Sunday, September 4, 2016

Beerly Tales

Oh lord, forgive my soul. For I have sinned, for I have caused the greatest dishonor that can befall a family.

I have been taught that thou shalt earn thy bread with the sweat of thy brow. My family has always believed in that axiom and have always tried to follow it to the core as much as possible. Somewhere in the process of evolution, the great great great grandfather of my great great great grandfather’s great great great grandfather, Mr. Mattatuveetil Geeverghese Philipose Abraham George Punnoose Kuriachan Thomas or Thomachan as he was more commonly known in the mundane parlance added a rider to thee holy thought. He proclaimed that the future generations shall not only have bread from the sweat of thy brow but also beer. Earned from the sweat of thy brow. I’m still not a hundred percent on whether the process of brewing beer had been invented in those days. Going by the average age of the males in my family, I have strong reasons to surmise that brewing of beer might not have happened in those days and I would love to get a patent for the first use of the term beer. I have researched records available with Archeological Survey of India but they did not have any records regarding the origin of beer, they had only held records of the history of Indian-made Foreign Liquor. I even attempted to get access to the Papal library in the Vatican but it was denied citing the reason that they do not support research into the origin and history of beer. Wine was okay they said, not beer. That’s that.

But the point I was trying to make is not that. So this gentleman Mr. M. G. P. A. G. P. K. Thomas (oh hell, Thomachan it is! Sorry great….great….great….grandfather), he started this age old family tradition of having a bottle of beer on Sunday evening. Err, if you, as a reader have a doubt as to whether they had concept of selling beer in bottle in those days, don’t think too much. Just read this and go about your business! So yea, Sunday evening. Beer. That tradition has been carried on for ever since. Oh, there has been a couple of documented aberrations. The earliest known break in tradition came on a rainy June Sunday evening. Family records that I’ve had access to show that the place our tharavaadu (ancestral home) was, was inundated with flooding courtesy of incessant monsoon rains that season. The archives go on to say that Thomachan was actually able to get on a rescue boat, which was intended to evacuate the flood survivors from the area and direct it to the nearest beer selling outlet but the outlet had been closed. The records go on to say that Thomachan was heavily disappointed with this incident and continued to lament his misfortune till his death a few years later.

The second break in tradition occurred to my great grandfather who was serving as a sepoy in the British army and deputed to fight for the allied powers in World War Two. Mr. Mattathuveetil Alexander Jacob Paulose Sunnykutty Matthew or Mathaichan to his peers, was the first from our family to cross the ocean and to see a land outside of our country of birth but he also had the dubious distinction of being the second in line to cause a rupture in a centuries old tradition. In his case too, it was not him to blame it was more of circumstance that caused the accident. He was fighting for the Allied forces as a part of the British Army somewhere in Egypt when on a summer Sunday (Sunday of all days!), when he went to collect his “quota”, he was informed that they had run out of beer. He went ballistic and he is said to have search the camp from fence to fence, chain link to chain link, looking for at least a partially empty beer bottle so that he could keep the family tradition. Alas, as fate would have it, there was none to be found. He has even claimed in his memoir that he defied his commanding officer’s orders and walked to the German army camp a couple of miles away to check if he could borrow a bottle of beer for this one time. He was thrown out from there saying that German’s don’t drink beer, as Hitler hated beer, Hitler sanctioned only heavy liquor for his troops stationed outside Germany. (I highly doubt if this story is completely right. But hey, who am I to cross words with my great grandfather?) So there was the  second incident, more than half a century ago.

The tradition has carried on ever since. Following the footsteps of my great grandfather and my grandfather, my father has kept up this tradition. He has been such a stickler for tradition that the day my parents were married, which happened to be a Sunday, my father came back from the church after the marriage and popped open a bottle of beer first thing after entering the house that day. And that man, in the name of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, had to endure the ignominy of the third in line to break the family tradition - the first one in over half a century to do so. And that, because of me, me the stupid brainless son.

This whole series of events shaped up yesterday (Sunday) evening. There was one full bottle of Kingfisher in its most pristine form, sitting inside our refrigerator. It was late in the night that me and appachan (father) came back to our house after a party at a neighbor’s place. There was no beer there, only whiskey, gin and tonic cocktail. Huh, as if beer is beneath his dignity! Why couldn’t he have stocked up some beer?! Appachan was mindful of the fact that he had to have a glass of beer after we get back home so he went easy on the liquor. But me, being as youthfully brash as ever, did tip over my regular capacity by a peg or two of neat whiskey shots. We came home and appachan asked me to get the bottle from the refrigerator.

The dutiful son I was, off I went and emerged victorious pulling out the beer from the fridge. With due reverence to the king of spirits, I placed it on the coffee table across appachan and plopped my holy figure onto the adjacent chair. No sooner had I got two glasses from the kitchen that appachan’s phone rang. Aww man, isn’t it too late to call? But call was a call and a friend was a friend so off went the brawny man with his phone and beefy guffaws. Now there is me, there is a beer bottle in front and two glasses. And a young gentleman, no scratch that, I wasn’t showing too much of the gentlemanly features with all that (free!!) alcohol inside me. So yeah, you get the picture.

The dutiful son pours two beer into the two large glasses. He waits for appachan to get back to start the ritual. Tick tock tick tock. No sign of appachan. So he decides to take a sip from a glass to taste. Argh, the beer this time is strong. Appachan doesn’t like it strong, hence off I go and retrieve some Sprite from the refridgerator to dilute the concoction. Now here yours truly is faced with an engineering problem - how to add Sprite on top of a glass of beer that is filled to the brim. The pedantic part of me comes up with an idea. I take two gulps each from either of the glasses and now I have room to add the Sprite. What I don’t realize is that I’m now for all legal and official purposes drunk. And thus, after taking those gulps from the beer glasses to make some room for Sprite, I swear I saw there were four glasses on the table. And the pedantic part of me further applied his engineering brain to the problem and decided to pour out some beer from the existing glasses so as to load balance. Load balancing, aah what a wonderful concept. Muttering thanks to all those known and unknown gurus of engineering, I set about my task. Needless to say, after an inexplicable series of actions based purportedly on logical solutions to scientific problems, after a few minutes my appachan walks in to find two near empty glasses and four-fifth of beer spilled on the floor and a terrified logical problem solver in rapt attention. Hic.

Monday morning. The regrettable night has passed and the sun has shown up this Monday morning on the eastern horizon. I haven’t stepped out of my room yet. I’m dreading the moment I step out of the room today and encounter my distraught appachan sitting in the verandah. Oh Lord, forgive my soul. For I have sinned. 

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