Drinking with Dad
Drinking used to be a bit of a taboo among the Bengali middle class, even on festivals and marriages. The men drank in pubs on occasion but rarely at home and the women hardly ever.
Among the Punjabis the situation was quite different especially during weddings and festivals like Holi and Diwali but even there the ladies were quite surreptitious about it. Since then, the Punjabification and westernization of Indian culture has made drinking far more common in public for both genders.
My feminist daughters take offense if in a restaurant or club the waiters assume that they would not be ordering alcoholic drinks, as they see this as a sign of gender discrimination. However, things were different when we were young.
My father worked in a multinational corporation and we were used to the club culture and cocktail parties at home but inherent decorum prevented me from joining my dad at the cocktail hour.
After I was married, during the series of invitations new couple gets to meet with the friends and the relatives, we were invited to a cocktail party at the home of some army friends of my dad.
When offered drinks, I demurely refused but the host insisted that since the party was in my honor, I must join him and I did. He also appreciated my taste as I picked a Vintage single malt and had it with a little ice and a dash of water. He complimented my father on my appreciation of good whisky.
As we were leaving, my father remarked that I had had four drinks. I shyly replied that I had not counted. He asked me whether I was feeling alright. I affirmed that I was. He then asked me whether this meant that I was used to drinking. My embarrassed silence confirmed assent. He then asked me
‘Why on earth didn’t you tell me before? I have my evening drinks alone every day. From now on you will join me on the cocktail hour.’
In sharp contrast, recently at a good Punjabi wedding, while the men were celebrating boisterously at the Bar and the ladies were having their drinks surreptitiously mixed with Coke, my daughters refused this hypocrisy and insisted on ordering directly from the Bar. When an aunt commented that what kind of Dad allows his daughters to act so boldly, my daughters retorted ‘A GOOD DAD’.
I think I have learnt a lesson or two from my father.