The painful weight of a drink

Confident that the Mr Fit title was his for the asking with the rigorous workouts he did to keep his muscles rippling, bodybuilder Monty never imagined that a few drinks with his friends would bring his dreams crashing down.

The loud music beat, a voice counting down floated out, grunts… they were the sounds of people reaching, stepping, lunging and stretching their way to fitness inside the studio.

Outside, Deepika parked her two wheeler and settled down on its seat to wait. She blew a kiss to the board that announced boldly Monty's Gym. Love had blossomed between her and the instructor of the gym Monty.

As if on cue, Monty emerged, wiping the sweat off his forehead with his wrist band. His muscles rippled beneath his black tee shirt. On his arm was tattooed, 'Doley Sholey' (biceps and triceps). Catching sight of Deepika, Monty blew her a quick kiss too, as he took a deep swig from the energy drink in his hand.

They left together for a friend's place. Loud music blared from inside and as they entered they could see everything set up for an evening of merry making. There were snacks on the table, glasses and some bottles of liquor.

"I hope you are not planning to drink alcohol," Deepika asked Monty anxiously. He gave her a playful grin and reached for a glass. "But you are so conscious of fitness. How can you drink," she asked in consternation again, to which he poured himself a glass, said "like this" and quaffed it off. He poured himself another drink, came to her side and gulped that down too.

Doley Sholey, the story of Deepika and Monty is written by Anulata Raj Nair as part of a collaboration between Gaon Connection, India's biggest rural media platform, and the World Health Organization South-East Asia (WHO SEARO) for a social campaign against alcohol abuse. The campaign takes the form of a series called Meri Pyaari Zindagi, made up of audio and video stories. The stories are narrated by Neelesh Misra, the founder of Gaon Connection.

Meanwhile, back at the party, Deepika reminded Monty about the Mr Fit contest that was to happen soon and that Monty was confident of winning. Monty just laughed, pulled off his tee shirt and flexed his arms and chest like a bodybuilder to show off his muscles. Deepika did not say anything more. She knew it was futile arguing with anyone who was drunk.

But, she knew the Mr Fit title meant the world to Monty who spent hours at his gym honing and toning his muscles. All he would talk of was the girth of his arms, his chest measurements, how much weight he lifted… He would workout all day long and in the evenings he would unwind with his friends and a few drinks.

This was almost a daily routine. Deepika was a silent and unhappy spectator. When they went back home and called each other before calling it a night, Deepika tried to tell Monty that he should not drink so much. But, it fell on deaf ears. Monty would change the subject or wind up the conversation.

Deepika had read enough to know that no matter how many bottles of protein shakes Monty drank, they were no protection against the debilitating effects of alcohol. The alcohol could render his body hollow and ineffective, but Monty was in no mood to listen.

The day of the competition dawned and Deepika along with their friends went to the venue to cheer for Monty. The place was buzzing with excitement. One by one each participant came up, did his routine and left. And soon it was Monty's turn. He was greeted with loud cheering from his friends, "Monty, Monty, Monty…" Deepika watched with bated breath, willing him to do well.

But, her fears came true and Monty fell far short of what was expected of him. He did not win the title. The instructor from the nearby gym, Jitendra walked away with the honours. Not just that, the fact that Monty had caught sight of Deepika cheering loudly for Jitendra, tormented him. He could not shake off the feeling that he was left with nothing. Not the title, not the fitness and no Deepika. His friends kept calling and messaging. They urged him to come over and promised that his pain would be soothed with a few drinks down his hatch.

Monty did not respond. That night, as he tossed and turned to try and get some sleep, he picked up his phone. There was a message from Deepika. "So, when do you begin preparation for next year's Mr Fit title," she had typed.

Monty sat up. "Tomorrow, tomorrow," he typed back his response.

Next morning, once again, Deepika waited outside the gym, and she blew a kiss towards the board that had Monty's Gym written on it. She had a new display picture on her mobile… it said Doley Sholey.

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