Thursday, July 28, 2005

NON-DRINKERS ANONYMOUS...

I don't drink. Period. Not because it is 'evil'. No offense intended to anybody at all. In fact, interestingly, even I cannot justify why I don't partake of a social drink once in a while. And still, I am positive that I don't want a drop of it. I had decided this way back. Maybe it's a weird and inexplicable mix of parental advice of uncertain nature, and a checkered education. My cousins experimented with drinks in occasional family functions, when they were grown enough, at least according to accepted definitions. The elders would then allow them to take a few sips once in a while. But I never felt any problem, let alone any temptation, in refraining.

Not drinking does put me in a position where I sometimes need to explain things to people. Not that I need to, but their puzzlement is not completely unjustified, especially here in the United States. I remember the first big party that I attended in our lab. Our big lab of twenty-two people had gathered in a big room, where we were celebrating a friend's graduation. My advisor is a connoisseur of fine champagne and wines, and he poured out small amounts in paper cups and passed them around. Unfortunately, I was standing way down, at the other end of the room. After making sure that everyone had their share, my advisor raised his glass to toast the new Dr. XYZ, and all heartily joined him of course...except me with a thumbs up instead. An unnecessarily awkward silence ensued, followed by the words from across the room, "So Ash, you don't drink?". "No". "Why"?...."Umm..just like that". Needless to say, a few laughs and puzzled frowns followed. What could I say?! Unlike smoking, which is positively dangerous for health (and which I cannot even remotely tolerate; I flee from the scene even if someone is smoking a cigarette fifty feet away, making it a sure-shot way to get rid of me), occasional drinking of, for example red wine, has actually shown to be good for you. So I could not advance the health argument. Then he asked me, "Is it forbidden by your religion?". "Well...strictly speaking I guess, yes, but I am not a religious person, and many people don't obey our religion so strictly, when it comes to eating and drinking". So what IS the reason? I really really don't know...but I know there is one.

The real problem however is not that people are puzzled that I don't drink. The real 'problem' if we may, is that especially in western civilization, drinking has a prominent and an unspoken but assumed social importance. Taking your buddy out for a beer is a way to express your friendship and solidarity for him, almost an unconscious reflex that guys have. I remember my birthday last year. Two of my American friends, when they heard about it, immediately offered to take me out for a beer. Beer occupies a very important function as a great social equalizer. Does it sound rude when I refrain? Are they really ok with me having a coke (and an expensive one at that; it's a bar after all)? Of course, nobody shows it, but sometimes I do get the feeling that I have quite unnecessarily offended their feelings, or at least made them believe that I am some kind of strange pious prude!

Not drinking automatically cuts me off from social occasions. Not because somebody actually cuts me off, but because I see no point in going to a place where the major attraction is drinks, and where intelligent social conversation occupies the place of a necessary formality at most. Note that I am not talking about the parties where people drink socially; those are just fine. I am talking only about those where people's singular idea of having fun is to drink, and where they go to have fun in the first place. However, there seem to be a suspiciously large number of such parties, and people, around. After they have a few swigs, their ramblings are entertaining mainly to other like-minded people like themselves. For the sobers, they are mildly amusing at most for some time, but then become elements which just eat into the time and the night. Again, no offense to them, but quite simply, I feel bored. There's usually no food, and no intelligent social conversation, at least not after the alcohol has spiced up the evening. I would rather sit at home, cosily nestled in a chair with a hot cup of coffee and a fine book, listening to Brahms.

Sometimes when I feel depressed, my friend, a great lover of wine and song, exhorts me to start drinking. My argument is that it is precisely at such a time when you should NOT drink. That is exactly where addiction can creep in.

In higher social circles, a man's sophistication and his elegance can be judged by his ability to choose and savor the finest wines and spirits. Well, I can probably tell you about the chemistry that goes into wines, the fine balance of pH that has to be achieved in order to make a Chianti a Chianti, and the tender loving care that is showered on the microorganisms growing on the skin of the much treasured grapes in those glorious wineries. I will fondly recall Pasteur's remarkable drive to save the wine industry, that finally led to the process of pasteurization. However, as far as wine tasting or appreciation goes, I am a 'theoretician' in the purest sense, and may well likely be shunned by the practical cogniscienti. Thankfully, unlike Wolfgang Pauli, who had the evil eye for experimental science, until now at least, wine bottles haven't(?) shattered when I have walked into the room.

I believe I will always remain a theoretician, until maybe either acute heart trouble (of the romantic kind?) drives me to drink ;), or acute heart trouble (of the mundane corporeal kind) makes it 'mandatory' for me to sample that unusual medication. Until then, I am on the lookout for people who wish to form a 'non-drinkers anonymous' with me. It would be fun, I guarantee. We will sit and talk, maybe even watch a movie, and play dumb-charades, all over a glass of the finest and purest orange juice...

8 Comments:

Blogger Vaard said...

i completely agree....

i myself have drank, but i find the taste & smell offensive.... and every drink with alchohol has that taste and smell....

and dealing with drunk people while i am sober just drives me nuts....

1:05 PM  
Blogger Sum kinda princess said...

Did you happen to see the movie Sideways? My husband and I found it to be an entertaining flick. Maybe you would like it.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Hirak said...

in vino veritas!!!

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Madhura said...

Huh!! You stole my words exactly!! Though being an Indian girl and all I am 'not' supposed to drink anyway!! But its funny, coz even I can't ever pinpoint the reason why I don't even try!! :-)
So ,there you got a member for your 'non-drinkers (does it have to be) annonymous (??) '

11:03 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Vaard: I agree!
Amber: Heard about the movie..will keep in mind
Hirak: Hail!
Madhura: Welcome! And Thank You! The 'anonymous' comes from a sinking feeling that people like us are shunned in 'polite' company nowadays :-P ;)

2:24 PM  
Blogger Saket said...

Correct me if I am wrong the reason for not drinking is subtly introduced in your last post.
"My argument is that it is precisely at such a time when you should NOT drink. That is exactly where addiction can creep in."

So essentially you're afraid that you might get addicted?

That is precisely the logic I use against smoking cigarettes or pot etc. With drinking, although I am nowhere close to a serious drinker...I just try to fit in, keep some friends happy, try to understand if there is a hint of strawberries in a wine, help my heart a lil... I get along just fine with one/two drinks on social occassions. Yes I hate going to places where drinking is the main agenda... I think wine is wasted on me, because I don't even feel light/tipsy after those one/two drinks. I don't know what to say... Lately I care about the calories. Alcohol is directly absorbed into the bloodstream without any processing from the body right?

Sorry for meandering...

4:39 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

George is a non-drinker too. As for me, I used to avoid illegal drugs, mainly marijuana, not because of the psychological effect, but because I didn't want to support an industry that costs a lot of lives and money in the law enforcement arena. I'm a little more laid back now, and tend to think of substances on a continuum from water to, say, morphine in terms of their psychological effects. The prohibition against certain substances seems, in many cases, to be part of the religio-traditional need for society to control people -- hence such prohibitions as root vegetables among Jains, and caffeine among Mormons. I wouldn't recommend tobacco and beer per se, but I do think you'd enjoy the variety of wines and liqeurs.

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

If you are starting a club, I'd love to join :-)

6:40 AM  

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