Category Archives: Old Monk Rum

My Tryst with Beer

Its been a while since I wrote anything about my encounters with alcohol. Its definitely not been due to a lack of consumption on my part. (Lets just think of what the sloth has come to represent and go on further) Instead, I have had some really interesting experiences with quite a few exotic alcoholic beverages. Of late, most of them have been with alcohol, in the form of beer.

Beer has almost become synonymous with male bonding over time. And by over time, I mean ever since I came to America. This may have something to do with the fact that beer is cheaper than water. And so, beer became the most freely and most frequently consumed alcoholic beverage. (So much so, I had totally forgotten the taste of good Scotch). Having pretty much exhausted all the cheap beer that America had to offer- the list going from Steel Reserve  (the Old Monk of American Beer) to Natty Lite to Budweiser- I set my sights on trying out some beer that was actually good.

And so my first tryst with good beer came about in the form of Corona and the inevitable piece of lime. And it was goooooooood! A refreshing change from the banalities of everyday cheap beer. Then I went on to try the other standard well known ‘good beer’ brands: Stella Artois, Blue Moon, Guinness, Samuel Adams, George Killian etc. And every one of them was rightly classified under the ‘good beer’ category. But then, I eventually realized that most of these ‘good beer’ brands tasted more or less the same. Most of them were Lagers (except Guinness and Killian) and they tasted a little less bitter and had the same amount of alcohol. And so the alcoholic gene in me began craving for some better beer.

 

My Personal Favorite

And in time, I had the opportunity to visit this nearby small town by name of Floyd. This town warrants an entire post dedicated to itself. It signifies everything that I had imagined in a typical American small town- cozy book stores where you find some amazing titles at cheap prices, a house serving as a coffee shop, a bunch of antique stores, bars playing live music from the local scene, beer stores selling hundreds of only the totally unknown local beers and most significantly: bars serving locally brewed beer.

 

I want that on a T-Shirt

And it was in a place called Dogtown Roadhouse in Floyd, that I had my first experience of some totally mind blowing beer. It came in the form of Bourbon Barrel Beer. Yes. This stout is actually ‘aged’ in used bourbon caskets. And it was god-damn good! Then I tried another beer: Hopsecutioner. As the name suggests, it is a treat for hop-heads. Not knowing what ‘hops’ even stood for prior to that, I drank it without the least idea of what it contained. It was extra bitter – the good bitter kind that is. And I liked it.

I would eventually go back to Floyd and try out more awesome beer. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Allagash Belgian White Ale- each made with a plethora of very interesting ingredients such as cherries, coffee, spices, dark chocolate etc. Needless to say, these beers taste like nothing you have ever had before. It is a memorable experience really when you first drink beer which was made with the intention of tasting good.

I later found that the international grocery store in Blacksburg (Oasis), has this geographically diverse collection of awesome beer. I also realized that being geographically diverse inevitably meant that the beer itself was quite diverse. The store thus has all kinds of beer. So much so, everytime I go there to buy beer, I have a problem of choice. The first time I did buy beer, the beer expert in that store suggested a Latvian beer: Aldaris Porteris. It is a malt based Baltic Porter with a chocolate and burnt caramel taste to it. Next time I went, there was a beer tasting session going on. I ended up sampling a few Irish beers- Smithwick’s and Guinness. Smithwick’s is a beer that does not use hops at all and so is hardly bitter for a beer. I ended up buying Shooting Creek’s Farmhouse Stout, another Floyd brewery product. It tasted similar to Aldaris except for the fact that the hops were more significant and there was a hint of maple syrup in it.

And so as is quite evident from my above mentioned experiences, I suddenly found myself drinking beer for its taste! Which got me thinking- WTF has gone wrong with me? I am not drinking beer to get drunk? Also, I am paying attention to the kind of beer that I consume and to how much I like or dislike that particular type. Lagers, Ales, Stouts, Porters etc, I have realized, have their own specific taste, primarily arising out of the brewing ingredients and processes. So next time you have beer with me, I might have a tendency to spoil the entire occasion by describing the beer with words such as ‘notes, undertone, after taste, cloudiness etc.’

In all seriousness, I have gotten quite interested in exploring new beers- not just for their taste, but also for their historical, geographical and brewing aspects. I can already see myself developing this as a hobby of some kind. And fortunately, I am in the right continent to be able to do so.

Which got me thinking, why Indian breweries fail to make good tasting beer? I am pretty sure that they do not lack the resources or the equipment for it. My only guess is that the demand is so damn big that the breweries do not really need to think of good tasting beer for making profit.

Oh and one very important tip for those who plan to drink beer to enjoy its taste. Always, drink from a glass. Never drink from a bottle. Drinking from the bottle masks so many fine aspects of the beer. Drinking it from a glass instead is the complete experience.

Encounters of the Upanayana Kind-Part I

Firstly, this is not MY Upanayana that I am going to write about. The Upanayana  described here is that of my cousin, who has NOT written about it here (yet). My own Upanayana took place some 8 years ago and under totally different circumstances as you will eventually understand. Oh and for the uninitiated, UPANAYANA stands for the THREAD CEREMONY, a (sacred) ritual popular among the Brahmins. It is  a ceremony where the VATU (or the child) is supposedly initiated into the Brahmin tradition- so to speak. Of course, in recent times, all this boils down to is a set of fixed rituals that the Vatu-no-more (or now called Brahmachari or a celibate) performs twice a day- well at least is expected to perform- called Sandhyavandane. And so last week was the day that my cousin was inducted into the Brahmin community amidst quite some drama and action. Hereon in, my cousin will be referred to as VATU (child) during the incidents before his formal induction and BRAHMACHARI (celibate till marriage) after induction. But first, lets have some background about the VATU in question.

The Vatu is an atheist. The Vatu likes Metallica and has recently discovered the bliss surrounding Pink Floyd, Old Monk and the various combinations involving the two. The Vatu went to the same IIT-JEE coaching center and is now studying at the same Engineering college that I went to. The Vatu likes living in the hostel except for the part wherein he has to eat the mess food and use the same mess water and sink to brush his teeth.

So now let us flashback to about 3 months before the Upanayana.

Vatu is in the hostel playing FIFA’10. Vatu’s mobile phone rings. It is his mother. Vatu reluctantly answers the call.

Vatu: Hello?

Vatu’s mom: How are you?

Vatu: I am ok.

Vatu’s mom: Had your dinner?

Vatu: Yes.

Vatu’s mom: Ok. What did you have?

Vatu (getting impatient): Rice and Dal.

Vatu’s mom: Ok. We are having your thread ceremony on June 2.

Vatu (thinking): WTF??!!??

Vatu’s mom: Good night.

Back to 1 week before the ceremony:

Vatu (to his mom): I will be going to KQA Mahaquizzer on May 30. I will be occupied that day.

Vatu’s mom: No you are not. That day we have the Devara Samaradhane for your Upanayana (Loose translation: Pleasing of the Gods for your Thread Ceremony).

Vatu (thinking): WTF??!??

DEVARA SAMARADHANE:

The day of the Pleasing of the Gods was a Sunday and the complete First circle of Family randomly decided to show up for the occassion. (It should be noted that for ‘occasions’ like these, the FIRST circle somehow always gets redefined to include every Seena, Guru and Ramesha- the equivalent of Tom, Dick and Harry- in the family) And so I found myself dreading at the prospect of meeting all the vicariously existing Aunts and Uncles, not to mention random second cousins seeking career advice from Akshay Anna (Big Brother Akshay). And of course, for those of you who remember, I knew I would meet up with THESE dudes as well. But perhaps what I dreaded the most was the inevitable enquiries into my life over the past 10 months-thanks largely to me having gone to FOREN and all. So, in my case, FOREN referred to the USA and so I could totally see people thronging around me yelling “Akshay Anna has come  back from FOREN!” or “Akshay Anna how was FOREN?” I could also see me being introduced to random people as “This is Akshay. He has returned from FOREN.” Apart from the sheer WTFness involved here, I still had to keep in mind that this was the day when the Gods were going to be pleased to bless my cousin’s (the VATU) thread ceremony.

Eventually, I did show up at the Vatu’s house where I found the Vatu himself (clothed in dress code for the day- Panche/Shalya) with his parents, in front of what appeared to be a mess of flowers, Akshathe, coconuts, random blouse pieces, fruit, other relevant junk and one self righteous Shastrigalu (priest). The whole show was being directed (as is always the case in Hindu ceremonies) by this self righteous priest sporting a supercilious attitude and accompanied by his two mandatory sidekicks whose only aim in life is to emulate (quite literally) him both in the mantra-chanting aspect and the attitude sporting aspect.

So as I watched the actual Pleasing of the Gods (“the Gods” basically referring to the junk mentioned above), it took me exactly 2 mins and 3 seconds to get bored enough to actually strike a conversation with one of THE DUDES mentioned before- the dude with the stitched sac. The other dude seemed to be completely at home and at peace donning the Adige Bhattru (cooks) uniform and helping out the Adige Bhattru in their adige (cooking) and eating arrangements. Soon I was inevitably drawn into the career advice doling role of Akshay Anna and I did my best to spread my belief that Engineering was evil and that aspiring to become a software engineer is not exactly an aspiration. You will end up like that anyway. However, there were no games of chess involved this time around, largely due to the failure on part of the kid to get the chess set to the ceremony.

Now every family has a family douchebag. My family douchebag happens to be a 45 odd year old man (who also incidentally looks like an actual douchebag), who does not spare any opportunity to convey the fact that his IQ is less than that of TIMMY. I am not exactly sure what this dude does for a living. But I have heard from various sources that he used to run a Detective Agency somewhere! No kidding. And it appeared that now he had shifted professions and was presently working as an arranged marriage broker! Imagine that! Your marriage being set up by a family douchebag! This guy happened to sit in the same room as I was during lunch time and I was subjected to some interesting one-sided conversations (in Kannada) of his over his cell phone. Excerpts:

“Sorry there was a mistake in the newspaper ad. We want brides not grooms.”

“I have 32 grooms and 4 brides.”

“All the brides have ran away somewhere!”

Presently, one of his brothers accused him of blatantly trying to get one of his friends/relative (the groom) married to a woman who reminds people of the “Gajalakshmi” from old Kannada movies. (Think Boiler dimensions!) The douchebag defended himself by saying that the said Gajalakshmi was very insistent that she be married to a man of good standing and that he himself was very keen to ‘offload’ her off his brokering lists.

Eventually, the ‘guests’ began to leave and I found myself just loitering around doing nothing in particular. The Vatu’s father spotted me doing nothing and suddenly beckoned me and introduced me to who I believe to be some lady related to him in some way. The dialogue that ensued was quite remarkable really:

Vatu’s dad: This is Akshay. Akshay this is my “insert n degrees of separation where n>3” relative.

Me: Hello aunty.

Vatu’s dad (in Kannada): Ivara yoorunu US nalli MS madtha iddhale. (Loosely translates to implying-“There is some person whom I do not know who is doing MS in US but is related in some way to this lady here!)

Me (thinking): OMG!!! What a coincidence???!! Somebody whom I have never heard of or met before in my life knows somebody else who happens to be one among the lakhs of people who are studying Masters in USA!! Un-fuckin-believable eh??!!?

Stranger Aunt: My friend’s sister’s daughter is also studying in US.

Me (thinking): Wait! Who? Does she even know you exist?

Stranger aunt: Where are you studying?

Me: Virginia Tech (hoping it would ring some bell. After all, she happened to ‘know’ someone who was doing their Masters in US.)

Stranger Aunt (betraying her ignorance): Ok ok. So you are doing Masters in Computer Science?

Me: No.

Stranger Aunt: Ok so you are doing MS in Electronics is it?

Me: No. I am doing my Masters in Civil Engineering.

Suddenly, Stranger Aunt began to change her expression to “looks-like-I-have-been-wasting-my-time-talking-to-this-guy” kind of a look. Eventually she realized that she had to say something positive and so :

Stranger Aunt: Oh Civil is it?? Ok. So is there scope for Civil Engineering there??

Me (thinking): WTF Biatch??!!?? Who the fuck do you think are building all the skyscrapers around you? Don’t be proud to display your fucking ignorance around just because you know some girl, who really doesn’t care a fuck if you live or die, happens to be studying Computer Science in some random US University!

And on that note (and without giving a response), I just walked out of the room. And in a short while, I found myself liberated from the clutches of meeting random people who seem to pass judgment at the slightest opportunity. And so just before I left, I met my cousin, the Vatu, and empathized with him for a short while for what he had to go through and for what was still to come. But what was to come on the actual day of the thread ceremony was something neither of us could have anticipated or be prepared for in anyway!

Thats up in Part 2 of the Upanayana series!

Chronicles of an NITK Convocation

This post is very easily over 2 months late in appearing, but nevertheless I was finally able to finish and post it.

It was simply put, the 3 best days I have had in a long long time. Exceeding all my expectations and fantasies, I returned from my convo with a big smile on my face. Here I recollect all my memories from those 3 days.

After much delay and speculation, my convo date was finally fixed on Jan 31 2009. The day I was supposed to be bestowed upon with a Bachelor of Technology degree for my 4 years of improvised laziness and unproductivity. But my plans  included a lot more than just that. Considering the fact that I had been practically sober for over 5 months, my priorities took shape around appropriate issues. I also had a list of things to do in college which I held close to me during my stay there. So, in decreasing order of priority and importance, here is the list of what all I intended to accomplish:

  1. Get drunk.
  2. Get drunk and then get sloshed.
  3. Go for a midnight inebriated walk around the campus.
  4. Then get drunk again.
  5. Meet all my teachers.
  6. Eat the early morning hot Buns at Thadambail.
  7. Meet all other relevant people.
  8. Eat at 3rd Block Night Canteen.
  9. Visit the beach and eat the egg omlette at the nearby shack.
  10. Download as much as possible from DC++.
  11. And not to forget, I was also supposed to collect my degree!

So with these objectives in mind, I set out to my college in a train accompanied by dozens of fellow to-be-graduates. After getting duly blasted by the TC for being over zealous in disturbing co-passengers who were not to-be-graduates, I went to sleep. At around 9:30 AM, I found Sadanand and myself camping in the same junior’s room and I couldn’t help being reminded that we were room mates once again. The junior looked exactly like how anyone would look half an hour prior to committing suicide. But then, that aside, there were a lot of changes worth noticing in and around the campus. The Highway was in impeccable condition, the new hostel blocks were towering at 7 storeys and a few new buildings were already up and running. But alas! One thing had apparently remained the same, as if in defiance to all the changes happening around-there was still no god damn water in the hostel blocks!

And so, at around 11, I finally met my classmates and went to speak to my teachers. It felt really nice to go back to where it all began for me. Met both my Geotech teachers because of whom I have whatever identity I got right now and informed them of my first admit. Needless to say, they were pretty happy as well. Had lunch at the newly opened “Suraj International” thinking there would be alcohol as well, but alas, they didn’t serve drinks. And soon after, I found myself in Mangalore watching Luck By Chance at Bharath Mall and I have to say, the movie was good.  But the best part of the day was yet to come.

Tul was conducting a quiz (unfortunately under sober conditions) and though I didn’t take part in it, it was anyway an informal affair with a lot of nice questions. Practically the entire quizzing gang had turned up for the quiz and stuck together to get drunk at the one and only Garuda Bar as well. Choukkar, the alcoholic had apparently been sloshed the entire day but didn’t mind  remaining that way for much longer. And as far as I was concerned, I was getting drunk with fellow alcoholics after more than 7 months-and thats all I cared about. And I was duly joined by my room mate alcoholic Sadanand who had, in the meantime, gone to Mangalore on a mission of utmost importance and almost succeeded completely! In spite of his failure, he had still gone one up on my To-do list! And so as he joined the drinking party already drunk,  it became very evident that he was enjoying it! And to add to the shady atmosphere, some old melodious Kannada songs started blaring in the Bar speakers and sounded real awesome! After most of the gang had left, we decided to call it quits at around 12:30 in the night with Gayru who had come all the way from IIM Kolkata and it was nice catching up and belting our very own Karadi. Finally, we ended up in one of our Junior-Harish’s-room nice and high, with plans of watching a movie. Those plans drastically changed 2 minutes into the movie when Sadanand just crashed and went off to sleep. So soon, even I left to my camping room- the dude with the suicide on his face-and went off to sleep.

I woke up early next day, slightly disoriented, wondering for a few seconds where I was and what had happened the previous night. Then when it all came back to me, I got ready and realized I had to get myself registered for the convo. So I went with Sadanand and got registered at the SJA and also convinced him to have the famed Idly-Vada-Sambar breakfast with me at our very own Mysore Mess-I. He was of the opinion that the mess worker would chase us once he found out that we were not students anymore. But nothing like that happened.  A new mess worker gave us the eye but let us eat all the idlis we wanted. And they were still awesome! Free Breakfast!

And as for the convocation itself, all of us were present at the SJA half an hour before time and that was sufficient time to catch up with all of the 18 classmates who had turned up. A dress code of white formal shirts with ties and black trousers and black shoes was flouted by many including me. In due time, the entire senate entered the auditorium to an entrancing music. All the members of the senate were clothed in a strange attire fitting their designations and the whole thing looked more like we were getting inducted into some major cult rather than getting our degrees! And so after all the formalities got underway, the speeches started. And after the speeches ended, the degree giving began. First to all the MTechs and MCAs and then to the BTechs. My parents had come and were watching from the first floor. And I have to say this: The moment I collected my degree which made me a Graduate of Civil Engineering from NITK Surathkal, I felt absolved of all my guilt and regret of not having made it into an IIT and was more than just happy to have spent 4 of my most memorable years here in NITK.

By the time I went back to my room, it was 530 in the evening and Sadanand left to Mangalore with a more noble objective. And I found myself in the company of Logik, Con and a certain female entity who had suddenly lost significant weight-headed for the beach. On the way, I was able to tick off one more on my To-Do list when I ate the Egg Omlette at the Egg Shack near the Lighthouse. Then, after some confusion, I found myself on the beach, sitting on the rocks, talking and catching up on old times for a very long time. It was almost 9 in the night when we decided to go back to the campus. Somehow, I wish I could have stayed there on those rocks feeling the breeze and hearing the waves splash, for a much longer time.

On my way back, I met my HoD and he was really happy to see me. Having been extremely co-operative and helpful during my course, I was really happy to see him as well. After a brief chat with him, I parked myself in front of my Dept for some more chatting session. Shortly, my junior and drink buddy for the night,Harish,  turned up from Mangalore and we both went to do what we were meant to do-get totally drunk. Adrian joined us for our drinking session, as promised. I opened my Black Dog Scotch which I had been saving for over 6 months just for this moment and raised a toast to my Convo. Half an hour later, the bottle is empty and so I open the Tetrapack of DSP that I had bought in the last week of my stay in the hostel. I had saved this too for this date. And after that also got over, Adrian hit upon this very useful idea and next thing I know, I have about 180ml of William Grant’s exquisite Scotch with me in my bottle. With that, we escape out of the hostel and all the way to my Dept, where we camp to finish the extra quarter Scotch. Time passes by and none of us 3 are in touch with it. After the Scotch gets over, I pay my tribute to my Dept by leaving behind all traces of alcohol consumption at the steps leading in front of the Dept Building. All 3 of us, totally drunk by now, head to SAC and talk more nonsense. Logik joined us shortly thereafter. After some more idle chat, I call up Royan (the main reason I am an alcoholic) and talk to him for about half an hour during which time he tells me something he did that suddenly spiked my respect for him. (Hail Royan! Thou art in a diferent continent and at a different level altogether! I Bow to thee!!) And soon after, my conversation with Royan ended, largely due to the zero balance that Adrian’s phone began to claim. However, the night was still young, and I was still pretty high. Harish had crashed on the stage where some Shamiana had been put up. I fulfilled another of my long standing goals by performing “Aqualung” in SAC to a non-Zero crowd with my air guitar! I then joined Adrian in singing “Turn the Page” to the same crowd.

Me and Adrian : ” …Smoke the day’s last cigarette..remembering what she said…what she said”

Adrian (immediately): Here I am!! On the road again!!

Me: Hey wait man! I need to play the lead still! (I walk into the front and play the lead!)

After the song is over and I have played the outro as well, Adrian finds Harish sleeping on the stage and upsets the support used to tie the Shamiana in place and lo and behold! This dude, suddenly springs to life and jumps out of the stage in a flash expecting the entire thing to come down on him-which incidentally didn’t happen. Nevertheless, we found ourselves at 3rd Block Night Canteen treated as the last customers for the night and I end up having some Vada Pav.Now i wish I had also had the Lassi.

I dont recollect what time it was exactly, but it was pretty late in the night-almost early morning. We head to the rooms to get some cash to eat the early morning hot buns at Thadambail and when I went back to the room, I was in for a treat! Though not officially on my To-Do list for the convo, it was always there at the back of my mind. And to do the stuff in that state of mind, at that time with fellow like-minded people (some of whom had passed out during their marathon 6 hour long session) and with copious amounts of Mint flavored Hukka, it was a lot more than I could ask for! All thanks to the DASA guys, my Convo experience was complete and perfect!

I was then officially and properly stoned and went in that state to Thadambail to have the hot buns. Every piece of the Bun-Sambhar combo was like an experience of  a sudden spike in the bliss factor. And with my senses in an extra alert state, I savored each and every moment of it! By the time I came back, daylight was just cracking open in the sky. I bid good night(morning) to fellow drunkards and went to sleep. Now THAT is what I would call A LONG AND MEMORABLE NIGHT!

Having checked off practically everything on my TO-Do list for the convo by then,  I realized I was relatively free when I woke up and so spent the rest of the day in peace. Just went to Mangalore for a short trip to meet a friend and that apart, I spent most of my time in the room filling up my newly bought hard disk with everything I could possibly lay my hands on in DC++. In the end, I found I could only fill around 160GB and not more, largely due to a blatant lack of time.

I finally pack and leave at around 6 and meet some juniors on the way. Although I would have wished to have spent more time with one of them, I still had a smile on my face when I finally boarded the bus and headed to the railway station.

And so there was my NITK Convocation. Couldn’t have been any better or perfect for me. Will remain as one of the most memorable times I have had in a long time!

Just an Update on the Search Terms

After my hugely popular post on the top search terms leading to my blog, I would just like to add the following search term which has around it, an air of an  innocent and concerned enquiry. Here is what lead to my blog:

BOOZING OLD MONK RUM AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

WOAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Where is Choukkar and Nikhil Balaji? The two people you are most likely to find perpetually high on Old Monk rum…. Damn man! Whoever it was who searched for this, trust me when I say, you don’t die by drinking OLD MONK. And if you are even remotely associated with NITK, then it is mandatory for you to drink Old Monk at GB on a regular basis. Oh by the way, do visit the Old Monk page on Wikipedia. Largely updated and edited by fellow satisfied Old Monk consumer Logik.

Which reminds me of my still pending post about my tryst with alcohol. Gotta write it soon man… Gotta write it soon.

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