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Tipsy grandpa tales

punjab Updated: Mar 18, 2013 09:24 IST
Rajbir Deswal

Disclaimer: This is not to promote drinking and is just a recall of the days gone by, when we, with our little understating of things, liked to see our grandfather inebriated. My father was a teetotaller, but my grandfather drank like a fish. Well, howsoever weird it may sound, but we kids did not like it when grandfather, for a change, gave a go-by to his daily intake of liquor in the evening.

We thought something was amiss. Dadaji wasn't his 'normal' self, if he wasn't seen sobered enough and indulgent with endearments, with about a dozen of his grandchildren hollering around. We were all familiar with his evening rituals and looked forward to his calling out to us to his lounge.

With my tipsy grandfather as an overseer, it was an occasion for us all to perform, as if on stage, in different genres - choruses, Ram Lilas, group songs, solos, mono-acting, dancing etc. After the 'show' was over and it was time for Dadaji to eat his dinner, he would empty his pocket, distributing notes and change to us all. Some of us could sleep in his lounge with him. I remember him covering us whenever he woke up during the night. Mornings always had him imploring us to return his money. Since he wouldn't remember whom he gave how much money the previous evening, we always cheated while restoring him his currency notes but not the coins.

Dadaji wouldn't drink alone. He had some errand boys and 'interested' men who used to be routinely present in the evening to have a peg or two. They would gulp the stuff in, feel the kick, be on a high and leave singing encomiums to "Chaudhary Sahab". The one who pedalled on bicycle to the nearby mofussil town to fetch Dadaji's stuff would invariably get his share - well-earned.

Dadaji's habit of offering drinks created a funny situation many times. Once he travelled on a train to the town where my uncle then lived. It was a night train that would reach its destination by midnight. Dadaji offered his bottle to the guard, driver and the ticket examiner on the train. After quite a delay, the train reached its destination only by the morning. When grandfather knocked at uncle's door that day, the latter sought to know as to how come he was there so early.

"Oh come on son!" Dadaji quibbled, though a tad sheepishly, "The fellas got so drunk that when the engine driver engaged the moving gear, the train did move, but backwards. It took them time to be on the track again!" That grandfather did not look my uncle in the eye said it all.

The best part of grandfather's drinking was his becoming emotional on remembering my grandmother and walking up to her 'sandook' (chest), sobbing. He stroked the plain surface of the box, brought in grandma's dowry softly, from one end to the other, as if he were stroking her hair, calling her name, "Bhaagwali" (the lucky one).