Sitting in Savoy Bar, the evening sky cloudy and gloomy, it was a perfect setting for a drunken sojourn. I was just out from office, still in my uniform when he picked me from there and headed straight to the bar.

Savoy was the best place to be. A pre-independence architecture, with its rooms and halls, is an elegant setting to be in. You can really feel the days of the British Raj when you walk through the lawn, the corridor, or sit in the hall. Add to it the smugness of sitting in a locale that had been used in quite a many Malayalam movies of the 1980’s.

He is at Kannur now on his vacation. Having moved to Saudi Arabia almost six months back for a gelf job like most other Malayalees, he was trying to make the most of the break, trying to get in as many quintals of liquor inside his body as possible. After all, coming from a land which has strict prohibition in place, this was the only thing he was expected to do.

We had called a few of our other friends too for this meeting. But nobody turned up. Yeah, people have their own reasons to be busy. But somehow or the other, I am the only one who gets time and freedom for all these sundry activities.

There was nobody in the bar when we entered. It was unusually quite early that we landed there. We took the best seat in town, and opened the windows adjacent. The winds were blowing hard, and it was expected to rain anytime. After all, the heat had been getting to all of us. Kerala is unusually hot this year, maybe a degree or two above normal. The expected rains would help cool all down.

The heat – it was so scorching in the ambience around us that we could not even think of having anything hot. So whiskey and vodka were out of the question. It was back to our all time favourite Kingfisher Strong beer. Like we say, the King of Good Times has flown into bad times, and requires our help to get out of trouble. So promote KF, promote beer and let the Kingfisher fly again.

The beer on the table, with the regular dose of the free peanuts we get, and we started off with our regular cheers. A one to one beer drinking session is usually quite boring, and we were silent. We finished the first bottle, one each, just looking alternately at each other and the bottles on the table. By then, it had started raining, and it had considerably cooled off the atmosphere.

A repeat order was called in, and the drink was strong enough for the rumblings in the head to start off. Slowly, looking at the rains, he started talking.

“There, it’s too dry man….”

Me: “Where?”

“There, in Saudi”

I chuckled. I had known this long back. I used to wonder how some guys survive a lifetime there.

“For the first two months, it was kind of okay. Then, how long can you survive just drinking water and cola!”

Well, for people who have long gaps between drinking sessions, this is bound to happen. The beer was getting to his head. The last time he had some hot drink was before he left for gelf, with us itself. And that was a long time back.

“Once, we even managed to get illegal liquor there. But we were so shit scared of deportation and flogging that we flushed it down the toilet. It was the saddest day of my life. Flushing liquor down the toilet”

I laughed. You will never see a malayalee get more emotional than when he see or hear of someone waste liquor, and its hell when he waste it himself. It’s blasphemy.

I could feel the genuine sorrow in his eyes. There was nothing much more I could do than hold his hands and show empathy. But, inside me I was feeling how lucky I was to be sitting in a state where the government is the biggest seller of liquor.

The rain continued pouring. So were his emotions.

“You know, there is not even a single female soul whom we could look at. Only black and black purdah all around”

Now, this was genuinely funny. A young chap who worked in the midst of chicks in a free society was feeling totally out of sorts, as if locked up in a lightless room.

“So what! You have memories to survive Sir” – I just couldn’t find enough justification to console him. These were the maximum I could put up in words.

“Fuck the memories. After two months it’s all gone. And then it’s black all around. All are faceless mortals. Of the entire body of five and half feet, you see only five inches outside. That too eyes and nose. What happens with that? I even forgot how a girl looked like.” He picked up the “five and half…” dialogue from Thattatin Marayathu to put his point across.

At this point I was really feeling sorry for him. No liquor to drink, add to that no chicks to look at. It was a desperate life. “Sorry, but you have no choice there…” was the only reply I could give.

“But we found out remedies…” he interrupted me.

I was rapt. These guys could make petrol of water too if he found a solution for this too. Let’s see what he had to tell…

“We go to Lulu Mall; there those high society Arab girls come. They do wear that black purdah only. But, its different kind, tight ones. Tight means, even our Kerala girls in pattu pavada, or some Blonde in tight jeans will lose in competition to them. So every, Thursday and Friday, go to Lulu Mall, ogle at them, happy, and be back home”

There is a proverb in Malayalam – “Gatikettal puli pullum tinnum” – means, if a tiger had no choice, he would end up eating grass. This was the only thought that came to my mind when I finished hearing his chronicle.

I looked at him. He was gulping beer like there is no tomorrow. Let him have to his fullest, I thought. After all, next week, he would again be back to the land of no liquor and chicks. He would be back to drinking cola and walking through Lulu Mall.

Lucky we! East or west India is the best! Some other places are really scary!