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Packaged Sunshine

by Vani Viswanathan

Vani Viswanathan discusses her attachment to what she considers sunshine in a bottle – beer.

I can only imagine my mother’s expression if she ever manages to read through this. Her lips would be pursed, and she would ask, “What’s your design?” as she asked when I had earlier written for Spark about a lesbian couple, and a live-in relationship. But nothing is going to stop me from eulogising that which I’m so fond of. I wonder if it’s just a phase I’ll get over in some time, but just the thought of that makes me sad, so I’ll simply focus on how it makes me happy for now.

I’m talking about beer.

Ten years ago, I never thought I’d drink. You know, alcohol. Six years ago, I’d smelled a friend’s can of beer as I tried drinking it, and returned it with a snort – so much so that he cleverly said I was snorting, not drinking, beer. And then suddenly, five years ago, beer entered my life in a fruity flavour when one frustrated evening after work, I decided to abuse Happy Hour to buy a light, fruity beer that my colleague was having. Why, this tasted – or smelled – nothing like that obscene-smelling stuff I’d snorted the previous year! Even so, the taste was something to get used to. But that beer, the golden brown, filled-with-sunlight wonder, remains my favourite to date. Kronenbourg Blanc. I fervently hunt for it in India, but without luck.

Once I managed to get used to the taste of the beer – grew into it – I gave others a shot. Tiger beer, can lah. Brewerkz, the popular brewery in Singapore, a couple of times. Another favourite was the German restaurant Brotzeit, which brought some special flavours. I particularly liked one fruity weissbier with a hint of banana in it – this I especially remember because it wasn’t until I started taking anti-histamines for my troublesome sinus that I could even taste the mild banana flavour! I was overjoyed to find this in Beer Café in Delhi, even at the ridiculous premium you have to pay in India for these.

Coming back to student life in India, I relied entirely on the large, green Kingfisher bottles for the occasional kicks. It was cheap, and suited the purpose just fine. A happy buzz, a general ability to push worrisome thoughts behind. Or sometimes, call and confront someone with those worries.

Back to earning now, and exploring the Delhi restaurant scene, nothing has still replaced beer for me. A Mojito doesn’t cut it, and wine simply feels way too staid and boring. Cocktails as a whole don’t get much of my alcohol time, because they make me feel cheated – a cocktail’s neither juice nor straightforward alcohol. Rum is too sweet, whisky stinks, forget the other things. Vodka and Tequila are only fit to be had as shots.

Beer, to me, symbolises fun. Fun, like running across a traffic-ridden, rain-drenched road in Phuket with my friend just for kicks, just because he dared me to do it. Fun, like marking out specific parts of the bottle to ‘chug’. Bonding. Bonding in Mumbai with college-mates. Bonding over a horrid week on a Friday evening with colleagues. People. At times, it reminds me of people who seemed close to making it as important in my life. And of the people who finally did make it.

Much as I guiltily gulp down pints, worried about all the calories I willingly inject into my system, nothing can replace the joy beer brings me. Nothing else I eat or drink – except, maybe, rasam and rava laddoo – can bring the same grin to my face as I have when I take my first sip of beer. Golden brown elixir, you are my packaged dose of sunshine. Fermented barley and hops, I am thy slave.

Vani Viswanathan is often lost in her world of books and A R Rahman, churning out lines in her head or humming a song. Her world is one of frivolity, optimism, quietude and general chilled-ness, where there is always place for outbursts of laughter, bouts of silence, chocolate, ice cream and lots of books and endless iTunes playlists from all over the world. She is now a CSR communications consultant, and has been blogging at http://chennaigalwrites.blogspot.com since 2005.

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