Day 6 at Nisargopchar Ashram

The strains of an old Bob Dylan song play in my mind: “One more cup of coffee before I go…”. For years that has been pretty much what I say through the day, irrespective of whether I am going anywhere or not. My love for coffee is well known- at home and in the office. I simply relish that aromatic brew. I adore its tantalising aroma. I savour its flavour. So fanatic I am about my coffee that I don’t even want it with any flavours or additives. No just plain coffee for me, thank you, with maybe a spot of milk?

Addicted to coffee? No way! I can have as much or as little as I want.
So when SS told me right in the beginning that there was going to be no tea or coffee served at the ashram, I just looked sagely at her and said, “No problem. I can do without coffee!” Like I said earlier, they were famous last words.
Our first day at the Ashram went uneventfully. Especially since I had tanked up on coffee before going there. Our last stop at the Mall in Pune gave me an opportunity to have one more cup of coffee! I had it without knowing it was going to be my last… for some time at least.

The first day went off fairly well. The second morning I got up with a slight heaviness in the head. By midday that ‘heaviness’ had become several kilos heavier. It was now a throbbing headache. By late afternoon the kilos became a ton;  I needed a crane to carry my head around, and I sank under the burden of an all-consuming epic headache. I knew it was lack of coffee. Funnily I was not missing the coffee. But the headache kept reminding me that I had not had it now for over 24 hours.
The second day I went back to the doctor with my headache problem. She nodded understandingly and said that it happens to most people who are used to drinking tea or coffee and it goes away in about 2 days. But she also prescribed some acupressure and foot massages as well as hot foot baths in the night before retiring to bed. I quickly jumped at all those remedies – anything to get rid of a headache in a natural manner.

Did the headache go? No way. Even after a night’s rest, I woke up with a heavy head on the third morning. I had now realised that the headache was not going to go in a hurry. And with a hurting head I did some serious thinking (believe me, it’s very difficult to even think when your head aches like this!)

As I writhed in agony with my head in my hands I cursed myself for my foolishness. My foolhardiness. My bravado. I had been warned well in advance about not getting coffee at the ashram. In retrospect I realise I should have started tapering down my coffee drinking before leaving. But no! I was so sure that I was not dependent on coffee. So foot-thumpingly positive that I could do without it at any given point of time. Strangely, even now, I did not crave a cup of coffee. Which meant, mentally I was there. This time, it was my body that was rebelling. And how! And with a pounding head I came to the conclusion that, sure enough, I had become quite habituated to my favourite brew and could not do without it.

There was a time when NF and SS really looked concerned. My whole head was so tender there was never a time, I think, when I did not have an oppressed expression on my face. More than that, any sound that was half a decibel above a whisper seemed to grate on my nerves. On one particular morning while I was getting a massage, the cantankerous maalishwali bais decided to get into an argument. Their shrill voices, their pointless arguments and their infighting got to a point where I could hear no voices but just pounding in my head. I really suffered that day.

But after two days the headaches relented a bit. On the third day, even though I woke up with a headache, the headache finally disappeared by evening. On the fourth day, I had a headache only in the afternoon. And on the fifth day it was barely there. It was the sixth day on which (much to SS’s and NF’s relief) I declared myself headache-free! Read that as caffeine-free. But my head was tender with so much pounding and I verged on the brink of a headache all day carefully mentally tiptoeing around loud noises, maalishwali bais, or anything that could set off my headache again!

Phew! Six days of coffee withdrawal. If my head was not hurting so much I would have done more introspection on coffee-drinking. And on various forms of withdrawal that I would never have to go through, thank God! Like Drugs. Or Smoking. But finally, with the painful realisation that the body had been habituated to the caffeine consumption, I decided that this was one of the best things that I had gained out of our trip.
I had had my last cup of coffee on the morning of 18th September. It’s the 8th of October as I write this. I am proud to say that I have not had coffee since then! The current goal is to stay off it for a month. I’ve replaced it with kaadha at home and herbal tea in the office. And you know what? It’s just fine. Does that mean I will never have coffee? Not necessarily. I still love that drink. But the word is “occasionally”!

And till the ‘occasion’ demands I will continue to enjoy Bob Dylan’s ‘One more cup of coffee…”