100 bottles of alcohol in all shapes and sizes will stop you at Delhi's Jantar Mantar. A closer look, these are empty bottles with all possible brands. But this is not leftovers of Delhiites throwing bottles out in the open. These are carefully procured bottles for a cause -- against alcoholism. Amidst the bottles is a signage that reads -- "The answer to life's problems are not at the bottom of the beer bottle". The man to whom the signage belongs is no ordinary man. A 28-year-old former national-level fencing champion T David Raj has taken this fight against alcoholism to another level.
Surrounded by nearly 100 empty bottles of alcohol, an effigy of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami with a can of alcohol, David is a picture of calm, sitting steadfast on protest for nearly 170 days, fighting Delhi's heat and mosquitoes. He is a lone voice against alcoholism. When India Today met him, he claimed that 50 villagers in Kanyakumari's small village Attoor had lost their lives due to alcohol addiction since the time he could remember.
But, what makes David different is that, his own family not willing to support him, he has stood his ground. Ironically, he uses his father's measly pension for survival. David's father C Thangaswamy, a retired BSF havaldar, would beat up his mother after several bouts of alcohol. Not only this, other male members of David's extended family also had disturbed family life. It impacted young David deeply. David's elder brother, a fencing champion, joined the Army fighting the anti -insurgency battle in Kashmir valley, but he chose a different fight.
After winning several state and national championships, he says he refused a lucrative job given to him under sports quota. He says, "18 lakh people die due to alcoholism, but there is no protest. When people die of dengue or Japanese Encephalitis, there is a huge hue and cry." He wants to change this.
David has fought a lonely battle, with several cases slapped on him for what he alleges is a case of system supporting the alcohol vendors. In September 2015, he got atop of telephone tower in his village to protest the presence of liquor shop in front of a school. After several hours, he was convinced to get down and then reportedly beaten black and blue.
Upset with his own family and system's failure to look into the issue, he took a train to Delhi. 168 days and counting, food at dhaba, public convenience toilet and sleeping under an open sky with no publicity worth it. For David as he says, "I am inspired by Subash Chandra Bose. It's okay, I know my fight is genuine."
He says, "PM Modi made Gujarat a dry state. Why cant there be a dry country. The family shot off a letter to the district collector saying protection should be given to David and he should be brought back to Kanyakumari. The father C Thanka Swamy told India Today on phone, "We have a kiln factory now, but David is at Jantar Mantar. My one son is far away in Kashmir, but the younger son refuses to talk to me because I tell him to come back. I only come to know about David from social media or local press."
David refuses to talk to his father because he never gave up on drinking.
Sajjan Chavan, district collector of Kanyakumari, however, said he was unaware if such an application had been moved by the parents. " I can't comment on the issue. But, yes, if it is brought to our notice, I promise we will look into it."