Drinkers' dictionary

Sweet and Sour


 We have very few in our languages. The reason may be that Europeans and Americans consume a lot more alcohol than we Indians, and even those who drink, try to keep their identities under cover. Come to think of it, we don’t have an equivalent for a hangover which follows excessive drinking or mixing different kinds of alcoholic beverages.

This brings me to the publication of what I can best describe as a drinking man or woman’s dictionary compiled by Bhaichand Patel entitled ‘Happy Hours & The Penguin Book of Cocktails’. It deals methodically with different kinds of whiskeys, gins, rums, brandies, liquors, beers — you name them, he tells you about them. And how to avoid or combat hangovers.

Bhaichand lives in a block next to mine. He is a Fijian Gujarati who I got to know in my years in Bombay. He held a good job in the UN and now gets a handsome dollar pension. He also has a valuable real estate in New Delhi — in short, he is never short of money. He is what the French call a bon viveur — (a good living). He believes that money is meant to be spent, not boarded. He travels round the globe at least once every year. When in Delhi, his top priority is partying. He throws the most lavish parties with vintage scotch, gourmet food and the best of wines. So he is well-qualified to write on liquor delights with authority. The most amusing part of his research is on the vast variety of cocktails with exotic names like fine & dandy, kiss in the dark, knickerbocker, maiden’s blush, pink passport, seventh heaven, suffering bastard, kiss & tell, sex on the beach, etc. You can get tipsy reading about them.

Modes of address

In northern India there are different ways of addressing people depending on distances in relationship. The commonest is ‘bhai’ (brother) or more formally ‘bhai sahib’ or ‘bhaiya’. However, care-takers of gurdwaras and raagis are also addressed as ‘bhai sahibs’ more to express respect than friendship. Amongst friends ‘bhai’ is used as expression of kinship and when discussing serious matters of life and death.
Closer than ‘bhai’ is ‘dost’ (friend). It is warmer than ‘bhai’. We use it while talking about lighter matters or exchanging confidences. A grade higher and closer than dost is ‘yaar’, the closest English equivalent I can think of is comrade without its communist connotations. It is quite light-hearted, open armed kind of embrace of friendship. But beware! ‘Yaar’ and ‘yaaree’ are different. In Punjab ‘yaaree lagaana’ means having liaison with a member of the other sex.

Believe it or not, of all modes of addresses the warmest is to call your friend ‘ulloo ka pattha’ — son of an owl. No offence is meant, only all barriers of formality are knocked down and you open up your hearts. One condition has to be kept in mind: there must be some laughter in calling a close friend son of an owl. Without laughter and said sternly, the same words become abusive particularly if prefixed with ‘oy, oy, oy’. Addressing another with ‘oy, oy, oy’ or ‘abey ulloo key patthey’ becomes a war cry for battle of abuses to begin.

What’s in a name?

A north Indian was working in Mumbai and did not meet his wife for four years while his wife was in Himachal. At the end of four years he distributed sweets to his colleagues in office saying that his wife had delivered a son. His colleagues were shocked and asked how this ‘happy event’ happened when he had not seen his wife for four years.

The man said it is common in his part of the country, where  neighbours take care of the wives when their men are away. The colleagues asked him, “What name will you give to your son?” The man explained, “If it’s the second neighbour who has taken care, then the name will be ‘Dwivedi’, if it is the third neighbour, then it will be ‘Trivedi’, if it is the fourth neighbour, then it will be ‘Chaturvedi’, if it is the fifth neighbour, then it will be ‘Pandey’.”

After listening to this, questions followed. What if it is mixture of neighbours? “Then the boy will be named ‘Mishra’.” And what if the wife is too shy to tell the name of the neighbour. “Then it would be ‘Sharma’.” But what if she refuses to divulge the name of the neighbour? “Then the name of the child would be ‘Gupta’.” If she does not remember the name then? “It is ‘Yaad-av’.”

But who knows whether the child resulted from a rape? “Then it will be named ‘Doshi’.” Finally, if the child happened because of the wife’s burning desire? “Then he will be named ‘Joshi’.” And if the whole country had made efforts for the happy arrival? “Deshpandey”.

(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)

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