Published in The Tribune,10th July 2010
It is not easy being a teetotaler in today’s ‘wine and dine’ world. Having never even tasted alcohol (except once), one really feels like an oddball at parties these days, especially those organized anywhere in North India.
Liquor often flows with such effulgence at these social dos that one is left wondering later as to how one remains sober despite having inhaled the aroma of the stuff, all evening. Spending an evening holding a glass of water or juice (and waiting for dinner to be served) is the only option for one not given to accepting anything more potent.
The host and hostess tend to look askance at one when the bolder option is refused. Whisky is the first tantalizing item that one is offered, followed by beer, and then rounded off with an astounded look accompanied by the incredulous query, ‘Not even a glass of wine??’
Given the fact that even the female of the species has taken to wine with aplomb these days, one feels even more isolated in mentioning that one is a teetotaler. The saving grace is that there is sometimes a sprinkling of fellow-teetotalers around at such parties and one can always quote their example in order to avoid being badgered for having ‘at least one drink’.
The only time that one did partake of a few drops of alcohol was when a classmate in college threatened to do something drastic to himself out of guilt at being a drunkard, if I didn’t have a sip. I figured that breaking a personal vow just once and doing the needful for his life’s sake was probably the correct option at the time, and it was exercised accordingly.
At a large gathering once, after the host had asked me the usual preliminary questions on my choice of drink he looked suitably disappointed at my response. A little later he offered me a cigarette which I also declined. When dinner was finally served, he asked me with some hope, ‘You do eat non-vegetarian food?’
Not wanting to respond in the negative yet again, I just smiled at him, but he caught on.
‘What do you live for, my friend?’ was his exasperated question, as I filled up my plate with salads, legumes and veggies.
‘I have my reasons!’ was my defensive response, at which we both burst out laughing.
What nearly made me re-think my ‘dry’ policy, however, was another incident when my boss, my father-in-law and my dearest friend got together one evening. They were so determined to make me commence my alcoholic career that day that I almost succumbed to the incessant pressure.
Fortunately for me, my mother-in-law arrived on the scene at that very moment and the above mentioned gentlemen retreated hastily into their shells. My status as a teetotaler thus secure, I sipped at my glass of apple juice and smiled at no one in particular.