The last time I had gin and tonic, it was in 2001 or 2002. I was in university, studying for my postgraduate degree in journalism and mass communication and a group of us had gone to a university festival outside our state, Gujarat.
Gujarat, a state in the western coast of India, home to the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, is a ‘dry state.’ Which means, manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol is prohibited in the state.
I grew up without really ever having an alcoholic drink of any kind, except one or two surreptitiously-had gulps of the Goan spirit Feni, and that had turned out to be a disaster because Feni cannot be had on its own and I didn’t know that then.
So when I went to Pune, in Maharashtra (which isn’t a dry state) on that university trip and saw alcohol being consumed freely, I did not feel as if I wanted a drink because I had no desire or longing for something that I had really had before.
The host students of the university took us all out on an outing to a discotheque one evening. This was a novelty for many of us as Gujarat did not have any discotheques at that point of time.
After some dancing on the crowded dance floor, my friend and I felt very thirsty and hungry. One of our classmates took us to the bar, and ordered a drink for us. We really didn’t know what a gin and tonic was but were very thirsty and grateful that there was something to drink. I don’t remember why he hadn’t asked the bartender for two glasses of water instead of an alcoholic drink.
He gave us our glasses, and turned his back on us for a few minutes. When he joined us again, we had finished everything that was in our glasses.
What, he exclaimed, looking horrified.
You aren’t supposed to gulp it down, you are supposed to drink it slowly. It is gin and tonic, you silly girls, he said.
When we went back to the dance floor, we were already a little light-headed. Our friends teased us all through the trip and thereafter that we made the shapes of hearts and stars by our hands and danced like that until it was time to get back to our hostel.
I don’t think I have ever had any gin and tonic after that. It wasn’t because of that incident. It was because there were few opportunities to have alcohol after that, and also because whenever I tried any alcoholic drink, I tried very hard to like it. But I would unfailingly fail.
So my response when I was offered an alcoholic drink was to always politely decline it and ask for orange juice or a soda instead.
I wasn’t always successful in my attempts though. As a young trainee at a newspaper, I was invited home to a party thrown by my editor.
I told her that I didn’t drink. She said that it was because I hadn’t found my drink yet. Then she went on to make one for me, and handed me a glass and said, all you need is a drink that is just right for you.
I do not know what was in it but I took one sip and I did not like it and felt it burn through my throat and all the way to my chest.
I was terrified. This was my editor and she had personally fixed me a drink. Which I did not like. What should I do now?
I must have looked petrified because a kind senior colleague came to my side and when the lights went dim for the dancing to begin, swiftly took my glass from me and emptied its contents to a potted plant.
After half an hour, my editor saw my empty glass and said, there. I told you so. You just needed to find your drink. And proceeded to make another one for me.
By the end of the evening, the potted plant had soaked up three of my drinks. I am not sure what happened to it in the morning and if my editor had woken up to a mysteriously dead potted plant in her living room.
So when I had a G & T this week, I was counting on my familiar response to it. I wouldn’t like it.
But I did. For some reason which I cannot fathom. My husband had got a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, Schweppes elder flower tonic water and an apple, cucumber, and elder flower cordial for a dinner- do that we were hosting for two of our neighbours. He wanted to try out the drink before we served it to our friends and so he made one for him and asked me if I would like to try it. I do not know why but I said yes.
It felt nice on my tongue, like a cool summer breeze, a breeze flowing from somewhere near a meadow full of wild flowers.
I finished what was in my glass. I did get a little light-headed after that, I admit.
The next day, when we had our neighbours over, my husband fixed me a smaller glass of gin with the cordial and the tonic water.
I enjoyed it. I did not get tipsy.
Can I believe that my right drink has finally found me? Or is it two early for that? We are just two dates old at the moment.
Perhaps I should patiently watch how this relationship goes? But for once, I think I may have found a drink that I might sometimes indulge in. Maybe on a few, rare summer evenings scented with the fragrance of jasmine flowers or with the memories of the scent of the jasmine flowers or perhaps laced with the saltiness of a sea breeze.
Perhaps, I should write to my editor and tell her? That about 17 years or so later, I had finally found a drink that I might say yes to, when offered at a party or two?