One for the road and more

  • Rajbir Deswal, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 27, 2014 11:47 IST

Different people in the world have a different protocol when it comes to drinking, with the best of scotch whiskeys, malts, hemlock, vine, beer, feni of Goa, or our own desi tharra. Not only that, there are different shapes of glasses, tumblers, goblets and mugs to drink from. Whiskey is best taken in fat glasses, beer in fat mugs or tall glasses, vine in thin goblets and tharra in even polythene pouches. Then there is the etiquette of sipping, even gulping. Some hold on to the glass for hours.

Once a Sikh gentleman on board an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to London educated me on not just sipping on vodka, saying 'Iddan nee peennday,' but downing the entire content in the goblet in one go. 'Iddan peenday hain', he said followed with a loud burp.

Urdu poetry is replete with mention of the pleasure of drinking, its 'shaoor' (etiquette) and implorations of the 'saki'- the one who offers drink - the 'bar tender' is a poor apology for the connotation. I remember a quote: Maiy-parasti ka maza tab hai ki jab saki kahe/ Wo maza maiy main kahan jo mere mastane main hai (Drinking is best enjoyed when the beloved says "more than consuming liquor I find pleasure in my soulmate"). Drinkers find excuses to get drunk. A Haryanvi analogy tells about the one who has given up drinking, but only for occasions of "Bar-tyohaar, aaya-gya, jeena-marna, sukh-dukh, aur, jee karai jab (Festivals, guest arrivals, birth and death, when in happy or melancholy mood, and, as and when one feels like drinking)". Even Ghalib couldn't say a complete no -Tauba - to drinks. He once said, "Ghalib chhuti sharab par ab bhi kabhi kabhi/ Peeta hoon roz-o-abr-o-shab-o-mahtab main (Ghalib gave up drinking since long but he loves taking it, if it's a moonlit night, full with clouds)".

Many beliefs are attributed to drinking. You take just one peg but only at the enemy's place.

Should you need to pamper your already inebriated self a tad more, you take the last one, 'just for the road'. I remember one alcoholic, who was discounted for having two pegs for 'it doesn't affect at all' and the drinker quibbled, "That is the problem. I take two, but it doesn't affect at all."

Once Akbar's ears were poisoned against Birbal, labeling the latter the biggest drunkard on earth.

Akbar, on the sly, watched when Birbal began drinking in his courtyard. A stewardess brought him the first drink saying, it was Aab-e-hayat (water). Then she brought another one saying, it was Jaam-e-massarat (a drought of happiness). When she brought the third saying, it was sharab (liquor), Akbar buckled-Tauba-tauba, hum sharab nahin peete!(To hell with it, I don't drink liquor). Meaning thereby, that the third drink becomes liquor, while the previous two amount to drinking in moderation.

There are jokes galore on drinking; also, on not drinking. Former British prime minister Winston Churchill would say he took more out of alcohol than what alcohol took out of him. Those advised against drinking woefully excuse themselves saying, they've exhausted their quota. To each his own.

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