By Shevlin Sebastian
In September, 1996, a few years before I joined The Week, I was sitting in a library in Kolkata and flipping through the magazine. Suddenly, a three-page article by B. Krishnakumar caught my attention. It was about a drink that cured terminally ill patients: A woman politician who was dying because of a failed kidney made a remarkable recovery after having the drink, so did a terminal cancer patient. It worked wonders for those suffering from heart disease, asthma, bronchitis, skin allergies, chronic cold and what have you. Tribals in Rajasthan used it to heal bruises, sprains, jaundice and diarrhoea and even gangrene. An excitement began to rise up in me. This drink seemed to be an elixir for eternal youth.
The next day I went to the National Library and browsed through the catalogue to see whether there were any books on the subject. There was only one and reading it at one sitting confirmed all what I had read in The Week article. There was also additional information: if you splashed it on your face, your face would glow.
So I decided to try it. It was an easy to make drink and the only rule was that you had to have it first thing in the morning.
So one morning I got up at 6 a.m., made the drink, took a deep breath, took my first sip… and almost vomited. I had to hurriedly put the glass down, press my mouth with my hand as I felt the bile rise up in my throat. I took a few deep breaths in a bid to calm down. Then I tentatively took another sip and it felt okay. Soon, I took several sips and I was elated when I finally emptied the glass. It seemed as if I had climbed a mountain.
Thereafter, I began drinking it every day. Within days, I was splashing it on my face. After a week, I asked my wife whether I glowed, and she said, clearly not approving of this new habit, “You look the same, maybe a bit more run down.” When I told my childhood friend Anup about the face splashing, he said, “From the time you were a kid, you have been like this.” He then placed his forefinger like a gun against the side of his forehead and turned it clockwise a few times. I got the message and stopped talking about the subject.
Anyway, after six months, I did not sense any perceptible change in my health. The only benefit I noticed was that it miraculously cleared the congestion in my throat, especially when I was having a cold or when the pollution was too much. And gradually I began to slow down. From seven glasses, it went down to six a week, then to five and now, seven years later, I am down to one drink a week. Perhaps the only time I drink two or three times a week, is when the season is changing and people are falling sick or a virus is floating around. Then I have a few glasses and feel fortified.
So have you guessed what the drink is?
Well, thanks to The Week, I am a member of the late Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s urine-drinking club.