By Aritro Bhattacharya
Ever got hooked on to something? Something like a Jimmi Hendrix number, or a failed love, or one of those stages in Max Payne where the life-serum won't ever suffice, or perhaps that childhood habit of picking your nose, or like putting into mouth whatever you find in your nasal cavities? Ever felt that overwhelming desire to do that 'thing' that would take your life a fermi closer to those pearly gates of Bliss? Ever done that? Ever got deprived of that? Ever stayed up through a night (or nights) waiting for that strum at say 4:15 of the song, or peek-a-booing at the tube-station nemesis, or nourishing a nemesis in your broken heart? If you have, you will know what I am talking about.
Let's clear the fizz,.. er the mist. If there is one thing I would really take to my pyre, it would be a tumbler of the black bubbly I guess. The 7X-ed serum. My sip of nothing-to-do. My swig of this-rajma-is-inedible. My mouth rinse of no-time-to-brush. My kick of more-cola-less-whiskey-else-I'll-puke. My champagne of code-is-running. My fistful can of Maa-am-in-US. My metabolism of acid-in-the-duodenum. My immunity of am-gulping-pesticides. My diversity of cherry-Zero-Diet-Classic.
It’s cliche to be writing in the first person with zillions of narcissistic atoms and dog-eared phrases and hyphenated pseudoChetanism, but then, that's what the cola does to you, I guess. My love affair with the thing started way back in the 90s. When the jerk in me was schooling, the MMS jokes were being brewed, Kapil Dev was sending those moustached express 'uns, the ACDs were just getting coiled up, size Zero meant you flunked (believe me, even the Coca Cola Company was yet to invent the sexy black-and-red cans), SRK was toppling girls from the roof-tops, Sushmita Sen had just earned her tiara, and most significantly, people were not Googling to get the address of their parents' homes. Then, suddenly, as a Sunday Superhit Muqabla (Baba Sehgal anchored it, DD2, 9:00 pm, my first brush with cleavage and midriffs) was belting out those thunder-thigh-ed numbers, a group of people starts singing something like 'Share my dream, share my Coca Cola, always the real thing'. And there you go. The Coke had re arrived. Even through my 14" black-and-white grainy window, I was hooked on. Not because it tasted great. Because ThumsUp (then owned by Parle) was stronger, Gold Spot would you give you that Zing Thing, Limca would heal up your acidogenic mutton rogan josh, and Tree Tops would nourish the kids. Still it hooked me on. And it was that advertisement. Yes, it was something special. Even now, after 15 odd years, I keep rummaging the Youtube and the Orkut for that tune. But somehow it eludes me.
The next stone in the pond was when Coke launched those cans. It was sheer loss of virginity for that cola-worshipper in me. It was like I gave everything to that swish of the can-opening, the red, chilled aluminum, and the aura of chic that it carried. It was pricey, especially to the middle-class happy with the half/one liter monoliths of the overtly grotesque but financially viable glass jerrycans. It was meant for a single use, for a single go and as happens with those pricey prostitutes, once you let loose, there's no stopping. I gave in my heart, and to date I remember all those things I was ready to sacrifice or achieve, as the situation demanded, for 330 ml of liquid sin. And even now I remember those empty cans on my table, kept as trophies of my conquests, jostling for space with those lost pages of innocence. I would trade my right hand for getting back one of those deformed, dented cans, but they are gone forever.
I tried Coke with all sorts of edible, and potable stuff, with mixed results. Like I once heaped in two spoonfuls of drinking chocolate into a glass of stale Coke. Tried dropping two pellets of mint for my own 'refreshing' drink. Contrary to those forwarded videos, my house did not blow up. But my appetite was disturbed for a couple of days. I drank it with tea, dipped slices of bread into it, added it to a glass of milk for color, and, to top all, dissolved a couple of sleeping pills to make the whole idea of popping pills more palatable!!
I can bore myself to death with these Coke-stories. But stop I should, and stop I will, with this last story.
Many nights ago, I was down with jaundice. An acute case of yellow pee. And the doctor sentenced me to three months of despair, uncertainty and a no-Coke regime. Over those moments of solitude and introspection, I had made a couple of promises. One was to get into the US someday, with an I-20 valid for five years, and the other was to grab a can of Coke, after clearing the Port of Entry, to celebrate that. One of the promises was fulfilled. The pain and guilt of the unkept one do haunt me. And then what do I do? Spend a tenner for sure. To get all dizzy as the carbonated liquid sizzles and singes down into my guts. As I kill yet another demon of mine. The joie-de-vivre, emanating from that fizz and sugar and water keeps me alive. To tell another story. To grab another Coke. As they say, the show must go on.