Jumping Chicken and the Suicide Feni

The monsoons in Goa.. ..such a magical experience!” I said to myself, relishing the freshness of first rains.

The rains had brought in color and activity to life within a week of the showers. Rivers were overflowing and the land was a sea of green; the environment an exotic green velvet.

Just before dusk, dressed like an English movie 'assassin' -- black rubber raincoat, rubber hat, black gumboots, and armed with my grandfather’s 6 battery ‘torch’, I left the house carrying a plastic carry-bag.

It drizzled lightly.

There were streaks of lightning, and the thunder rumbled in the distance sounding like the typical Goan drum-beat. Somewhere in the neighborhood, an odor of burning cashew-nuts sent a scented message around the village.

Anthrax, my 'ever-ready' battery of a friend, was in wait. He wore just a rain-jacket, shorts and to my amusing surprise – a pair of white tennis shoes.

“Tennis shoes in the rains?
” I asked, Are you gonna play French Open, or football out there?” 

“You never know!..
” replied Anthrax, Got to brace up for slides and dives and tackles.. Am armed for the kill, you just flash over the light.. Come-on, let’s make it quick, don’t wanna chase rainbows all night!”

"...and what's that sword for?" I asked eyeing the long knife that he carried, "you expect to chase a 'run'-dukor? Or what!"

"This is.. for the 'tigur'.. turtles.. the crabs.. and the friendly 'mamas'.."

"Mamas, Who???"

"Hey.., never the name!" said Anthrax making a sign of a snake with his hand.

"Huh!!!" I shrugged.

On reaching the rice fields, we noticed the 'bandieo' were lined up with lazy-looking frogs asking to be picked up. Some were as fat as pumpkins and all around us we could hear croaks like the contrabass sax played at funerals – Bom! Bom! Bom!

We were stunned. We soon recovered from the shock and ran back to the house to get a bigger sack to fill.

It was easy work blinding the bullfrogs with torchlight. Gathering and gathering we had enough frogs to feed an army. So we cleverly began to boil up ideas how to party the catch.

“I hope we are not depleting the local frog population!” I said.

“Well, eating a few won’t affect the ecology!” replied Anthrax showing off his deep vocabulary.

It was past 8pm when we got back home. Anthrax looked like a rain-soaked chicken, and shook like a leaf feeling the cold. We took hot showers in turns and changed. On his insistence, I dialled a couple of friends.

"Hello man! Let’s rock tonight..!" I proclaimed, “We have a truckload of jumping chickens!.. Come over, let’s.....”

“But that’s poaching!!!.. it’s banned!” said the first one. 

Anthrax heard the voice over the speaker.

“Tell him to go to hell..!” Anthrax cursed from behind me, “Cut him.. the $%^& will ruin our fun too!”

Most of the other guys said they couldn't make it at such short notice, but that did not damper Anthrax' enthusiasm.

"Let's get cracking man.." he said.

“..Yaar Anthrax, I don't want to feast in here, buddy,” I said casually, “Ma doesn’t like all that frying and messing about in her kitchen.. and the loud music and noise that you create.. it doesn’t go too well with her blood pressure, you know...”

Anthrax hauled the sack over on his shoulders. “Come on, let’s go..!..” he said.

It was a 10-minute ride by motorbike from my house to Anthrax's. While we drove he suggested we should try some cashew feni on the way.

“The stuff gel’s well with frog chilly-fry and the cold rains.” Anthrax reasoned.

“Hey.., I’ve never tasted that on a grand scale.. Whenever I have colds ma feeds that in a sugared spoon burned over a candle !”

“Well, being a 'Goenkar', you got to taste the forbidden fruit someday.
” Anthrax said, Let’s get your feet wet..! If things get too weird we’ll just wait it out.”

So there we stopped at old auntie’s bar and took our seats in the darkest corner of the ‘pigeon hole’. 

Anthrax asked for the 'Goan speciality' right away without any second thoughts.

“What would the local folks think about two piglings in a bar?” I thought. “What if somebody told ma? Shh!!!”

I prayed nobody would see us as the old lady brought in a ‘quarter’ and a couple of Limcas and sodas. Anthrax filled and downed his within minutes. 
I downed mine.

It's dynamite! Anthrax remarked and signalled for another 'pint'.

My fate was sealed!

Little did I know what was in store! Within 3 minutes of drinking we both began to feel it.

“Fast mure tumi,” the old lady remarked in Konkani as Anthrax paid off the bill.

I began to feel tense when Anthrax informed me that the road was looking a bit strange, and the motorbike handlebar felt funny in his hands. I shouted at him to drive slow so we could get to his house without being struck by ‘lightning’. But he seemed unresponsive.

Upon parking, we both jumped off the bike and went into his house, and straight upstairs.

I towed the contraband along.

This was quite an experience. I walked through his sitting room and began to see it move and waver as did most of the items in the room such as the paintings, TV, flower vases, sofas and chairs.

Anthrax kicked a cat when we got into his room. He shut the door and I collapsed onto his bed. I knew reality was about to leave me. I stared down at the leopard rug on the wall which seemed to be moving into a spiral of colors that resembled an artist’s color wheel.

“Hey, the leopard looks real to me.. Funny naah.. ha ha!” I chuckled.

“Hello, that’s not a leopard, it’s Shahrukh Khan, .. you know it, he's my favorite star.. ,” Anthrax stammered.

“I am talking about this wall.. here.. here..” I pointed out.

“Dude.. there’s nothing on the other walls..the leopard you're talking about hangs in the sitting room!” Anthrax said without moving.

“What!” I was stunned for a moment till he started to sing some song. 

It was some silly, mutt song, not that of a sane individual. It began with a cackle and progressed to long horrid screams like Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. I began singing too, almost uncontrollably. It was awful. Neither of us stopped singing, no matter what.

“Buddy, perhaps if we watch TV we could divert our ‘spinning’ condition.” I said after we stopped singing.

Anthrax turned on the tube. Unfortunately the first thing that zapped onto the screen was the MTV channel. At this point, language began to stop making sense. I strained to understand what Anthrax tried to tell me but it only sounded like ‘crap’, when some people talk — “okay, yes, no, okay, no, yes okay”.

So instead, I turned my attention to the 'remote control' and switched the channel to sports. There was Sachin Tendulkar licking his tongue on a cricket ball and he wasn't making any sense. Finally he shook his finger and said “Say No to drugs!..Never ever, ever, ever, ever” about 25 “evers” later.. “try alcohol or drugs.”

I stared at Anthrax and asked if he had seen it before. He nodded and we both began the ‘Thriller’ song again, which seemed to last forever.

Suddenly, his bedroom door flew open. We both stopped singing instantly.

Anthrax’s dad stared right at us through the door. I began to panic; Anthrax had told me his parents wouldn't be home. Yet here was his dad interrogating us on all the noise in the house. 

Anthrax made up some lame excuse since neither of us could understand what his dad was saying.

His dad then approached Anthrax, who, to my surprise hid under the bedsheets like a little child.

At this point I was at my wit’s end; I really didn't know what to do. Anthrax’s dad stared directly at me. So I shut my mouth firmly -- afraid to speak for fear of leaking the feni smell. 

Slowly, I walked over to the computer and tried to look inconspicuous by typing. I failed miserably by stumbling the keyboard over and dropping the cordless mouse. His dad left.

“Oh, don’t worry.. dad’s not a problem,” Anthrax assured me, “Mom!!.. SShe’s an antennae, she can detect the jam on your face from the moon.”

“Jam?” I looked into the wardrobe mirror rubbing my face.

Anthrax looked at me as I tried to communicate, I thought we were in some serious shit but I didn't know what. He suggested that we turn off the light and wait out rest of the evening before we actually try to ‘thigh fry’ the frogs. 

So he hit the switch, put the TV off and got into the bed. I lied on his floor staring at the ceiling in the dim light of the shaded lamp. The fan hanging out there rotated like a helicopter propeller. I blinked and looked again, the fan blades swooned like waves.

“Shall I put the fan off?” I asked.

“Who put it on?” Anthrax asked turning around to scan the ceiling, “It’s off silly!”

“No, it’s on..” I was puzzled.

There was no answer. I sat up to see Anthrax on the bed. He appeared to be some strange looking creature in the semi darkness. Almost like a ghost from those Hindi horror films.

Lying on the floor, I noticed that his room began to fade away. Suddenly it vanished completely. I was in a jungle now, not a very friendly one at that. I could see eyes everywhere staring at me in the dark abyss of the jungle. A few feet away, Anthrax appeared to be dealing with his own little world, he still appeared to me a creature of that jungle though.

The following is based on speculation and shattered memories of an altered reality, most of which I had to reconstruct next day. I was lying on that floor for what seemed like an eternity. Suddenly a portal of light opened up directly in front of me. What appeared to be a Mahabharata demon, which I had seen only in TV serials, came forth from the beam of light and babbled something at me.

Thankfully I was able to capture the words, “Your mother is on the phone.”

I jumped to my feet.

The demon was Anthrax's mom, and she led me down the stairs to their living room.

His dad lay on the sofa with the phone in his hand, holding it like a pistol at me. He then gave it to me. I wasn't sure at first what it was. I put it up to my ears and I heard my ma. Instantly my pulse began to race. Panic struck. She wasn't making sense. She was talking in dangling participles and sounded like Remo Fernandes setting his guitar on the mike!

“Anthrax's house you spend tonight, yes?..Tonight house Anthrax spend?”

It all confused me. I just said 'Yes' and hung up on her. 
I must have said it pretty loud because I remember Anthrax’s parents staring at me. They stared at me, I stared back at them. 

I didn't know what to do. I began to walk away when Anthrax’s mom called my name with an exclamation. She then addressed me ‘son’ in Konkani and with the same affection as she would have shown to her own son. I began to sweat. Fortunately she just asked me about what I thought of the weather.

I remember telling her that I thought “it was shit.”

I then quickly climbed up the stairs to Anthrax’s room. I wondered how!

The ‘cashew feni’ was perhaps picking up, it was about to peak and I could feel it. Upon entering Anthrax’s room I found that he was gone. This totally shocked me. I lay down on his bed and that is where I stayed for a while. My head began to race with horrid thoughts.

I had thoughts of waking up in the hospital surrounded by nurses, while officials from the Forest Department and Wild Life organizations looked on me like I had killed the most endangered tiger of the country. Volunteers from Alcoholics Anonymous stood in sympathy as if I was fished out from a barrel of liquor, while a group of local ‘paparazzis’ and media hovered around, for what appeared to them, to be the hottest celebrity scoop.

“What’s all this?” I asked aloud. Immediately, cameras flashed and blinded me.

“You are planning to export frogs!!!” somebody yelled from behind the glare of lights.

“That’s not true!” I shouted back, “I discourage others who hunt frogs... Eating frog meat can jeopardize human health and harm our environment.. Toxic chemicals absorbed by frogs from the pesticide residues can trigger cancer, paralytic strokes, kidney failures and other deformities.. Frogs and tadpoles consume millions of mosquitoes and larvae every year... Decline in frogs can increase malaria and other vector borne diseases. I guess there’s a mistake.., I’ve been framed..! Well, I am not a filmstar nor a politician that you make elephants out of the few frogs that we caught!”

Impressed by my English accent and command of the language, some gaped in total admiration. There were murmurs all around. The doctor ordered everybody quiet, and out.

I didn't believe in near death experiences, but what happened after this was damn close. I got up from the bed and walked towards what seemed to be another light. About halfway there, a voice filled my head. It was soothing and familiar and female.

I recognized it was Anthrax’s girlfriend. Though beautiful, she was full of rocks in her head. She liked me because I always praised her beauty. She smiled at me and for a moment my face went red.

“What’s wrong with you, dear?” she caressed my head. I blushed, blushed and blushed so much that I had to wipe off beads of sweat on my face.

“Anthrax!!!.. he’s to blamed, he’s the one who gave me the poisoned chalice!” I said with a volte-face.

“He should be given a good kicking, just who does he think he is?” she stated.

“Where am I?” I asked.

I stood there and I remember she just replied, “You're gone too far, come back now.”

This saddened me and I pleaded her to tell me what was happening.

Her voice was gone, I was alone. I turned towards the bed and noticed that someone was lying there. I did a double-take and woke up on the bed. My mind was exploding into a thousand colors, but worst of all I had to urinate.

I stood up and looked around. 

Surprisingly, Anthrax was not on the bed. Then I figured out where Anthrax was. The bathroom was locked. I cursed myself. I had to do something, Anthrax had been in the bathroom forever. I came to the conclusion that I could either piss in his flower pots, or piss in his trash bin - the little plastic bucket in the corner. I took the latter choice.

When I picked up the trash bin it wasn't a bin. It was Lizer, Anthrax’s dog, and it had teeth. I let go immediately. I glanced down again and saw the trash bin a few feet away.

When Anthrax came out of the bathroom I told him that I had pissed in his dustbin. He just laughed. I spent rest of the time trying to figure out what had happened after we had parked the motorbike in his garage.

Anthrax told me he had spent eternity in the bathroom and met several entities. I tried to explain what had happened to me but ended up hitting the hay and into coma.

I woke up at the crack of dawn to the sound of rains and water dripping from the terrace. I felt thirsty as a camel and hungry as ever; my skull felt like I had been drummed with a hammer.

“A hot shower should fix it!” I thought to myself as I slowly got up to my feet and channeled into the bathroom.

“Jumping Judas!”

My heart missed a beat looking at the ‘scene’ inside. It was like a mini Jurassic park.

There was an assortment of species to choose from. The stripy things had their frog droppings all over the place. Some were into the sink lying in a chorus, mounted over each other and staring at the overhead lamp with gusto; one chap had managed to climb up a layer and looked into the mirror with eyes popping out. 

A horde of others enjoyed a swim in the commode leisurely gulping water into their vocal sacs. A couple of skinny ones had perched themselves up on the washing machine posing their meaty legs and webbed footings.

An empty sack and a capsized bucket lied on the floor with black dirt making its way to the shower drain.

As I watched the camouflaged amphibians with great curiosity, Lizer came from nowhere and decided to try catch this toad that was jumpier than usual. The little guy took to his heels making a clean getaway into the sitting room! Lizer hopped after him while I myself dashed out of the bathroom slamming the door behind.

I sat on the bed in a cross-legged yoga posture and contemplated on the night that was. 

Shahrukh Khan ga-ga-giggled at me from the opposite wall. From the wrong end of the bed Anthrax snored like a lion; his arms and legs spread like Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man - arms and legs spread wide across in a circle.

I estimated the feni was stronger than we thought. It was a temporary suicide, but we survived!

Postscript::::All stories are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist, except in the mind of the writer:::

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