It is important for me, as I am sure for many others, that at times my senses are dulled. Perhaps, I would say, in my circumstances it becomes a necessity. In many cultures and in many eras I have observed the most efficient way of countering pain was to dull the feeling of pain, by the use of narcotics, by letting blood out to dull the patient and in modern times by the use of chloroform to cut off senses altogether.
It is not pain that I seek to alleviate, not physical pain at any rate. I seek to run away from myself, because, well, I am quite bored of myself. You would have known a person who was so predictable in his actions, so hackneyed in his views, so mundane in his conversation, that to sit with the person for hours without any alcohol or some other person to take part of the impact was sheer torture. I am such a person for myself – not always I would say, but at times, and these times seems to arrive more and more frequently. If I had the ability and inclination to quantify this feeling of boredom with myself maybe I could have made an equation out of it and predict the time after which I would be completely bored of myself.
So it is night again and I sit here at a table in front of the Air Conditioner with my supply of beer and begin to tell the story of my life for the nth time.
I have lived a life most ordinary, I have never been a celebrity; I have never contributed anything truly earthshaking to the sciences, arts, philosophy or any such human endeavor. And yet, in a way, in a very special way my life has been the most extraordinary. As a matter of fact, it is a life so extraordinary that if I were to meet someone who makes a claim to the same extraordinariness I would brush off his claim as totally untrue without even bothering to investigate. Is it sheer conceit? Not really, it is more about being reasonable. I am sure you consider yourself reasonable too, so would you believe it if I told you that I have lived at the time of Indus Valley Civilization, at the time of the Buddha, at the time of the Roman Empire, at the time of the Socrates, at the time of Shakespeare, at the time of Kalidasa, at the time of Ghalib, at the time of Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi and I live now, at the time of Stephen Hawking and Noam Chomsky.
Yes, there, I have done it; I have told you my secret. You wouldn’t believe it. That’s the most interesting thing about my secret; I have no need to prevent its disclosure- for its disclosure doesn’t hurt me anymore. At certain times and ages and cultures the disclosure was a problem, people accused me of consorting with the devil and so on and so forth. Not anymore. People would rather believe in any fantastic theory to explain events or proofs I put forward rather than believe that I have lived for a few thousand years.
So would you be interested if I told you the story of life, where I was born, the places that I have been too, the jobs I have held, the relationships I have been in, the friends that I have gained and lost and so on. Would you like it if I started at the beginning and gave you a chronological account of my life? You might say that you would be bored to death with it. But let me tell you there is no such thing as bored to death, I should know!
But don’t worry I am not going to do that- I care about not inflicting that on myself as much as I care about not inflicting that on you


I decided to march with Gandhiji. It seemed like a fun thing to do, to march for days and days with no object but to make salt, the ramifications of that were immense, or so everybody thought.
I was the most qualified to undertake such an exercise, I could devote any amount of time to the most trivial activity. There was just a little problem though; I needed my alcohol at night. From my vast experience I could tell that there would be others like me.
So, we formed a little group and carried out a little act of disobedience within that act of disobedience. So some liquor was arranged and the three of us huddled up in a tent, it was Ram, Maqbool and me, and from my memory and jottings in my diary following is the conversation that ensued, and I capture it from a point where all of us were sufficiently drunk to make the conversation interesting-

Ram: So why are you called Anant?

I: It is because I have no end.

Ram: So why are you marching with us for?

I: No end, I do not die.

Maqbool: Who among us has any practice at dying anyway, ha ha ha …?

I: I have lived for thousands of years.

Ram: This guy is drunk now!

Maqbool: Maybe he means that in a metaphorical sense.

I: Maybe 

Ram: Anyway, I feel guilty about drinking, Gandhiji does not approve of that. I respect him, I respect his ideals, but there is little I can do about this. I can see wrong in our being ruled by other, I am willing to oppose it. I see wrong in the poor man spending his last penny on liquor, I wish to reform him. But I don’t see any wrong in my drinking, so I cannot not do something I believe is not wrong. And yet, something pinches me.

Maqbool: Did your parents approve of you marching to Dandi?

Ram: Not really, but they had little choice in letting me go.

Maqbool: So do you not respect your parents?

Ram: Of course I do.

Maqbool: So in the same way, you can have the utmost respect for Gandhiji and yet beg to differ from him on a certain issue.

Ram: Hmm.

I: And Ram, what is wrong with the poor man spending his last penny on liquor?

Ram: He should rather spend it on food!

I: And who are you to tell him that?

Ram: I know.

I: Why do you think you know?

Ram: Because tomorrow I know he will suffer when he gets no food.

I: And why do you think he should not make that choice.

Ram: Because … well because I think so … you are being unnecessarily difficult!

I: I am being difficult, yes, but it is not unnecessary.

Maqbool: How difficult are the choices? What is a man to do? To stop respecting one’s father because he supports the British Empire; to stop drinking because Gandhiji says so or because one’s faith says so?

Ram: Now you must stop drinking because I say so.

Maqbool: And who are you to so say so?

Ram: I am the keeper of the bottle which has now reached its end, and there is little even the one without end can do about it.

I: And we have to report tomorrow at 10 for lunch.

Maqbool: And that is something I dare not disobey. You must draw the line somewhere!

Ram: So let us crash.


“And so the Buddha told me, the human condition is like the condition of a man who has been struck by a poisoned arrow and if it is not removed immediately the man will die. Would it be reasonable for the man to enquire where the arrow came from? Which tree the wood was procured from? Who crafted the arrow? How was the iron put into the tip of the arrow? Which poison has been put on the tip of the arrow? So, it is not for us to enquire how the universe began, how was life created and how man came into being. We must accept that and then follow the middle path to attain salvation, to remove the arrow from our breasts,” the preacher concluded.

The crowd was dispersed.

I found myself with Kapila who seemed extremely disturbed.

“There is something that is bothering you Kapila,” I said to him.

“Yes, there is. I am a Buddhist, I believe in Dhamma, I believe in Sangha, I believe in Buddha and yet… and yet… I cannot stop myself from wondering how the world was created, who created it and why; whether anyone created it. Why is there something rather than nothing?”

“Kapila, my friend, it is no sin to think”

“But, Anant like this preacher said, and I have been told many times, metaphysical questions should not be allowed to occupy the mind”

“Do you believe that a doctrine is to be followed in totality or not at all?”

“I do”

“And therein you falter…”

“I wonder …”

Kapila was perhaps one of the best friends I ever had, and he was perhaps the only one who believed me when I told him my secret. This is what he said –

“There is no miracle that you can show me that will astound me more than the very existence of anything at all …”


It was time for one of those nights when I sat and drank with Kapila. In my long life there have been few times that have been so pleasurable as those that I have spent with Kapila- and in the times that I have spent with Kapila there have been a few as pleasurable as the ones that I have spent drinking with him.
For as long as I can remember I have been a cynic. I have refused to have faith and beliefs. I have never stood up for anything, except perhaps for defending my right of not standing up for anything. Whether it is by chance, by choice or by the force of circumstance I leave to the reader to decide but living in multitudinous time and space I have found it extremely difficult to hold on to a set of beliefs. I have learned to play the devil’s advocate and I can argue against anything- but I cannot defend a single belief, not in earnest anyway.
So I respected Kapila for having a set of beliefs and I respected him even more for not believing unquestioningly. Those who believe in totality and those who don’t believe it at all – take the easy way out. It is people like Kapila who brave the toughest battles. The seat of this battle is the human mind, as a particular interpretation of Bhagvad Gita says- even the Mahabharata is a battle that is fought in the battleground of the human mind.
I must mention that Mitran was also with us, though he wasn’t drinking. He never had. And despite that or perhaps because of that he never failed to lecture on the ills of drinking. He regarded that as his holy duty – he considered it a sin to drink and he went a step further and considered not berating the drinkers as a sin too.
Mitran began, “There are not one or two but six perils of drunkenness which the Buddha mentions in the Singlovada Sutta; it is the cause of quarrels, loss of wealth and reputation, diseases, immodesty of dress, disregard of honor and the ruin of one’s intelligence. You must shun it to live a full life”
As I said, I could argue against anything, I could argue point by point or I could dismiss the whole theory with one stroke. I chose the latter – “Mitran, why must one live a full life, why is life to be valued?”
“I cannot tell you the meaning of life, but I can tell you how to reach there, and giving up alcohol is a step in the right direction”
“That is not a good trade Mitran, you are asking a heavy price for something, and you don’t even tell me what it is”
“The thing that I promise you is beyond value, and thus you have to agree to my terms”
“I refuse”
And that was about the end of it, Mitran and I were on two extremes- the extremes of belief and non-belief – there was no common ground.
Kapila was drinking, slowly. Whether that was because of reluctance or not, I never could make out.
Kapila was the common ground between us otherwise Mitran would never have tolerated me and I quite reciprocated his sentiments.
Kapila asked Mitran- “So is the argument against alcohol based solely on its ill effects?”
Mitran played it safe – “What are you getting at?”
“I could say that similar arguments could be levied against love, it can cause quarrels, and it can cause loss of wealth and as many would vouch definitely causes a loss of intelligence!”
“You are talking about how love is commonly perceived, love in Buddhism is nothing but a desire to see the others happy, what is commonly perceived as love is conditional love which is, in fact the exact opposite”
“If love is unconditional, how do you decide who to love,” I interjected.
“Exactly my point”, said Mitran, “You must love all and none in a special way”
Had I read Rudyard Kipling’s “If” at that time I could have said Mitran just picked up the idea from there!
“So what is detachment, if one must love all,” Kapila asked.
“Detachment is rising above the trivialities of life”
“And this is exactly what alcohol does for me, so Mitran, my dear friend your belief and my non-belief is no different, they are both manifestations of escapism”
Mitran probably had a lot to say to that, but I had lost interest and the alcohol inside me had also led to a sufficient loss of intelligence for me to not even attempt to respond to Mitran.
I had escaped, and so had Mitranl; it was Kapila sitting between us, who had no escape.