“Where is your glass Sanjay” enquired Rahul standing next to him. They had met for the first time at Vikrant’ party. These parties always were big gatherings. While they met for the first time, they started conversing about lot of things and quickly struck cord as they even had some common friends back in India. “I don’t drink alcohol Rahul” replied Sanjay. “I havent had a sip in last 7 years” he continued. “And I don’t feel a need for it”. Sanjay’ reply preempted the questions one after another. A usual question that Sanjay has been fielding for last 17 years. As soon as he completed his reply he saw a quick show of eyes from Rahul to his wife. A sarcasm, a roll of eyes and a smirk. Nothing new for Sanjay as he was able to quickly capture these micro reactions. Sanjay was a pro at it now. “And you are in Sales?”, replied Rahul wittingly.
Sanjay then quickly pulled in Rahul’ wife and narrated a recent incident. ” I was recently at a customer meeting Rahul. We were having diner and had just walked into an upscale restaurant in NYC. When it was time for us to order food, as a matter of courtesy I asked waiter to take my client’ order first. He ordered a nice steak with wine. When it was my turn I orderd an Eggplant Parmesan. “Anything to drink” asked waiter. I responded “Ice Tea would be fine”. “He waited for a sec and then said “we have a nice collections of wine’ ” “I don’t drink wine or any alcohol for that matter” I replied. Waiter had the same look on his face as you had Rahul. With a smile on his face he said “I forgive you” to which both the waiter and my customer laughed out loudly. I immediately responded with the same enthusiasm and said “I forgive you too” and started laughing with them. They couldn’t comprehend for a sec but I guess quickly realizing what had just happened waiter left to get our order. Both Rahul and his wife started laughing too realizing that joke was on them.
But Sanjay was not a pro as he is now in tackling the same question. He had his share of rough period, a period of illusion, indecisiveness and embarrassments.
Growing up in a simple family, a hard-working father, a dedicated mother and grandparents who lead their lives with virtues, he had always seen the simple ways of life. Simplicity would always entice him whether it was about relationships, or food or clothes or anything for that matter. But world order was changing fast. Principles of life were being questioned, the more is less was the motto and there was nothing simple about anything.
The conflict in a young childs mind was getting bigger. On one side there were principles to die for and live with and then on the other side was to “fit in” the world. Yes, “Fit in”. The dilemma was getting bigger everyday. Mix this dilemma with naivety of a young boy and you have a perfect cocktail to deliver a person who is lost in his own self. The struggle would continue for a long period of time. The boy would give in to whims and fancies “to fit in” scenario sometimes and would hold himself during other occasions. At times his friends would be certain that Sanjay enjoys beer while at times others would say he is a “teetotaler”. He would be laughed at causing huge embarrassment in front of many.
Things didn’t change for a long time as Sanjay flip-flopped from having alcohol to abstaining it completely. He would just stand with a glass of wine but would never finish it. He never liked it but I guess he always had one in his hand. He got married and in couple of years was blessed with a baby boy.
As the boy started growing up, Sanjay’ insecurities grew even further. His indecisiveness and lack of faith in himself stated showing up in his childs behavior. “What kind of world he wants to give his kid” was the quest his mind had no answer for. One day as he was traveling from work there was a series of advertisements at the railways station. One of them would stand out to Sanjay. It read “It’s not about them, it’s about you”. Those words kept ringing in his mind through out. Kept asking him questions. “What are you going to do Sanjay?” ” Are you going to step up now and take control of yourself or you will keep trying to fit in?” Then the other voice whom Sanjay had stopped listening for long took courage to say “You are never going to fit in. It’s not your nature to fit in”. “Be yourself and world around will acknowledge you”. When he reached home, his world came running to him “Papa” followed by a big tight hug and kisses. This followed with another hug from his wife. “The god has spoken” he thought to himself. This is my world and they accept me as I am. It was time to take the arduous journey of “finding himself”, he decided, much like “Finding Nemo”. He smiled to himself.
The first step was the most challenging. At a friends housewarming ceremony he firmly but quietly denied any offering. First no one noticed but slowly people started realizing. He was the odd one out always. He heard background voices that people would not call him for many such occasions as he would not drink.
Whispers lead to open Mockery at times with timed fun jokes like one of the guys at the party mentioning “Monkeys don’t drink and have fun”? “It was funny I must accept” said Sanjay to himself.
Then questions started appearing –
- Have you never had it?
- Why have you stopped it?
- Wine should be fine?
- I am sure your wife does not approve of it?
- You are in Sales, how do you manage and entertain your clients?
The last one stayed and continues to stay.
At the same time “It’s not about them, but about you” also continues to stay, firmly engraved in Sanjay’ psyche. It was never about others. Sanjay had to take this journey of “Self -Actualization”. Only when he realized what is important to him, what was inside of him, he became comfortable with what was outside of him.
The world continues to party. He now chooses what parties to attend and what gatherings to be part of. He is never shy of letting people know that while he fits in, he is not part of the herd anymore. With a glass of water in his hand he quietly watches the antiques of few drunk men and women who make fun of each other, baring all inhibitions trying to “fit in”.