I will never forget how I tasted liquor for the first time.
The biology teacher (whom I had a crush on, and thus went on to score 87% in XII so as to impress her) informed us that the next day we will be dissecting frogs and one of us had to volunteer to bring in a spoon-full of alcohol for the whole class. This apparently was to anesthetize the frogs before we went about dissecting them.
Being the one that wanted to impress her most, I volunteered saying there was a lot of alcohol in my house and I could bring some. The next day, I washed a bottle of Glycodin cough syrup and walked up to my father: “Pa, my biology teacher has asked me to get some rum.”
“Rum? Why, can`t she buy her own if she wants to drink?”
“No pa, this is for the frogs.”
“Frogs? Since when have the frogs started drinking?”
“No pa, we are dissecting the frogs so we needed alcohol.”
“Like the sewage cleaners? Who usually get drunk before starting work because of the stench involved in cleaning a septic tank?”
“No pa…this isn`t for the students but for the frogs. We want to anesthetize them before dissecting them. So, that they don`t feel the pain.”
“Ohh ok. Take some from the Old Monk bottle that`s already open.”
After his permission was obtained, I filled up the Glycodin cough syrup bottle. The next day when I walked into the school I felt as the most powerful man in school – I felt I was the principal.
The dissection went on smoothly, except for that one bhramin guy who decided his religion was more important that scoring marks in biology.
After the school was over that day, I approached my classmates. “Guys, what do you think…shouldn`t we all take a sip each?”
For once, the decision was unanimous. All of the 16 boys wanted to drink, but when we said that drinking will happen in the abandoned old school building, the three girls who had wanted to drink dropped out. Who cared, any way.
We all ran to the old school building and congregated in the abandoned men`s toilet. It could comfortably hold six people….but we were sixteen and NOT complaining. Before we even opened the cough syrup bottle, we were already high from the stench emanating from abandoned washroom. I think they stopped cleaning the washrooms six months before they were abandoned.
After about five minutes all 16 of us stumbled out of the abandoned men`s toilets ….and I have to admit that all were wasted. Nine of 16 the guys who started drinking that day are still drinking – 19 years later.
After the baptism had happened, I was a regular. My father didn`t know but we both used to share the same bottle. When I thought that the chances of getting caught were high…I would add water to the Old Monk rum bottle.
Till I got a job and moved out of the house, my father didn`t realize that I had been drinking from his bottle. Though, he had started complaining that Mohan Meakin, the makers of Old Monk rum, had stopped focusing on quality. I didn`t have the heart to tell him that it wasn`t Mohan Meakin Breweries fault.
Till my father passed away in 2006, he believed that Mohan Meakin went thro` a bad patch of four years when their quality dipped – and he thought it could have been due to a change in management.
When I joined The New Indian Express, I met a dude called Krishna Kumar. We became drinking buddies. Our drinking was once a week – on Saturdays. If we didn`t have 17 rupees each, we couldn`t go for a drink that week – and there were many occasions when we couldn`t. The Infographic below explains what this Rs 17 were spent on:
Back then, I was staying at Ambal Lodge in Cross Cut Road in Coimbatore and Krishna was staying in Ramanathapuram (near our office)…and depending on where we were drinking, we would piss in front of the respective land lord`s house. The fact that we would roam around the streets drunk on two pegs of Old Monk till 10.30 p.m. before pissing ensured that we never got caught. Phew! Those were the days.
After two years in Coimbatore, I moved to Chennai in search of greener pastures. Now I had more money, and also two credit cards to flaunt – Standard Charted & ICICI Credit cards.
In the early 2000s, there was a chain of Dhanalaskhmi Wines in Chennai that we would frequent. Now my drinking partners were my friends Dennis & Madan. Since I had enough money (and the credit cards), I could afford to get drunk on beers – in case you don`t know…it takes more money to get drunk on beer.
When Dhanalaskshmi Wines closed down, we shifted to Peninsular Bar in T Nagar, Chennai. Here is where I learnt the art of swiping my credit card without feeling guilty. The more I got drunk, the more I swiped my credit cards for my drunk friends. By the time I was ready to get married, I had 1.7 lakhs out-standing on my credit card….all accumulated by drinking.
Now, we didn`t do daring acts after getting drunk….though, once in a while we would walk up to the Marina beach and pee in the waters (Note: Don`t blame me for the water in the Marina beach being salty…it was salty even before we peed in it).
With time, I shifted to Gurgaon for even greener pastures. Now, I earn quite a bit and can afford Single Malts…but my drinking sessions aren`t as exciting as they used to be. I spend family time with the friends I really care about…and drinking has become a means to socialize & build contacts. The topics of discussion are almost always negative & leave a bad taste in the mouth – which even the best of beers can`t wash away.
In fact, I wouldn`t be surprised if after I leave a drinking session, some of the folks I was drinking with point at me and say: “What an ass!”
To tell you the truth, after each drinking session I end up thinking: “Not as much fun as the time when I only had Rs 17 in my pocket!”