Friday, February 25, 2011

A loaf(er) friend, a peg on the rocks, and Ouch !

Honestly, I am not making fun of the great man who went ballistic on " a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou "....

Time and again I read some posts, and become aware of my age; How things were, how things have changed, lifestyles have changed.

I've been reading some interesting posts on "Family Introduction to Alcohol 101", so to speak, by some of my friends, here and here, and it took me back to my life and times in the 60's.....

When I was a child, alcohol never figured anywhere in my home life. No one in my immediate or even extended family drank. I didn't even know how a liquor bottle looked like, till I saw a drunk villain in a movie and/or a hero pining for a heroine singing a besura song in front of a bottle with golden looking stuff inside. At the end of which he would drop his head down on the table with a thud, and fall asleep, while the camera zoomed in to show him closing his hitherto bloodshot eyes. Very dramatic.

When I was a little older, and studying late at night, there would sometimes be a loudly cursing rambling slurring voice passing by on the road below, and I would see someone who was possibly a daily wage worker , totally out of control, weaving this way and that, stuffed to the gills , being herded home by his very alert but disgusted wife.

My folks never had to worry about introducing us to "drinks". They took it so seriously, that even Coca Cola which was considered glamorous by us then was frowned upon and never kept in the house. ( I had Parsi friends where they offered it to visitors, and needless to say we looked forward to the visits.)

It might amaze folks to know that I actually got to drink proper tea on a regular basis, some where in 11th grade, because it helped me keep my eyes open when I got up at dawn to study for my board exams. Until then it was 80% milk with a 20% tea concoction. :-)

Surprisingly, I don't ever remember anyone sitting us down and holding forth on bad things about alcohol. But I do remember some friends shaking their heads , and talking disparagingly about someone who they said, "drank". My association with alcohol was an image of someone who took a glassful, and fell into a stupor.

I saw, for the very first time, a real life person having alcohol, when I sat in a plane to go to the US for my graduate school studies at 19, in 1969. It was nice to know that those people didn't got reeling through the aisles on their way to the loo in the plane, and I always wondered why the stewardess smiled at the guy while bringing him his drink. (Later on, I had the misfortune of seeing inebriated folks in planes, having their last fill of stuff before deplaning into a dry country, and that was never a pleasant sight. )

The next two years were an introduction to a new world. Where wine was a part of living, beer was drunk like I drank lemonade, fruit drinks were spiked with hard liqueur and given outlandish names and consumed, nobody cursed anyone who "drank" , and no one laughed at anyone who did not. I saw very few, of those, whom one defines as "drunk" people.

Having observed that this was a way of life, possibly routine for cold climes, it was apparent that alcohol in moderation was acceptable.

A stable childhood allows you to decide on forays into uncharted territories with balance.

And so, I decided to taste , with an open mind, all types of alcohol, before deciding the good , bad and cursable.

I tried wine. Tried a variety of wines from different regions . Enjoyed the experience.

I tried beer. I honestly tried beer, but developed a healthy disrespect for those who smirked and said you needed to develop a taste for it. I hated it.

I even tried sips of hard liquor, and thought it reminded me of the cough mixture that my childhood family doctor would give us. Some folks went ga-ga on some tiny bottles of what they called "liqueur". I remember something called drambuie.

I decided I didn't like any of the stuff except wine. And even that, to me , was something to be enjoyed at a celebratory event. Something to take a sip of , on some great happy occasion for someone. I didn't need any of the alcohol stuff to accompany my predominantly vegetarian dal-bhat-chapati-sabji intake.

I never bought any, and never really missed drinking any.

And so I followed the principle of don't-drink-but-let-drink. And came to my own conclusions.

20 years after that, in the early 90's, our family lived in Germany for a year, and the only thing I consumed there , on occasion was champagne, at Christmas , and other celebratory days. In a country more or less immersed in wine, beer, pork, and all kinds of meats and seafood, I managed to enjoy all the vegetarian stuff I cooked, or my German friends cooked for me. Strangely, no one commented on my teetotalling, or the vegetarianism. The children were free to try out anything foodwise, and their father enjoyed his beer with his friends occasionally.

Back in India, one slipped back into one's very middle class lifestyle, fairly comfortably. We still don't keep alcohol at home. Occasional getting together with old friends over some beer is always possible, more like a few times a year. Beer and wine has occasionally made an appearance at home.

But strictly no hard liquor. Because no one is in awe of it.

And my attitude towards alcohol is like that of UPA towards the NDA/BJP We don't mix.

The children, now adults, have learned that there is nothing glamorous about alcohol. It's a lifestyle , and not something you binge on. There is an understanding of what it is, there are limits and pitfalls, and like all thing sin life, you need to think and decide. There is no bugaboo element in all this. I have seen them making their own decisions on this.

And as in everything else, like uncontrolled binging on sweets, sugar, heavy spicy stuff, colas, and even fruits, there needs to be a balance. You don't drink because its a style, or because you are gutless and cannot say no. You drink , knowing what you are drinking.
(Apply that to eating too.)

Many years ago, I heard one of my aunts discuss a particular neighbor of hers, because someone was of a very marriageable age there, and folks were making enquiries. This was a community of small and large family bungalows, folks were well educated and higher middle class. She looked totally dismissive of the folks , as she shook her head, and mentioned to my mother, that the girl was nice, but her father regularly sat on his terrace in solitary splendour at sundown, and "drank". He was clearly observable , from her terrace, one floor higher up, and she was totally upset seeing this facet of someone , who she thought of earlier as the pillar of the neighborhood. I think she half expected him to collapse in a drunken heap, a la Hindi movies, if he tried to get up, but this told me a lot about what kind of thinking and messages were being sent to the young kids in that family.

At the end of the day, its not about habit, or style , or needing a drink. It is not mandatory in any lifestyle, corporate, filmy or otherwise. Its about making informed choices yourself, and training your children to make such choices in their lives. And allowing the kids to view the natural pros and cons in life, where alcohol is concerned , is useful.

Its about making a rational decision, knowing when something exceeds limits, occasionally being sane enough to respect someone's wishes, age or whatever and say a confident NO, and finally, not being secretive about things (like the aforementioned gentleman on the terrace), so as to send your kids the wrong message.

Having said all this, my current favourite is Kokum Sarbat. Sometimes called Amrut Kokum. ****

With ice cold water, a sprinkle of jeera powder, possibly a sliver of lemon, and as they say, On the Rocks.

Don't need any Somras no more .....:-)

Yes . And before I forget, Cheers !

The Amrut Kokum or Brindao, i.e. a syrup made from the flesh fleshy rind[ or
sol] of the Kokum or Brindonna (Garcinia indica Choisy) fruit, is a
refreshing summer drink. This is pure sol and sugar preparation with no
preservatives, additives or colourants. The brindao has a natural scarlet to
burgundy red colour. It is generally consumed within the same summer season,
although the natural para hydroxyl citric acid acts as a preservative
ensuring a shelf life of a year or more..


  1. Not a drinker either. In fact have 'signed the pledge' although it was no hardship I didn't like the feeling of losing control and anyway alcohol just sent me to sleep (after dancing on the table )
    It always amazed and saddened me when i was working with teenagers to see that for most of them their idea of a good time was to get drunk. It seems that it is often still so in many cases. A dreadful state of affairs.

  2. Loved your post, and agreed completely will everything. Concurs a lot with what I've said in mine. Do hop over.

  3. finally got around reading this and this is what I have been trying to write in my post and u wrote it so much better :)

    he children, now adults, have learned that there is nothing glamorous about alcohol. It's a lifestyle , and not something you binge on. - Bang on thats what I want to teach my child

  4. Monu, she always says it better than us...her winning accolades speak for that. :) :)

    Very good post Suranga...I like this "A stable childhood allows you to decide on forays into uncharted territories with balance." Its so very true and it has helped me to be balanced always. :)

  5. Barbara Thank you for the comment. I used to think earlier that denying someone something would make the person hanker after it. eg alcohol. But even when it is freely available, these young people continue to think senselessly ....

    Sandhya Thank you !

    Monu Thank you. Your wonderful post inspired this thinking....

    UmaS You girls are too kind. Thank you for the nice words, and am honored to hear them from such excellent bloggers like you and Monu. Nobody is better than anyone else, I just have more years worth of stuff to talk about, and yes, being a talkative sort, helps ....

  6. Actually, I like the way u word ur blog posts...

    I am always in a hurry to tell that one thing in the first sentence of my blog, while u take ur time to lay the foundation, which I just love. And finally, when u tell that point, it just hits me to make such an impact. Its a wonderful technique and I love reading ur posts. :)