The Man | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 23, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 23, 2016

The Man

It was midnight. The man was lying dead; his head had hit the edge of the sidewalk and then cracked open, the blood was slowly but surely making his head sink, gradually; a pool of red forming around his head. With the streets almost empty, the rickshaw he had been on was being ridden at a whirlwind speed and at a sudden turn he flew off and landed on the street; he had been dead drunk before he died. Four or five night owls gathered around the dead man; a streetwalker, the rickshaw-puller, a couple of nondescripts and a beat cop. The policeman, on searching the dead man's pockets, maybe for a quick fortune or motivated by a sense of duty, found a card on which was written, “I am an alcoholic. If you find this card please contact my wife at…”

 Earlier in the evening, he was taking another rickshaw ride; he headed for the bar; it was a short distance from his apartment. Already tipsy from his daytime drinking, he was very abusive towards all and sundry. He cursed under his breath about the rough hand dealt him by life; he complained to the rickshaw-puller about the anger his wife had shown during the afternoon. The rickshaw-puller gave him a perplexed look now and then and was cursing his luck for being stuck with a drunk, as if the traffic jam were not bad enough. Pedestrians going past the rickshaw carrying him, looked at him with a mélange of emotions; anger, pity, empathy, righteous scorn, even envy. He screamed at a car that almost sideswiped his rickshaw; the people inside the car looked at him with befuddlement. On reaching the bar, he told the guard at the gate to get him a half bottle of whisky double quick; the guard grumbled but did the man's bidding without much ado; he knew the routine through and through. The already very drunk man paid the guard a handsome tip and was on his way home to continue his day (now night) of unending inebriation.

He woke up that morning feeling a slight tremor on his hands; he hadn't a drink in two days. “I'll have a few shots of whisky after office today”, he told himself and felt better. He had a full breakfast of eggs and sausages and buttered toasts. He left for office, the bad traffic dampened his mood, the dull office rooms made him feel down in the dumps; he needed a lifter, he ordered some coffee. The thought of a drink in the evening gave him the impetus to go on, the coffee helped too. He made a few phone calls, he talked to his manager, and he listened to all the problems with his business and by noon, was on his way to the bar. “Enough for one day” he thought.

He reached the bar after over an hour of grappling with the maddening city traffic and ordered four shots of single malt. The shakes were gone after downing the first two shots and at the end of the fourth, he felt happy and relaxed. He ordered a chilled beer to keep the buzz going. He left the bar with a half bottle of whisky in a brown paper bag. He came home and kept downing drink after drink till not a drop was left of the half bottle. The thought of having lunch never even occurred to him.

A little before midnight he got on a rickshaw and was headed for the bar to get a half bottle of whisky; he wanted to pass the night in a drunken 'bliss'. He never had any dinner either.

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