Hammers in Your Head: An Ode to the Hangover

Love may be the oldest malady of the world. But if we are talking about consistency when it comes to bringing the pain, I would vote for the ‘hangover’; the “wrath of grapes”. Or as the ancient Vedic texts first described a post-drinking condition with no known cure, paramada.  

As one of the foremost drunks of my time, I have an ironclad post-party regime of gulping down gallons of water before I pass out. This allows me to wake up the next day like Emma Stone from La La Land instead of Emma Stone from Cruella. But like in the life of every Olympic archer, there is always that one day where you miss – the one day when it really mattered.

It happened to me last Friday. Being cursed with a high capacity translates not only into a huge bill, but also a reckless disregard for the number of empty glasses on my table. A few drunk dials ahead, I returned to my room and then passed out like a corpse. The three bottles of water by my bed shook their heads in dismay.

The next day, I woke up and walked out of my room with an edge to my ‘grace’ – like a panther with a headache. The sun outside seemed to have erupted straight out of a Glucon-D ad. I resisted its attempts to crown me with a barbed wire in vain. For my head felt like a toy-monkey was officiating on top, clapping his cymbals on either side of my forehead. 

I took my time to confirm whether I was hungover, or just hungry/dead. Dim memories coalesced to form a blurry motion picture. And then I remembered the ‘extra’ shots. My throat, dry like a desert, nudged me to the stark truth. As the Danes call it, I had “carpenters working overtime in my forehead”. Or if you prefer the Poles, I experienced a “howling of kittens”. Whatever your choice of phrasing, the conclusion was long foregone – I had the Wine Flu, and would spend the rest of the day like a broken spider-crab. 

Also read: How the Bubonic Plague Changed Drinking Habits

I swiftly checked the IG stories of my “colleagues of catastrophe” from last night, and typed out an incoherent apology, a useless did-you-reach-home-safe and an angry delete-that-story text as the case may be. Turns out I had received similar messages. I am sure in our respective heads, we were all recounting the night past with varying degrees of unreliable memory – all through the haze of a headache. 

The remedy seemed simple enough then. No, I do not subscribe to the Roman way of eating raw owls’ eggs or the Assyrian way of going for powdered birds’ beak. The medieval British way of stuffing my nasal passages with the juice of tree ivy seemed inconvenient as well.

All I had to do was avoid Light like a plague, and vow to never move my eyeballs again. Sipping water through a convenient arrangement of tubes would have been the cherry on top.

But that was just the physical aspect of it.

Sometimes… hangovers have an emotional aspect. The metaphysical hangover. It is as if the way alcohol lowers inhibitions and allows you to open wide the doors of debauchery, a hangover loosens the bolts on the cellar-door you had kept tightly sealed.

Anxiety, depression, sadness, a sense of failure and a fear of the future spreads like a shadow. The hollowness steals over you. It made me question my decision to be alone (instead of my choice of word – single). Why I had quit a well-paying job in pursuit of my passion. I ponder whether my friends and family are cohorts in a conspiracy of silence about how painful I have been. And most importantly, I cursed my fragile self-control for breaching my nonchalance rule when I spied on my phone log a call to my ex post the Cinderella-curfew. No doubt, a call to vomit out unsolicited confessions. If alcohol gave way to your inner fairies, a hangover sometimes lets loose your inner demons.

A concoction of lime juice, a heavy breakfast and intermittent naps was ultimately prescribed. All the while, Mother looked on from the doorway wondering if I needed an intervention. A few hours passed in such gloom and despair.

I woke up again, disoriented as if from recovering from jet lag. The tequila sweats were retreating from my body in a tide. I still felt sluggish and low like someone struggling in some quicksand of self-pity, but the effects of the One Ring were gone.

And then… wisdom began to prevail. It was just a hangover, I told myself. The words of legendary drinker Amis came to mind, and I reminded myself that I am not, in fact, a bad person. And that I am not dying, and no one really hates me. As the Catholics say, a sin must be punished before redemption. Even the Vedas warn of swift karmic redemption. And from that perspective, a hangover is nothing but “psychiatric justice”. A cerebral gangajal for all the fun I had. An act of introducing cosmic balance to the world.

To think of it, a hangover is a humbling reminder of our mortality. A hangover is an ode to hope, to human positivity, to the silver lining of the dark cloud. And now that I had done my time, I felt like a changed man. Time to make some amendments to my lifestyle. No more alcohol for a month…

My phone rang to interrupt my epiphanies. 

“It is finally Saturday! You got any plans?”

Gourav Mohanty is a lawyer practicing in the Bombay High Court. He has five years of experience in dispute resolution, and is a gold medalist from Symbiosis Law School.

Featured image credit: Jithumon Abraham/Unsplash