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Age? No Bar!

It’s a terribly, terribly sad thing if you live alone — and occasionally imbibe a few drinks. The imagined landscape (the way my mother would imagine it, for instance) is bleak, very bleak...writes Sushmita Bose.

india Updated: May 18, 2008 01:04 IST
Sushmita Bose

It’s a terribly, terribly sad thing if you live alone — and occasionally imbibe a few drinks. The imagined landscape (the way my mother would imagine it, for instance) is bleak, very bleak: there’s nobody in the house to ward off the soul-biting loneliness, you reach for the bottle, and take a swig.

You shake your dissolute head, sigh softly, and take a few more swigs. This was definitely not what your parents brought you up to do. But then, loneliness does make you do weird things. You wait for the phone to ring –– in the hope that some friend might want to take you out for dinner, but no, friend/friends is/are busy with husband/wife/kids/in-laws/RWA. No one calls. So, you kill the bottle. Then pass out. <b1>

C’mon guys, that’s not the way it is! Let’s get real — God knows we need to.

Last week, it was decided that Delhi will not lower the drinking age from 25 to 21. The favourite barb — that it’s legal to marry at 18, but not to pop the champagne as you tie the knot — is being bandied about again. But most people are tired of getting the irony.

Most of my friends and colleagues who are below 25 (yes, I do feel like an old coot when I hang out with them) are regular social drinkers. At restaurants or bars, I never see any of them being asked for an age proof. Only once, a colleague (now a good friend — and into serious Scotch drinking in Scotland) was asked to pull out an ID as we were guzzling beer in a resto-bar in Connaught Place. I’d always assumed she was about 20, but it turned out that she’d turned 25 the week before. Lucky. But I had to give her a belated birthday gift.

Recently, a few of us friends went to this restaurant housed in a popular social networking centre in south Delhi that has a number of other eateries on its premises. One of my friends had gotten her one-year-old tot. I was carrying the little girl, while the others were all rolling their eyes in disbelief and saying: “Who said you don’t have a maternal instinct? Look at you –– high time you got married and had a child, before your bio block totally stops ticking.”

“Oh, just shut up and get a table,” I countered; my arms were aching in any case.

“Sorry madam, no one under 14 is allowed in here,” pointed out the pleasant-looking woman standing at the reception staring at the bundle I was carrying. “There’s a BAR in this place, so the place is not suitable for children below 14.” (I immediately remembered Brooke Shields, who, at 14, was seriously getting it on with her 15-year-old boyfriend in Endless Love. Would she have made the cut? Probably a borderline case.)

The funny part is that this place is an honest-to-God restaurant (and a rather good one at that — there’s even a no-smoking clause). Alright, there’s bar stashed away somewhere in the confines — inasmuch that you can order a few drinks while downing dinner (or lunch). But it’s NOT a place that’s full of picky alcoholics who’d lurch drunkenly at children below 14, but let the 15-year-olds be.

“She’s actually 16,” her mother was determined to get in at any cost. “I know she doesn’t look her age –– so can we please, please get a table?”

“No madam,” the receptionist looked indulgent but sounded firm.

“We promise we’ll not let her get carried away by ungainly sights of diners nursing a drink with their food,” I offered. “And if she yowls even once, we’ll go and keep her in the basement.”

“No, no,” the pleasant-looking lady was smiling now, but clearly not relenting. “By order, the management.”
So we climbed down a few floors. The same club has another eatery, a few floors below, with a much more visible bar, where ‘family’ gatherings complete with fistfuls of kids do the rounds at all odd hours.

There, we drank vodka and beer, and ate truckloads of American food. The one-year-old wasn’t even interested in all the drinking going on –– so I’m guessing it’s not going to misshape her mind in any way. She spent her time eyeing a little boy sitting at the table opposite us. “She’s such a flirt,” her mother observed, while I reached out for my third bottle of beer.

Even my mother would have approved: at least, I was not drinking alone.