My father told me a rather amusing story - quite early in my life - about how he and a few college-mates tasted country liquor (colloquially, Bangla) for the first time and the whole episode was an exercise in swallowing a repulsive liquid in the face of peer pressure. Each one of them hated the stuff but was unable to voice it and be labelled a sissy who could not handle alcohol.
If there was a moral in the story - though with my father, it was never intended - I took it as one around never having cheap liquor.
In fact, one of my father's ambitions was to have a drink with me after I turned eighteen. Yes, eighteen. What did you think? Sharaabi's Pran or what?
Somehow, I never ended up having that eighteenth birthday drink but that did not stop me from being extremely open about alcohol with him. Having a father who drinks and brags about it to his son's friends was very cool and immensely handy to have in college.
Without drinking an ounce at college parties, I used to sneer at the Gilbey's Green Label my friends were consuming and sometimes have a peg or two of Old Monk. In between, I used to slip in a nugget or two about how rum is the best cure for constipation, how the tomato-juice-cure for hangovers is utter crap and that the Peter Cat steward is a Sagittarian.
People who drank 17 times more than me were pilloried for being wimps! But because of my extensive knowledge of alcohol and social drinking, nobody ever called me a sissy.
Except my father, himself.
With my liking for white drinks ('ladies' drinks', as he called it), he was quite heartbroken when I first ordered a vodka in the evening. He had appeared totally embarrassed in front of the Club waiter as I completely messed up the meaning of a 'sun-downer' on his home turf!
He had some very old-fashioned ideas about drinks. Never have cocktails with umbrellas in them, for example. If God meant us to have blue drinks, he would have made Colin Glass Cleaner tastier. He had stronger ideas on avoiding hangovers. Never have cheap liquor, he sternly said. Effective but bloody expensive.
And of course, the standard fatherly advice made famous by Mr Kamal Kishore Khosla (of Ghosla fame) - "Hold the drink."
His second biggest disappointment with me was that I never made an effort to develop a taste for good whisky. (The biggest disappointment was that I never really made an effort at Chemistry either but we'll leave that for another - longer - day.) Every time I ordered Bacardi-and-cola, he would sigh and try to explain that there must be a reason why whiskies took several more years to make and cost a lot more.
In fact, once I visited the Club with a colleague and ordered a Bacardi for myself. The waiter (one of my father's favourite) said, "Whisky nahin lenge? Sahab shaam ko Bacardi lene se gussa karte hain..."
He would have been 64 years today. And on that occasion, I should drink a single malt for the first time. Maybe, a Talisker 18 year from his collection.
But then, maybe I shouldn't.
I think it is too late to realise that I should have listened to him earlier.