night meetings, prior to the state of Jharkhand coming into existence in 2000.
His political connections eventually led to his assassination in the run-up to the 2005 Jharkhand Legislative Assembly election, also the first state election held there following its formation.
Above all, my father was an alcoholic.
During the growing-up days of my life in the village with my father, I've observed that alcohol, however, did not change him. He remained mostly under his own control, even after being drunk.
And in being in control of his senses, he was never not abusive!
This essay today is in remembrance of my father, who — through being physically abusive towards me in particular — remained almost sober
He drank alcohol unlike anyone else I’ve seen or heard of in my life.
He drank it like it was the last thing on earth drinkable. And he drank it as if not for it, his heart would stop pumping due to a lack of lubrication to its motors.
The alcohol, therefore, served as the lubrication for his heart and unsurprisingly went on to become the reason behind his every action. I wouldn't mind if one would say that alcohol was his passion.
I'm not sure about the exact year he started drinking, but I was told by his mother that it was when he had turned 19 and had participated in a jatra, the folk version of theatre popular in rural India.
Performed by local artists in a temporary tent-like stage that is built either on the streets, in playgrounds, or outside temple premises, the theme is based on issues ranging from religious to current affairs.
The purpose is mostly to entertain. The groups associated are largely active during festive seasons.
He was playing the role of a drunkard, she told me.
According to his mother, my father mesmerised the crowd with his performance.
What impressed the crowd the most, though, was that a boy who had never touched alcohol could go on to enact the role of a drunkard with such horrible honesty.
From then on, he was hailed among his friends as the drunkard.
And, I heard from her, he enjoyed the attention immensely. She said, "I think it gave him the satisfaction that he's good. Good at something he had never done in real life. Good at fooling people."
"Slowly the attention, the label grew on him. He started believing and behaving like one. Like a drunkard," his mother told me.
"You know, I had tried to stop him from playing the role of the drunkard when he had come to ask for my permission, but he didn’t listen to me. As he never did."
I had felt hurt in her voice when she told me this prior to her death in 2016.
"And I knew the inevitable was now just outside the door waiting for the right moment to strike; it was bound to happen, given the kind of air that blew around him after that jatra. And then one night it happened. He had come home late, very late. And when I opened the door, the first thing that came inside was not my son but the horrible smell of the thing that I've been dreading since that night: alcohol."
She wiped her misty eyes after recalling those scenes from her past.
As I mentioned before, alcohol, however, did not change him
He knew of the things he had done the night before when he woke up in the morning, fresh.
He remembered the words he had uttered and in what manner.
Most of all, he never seemed to forget the face of the person who thought he was drunk and so wouldn't remember. This was one of the reasons people took him seriously when he spoke, irrespective of his condition.
He was, after all, one of the political strongmen in the region who were famous for their criminal activities.
There was an equal amount of fear and respect among people for him, his name: Gulab.
I wonder if it was the role he played in the jatra that made him a perfect drunkard or something else that he perfected on his own. I don't know! Somehow no conclusion seems to make any sense.
And now that he is no more, poisoned to death, I think I should refrain myself from coming to any conclusion and let him remain what he remained when he was drunk: almost sober.
This story is a personal essay by the writer.
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Prior to being killed, my father had played an equal role in the violence against a woman, who was dubbed a witch by villagers: