‘Daru Peene Ka Din’ or DPD is a quaint custom that has been in our family for long. Every Saturday night was about spending time with the family, where children would drink soft drinks while my father would sit with his favourite whiskey or rum. However, despite the name, DPD was more about creating memories.
When he was serving in the forces, every Friday, my father would come home from his office and happily announce, ‘Aaj to DPD hai’ (Today is DPD). While many people still gape at him and wonder what is DPD, we children knew DPD well. DPD meant Daru Peene Ka Din (The day to have alcohol). My father’s logic was simple. In a five-day week schedule, drinking on Friday night was a good idea because he didn’t have to go to work on Saturday. Every DPD was like a mini party complete with all the fine crystal glasses and crockery. My father would bring some salted chips, peanuts. My mother would insist on getting juice or soft drinks for us, children, so that none of us felt left out. He would then pour himself a small peg of whiskey in a nice crystal glass, which he nursed for a long time. If we had guests or relatives at home, they would also join us with a small peg of their preferred drink or a glass of juice. Once everything was brought into the sitting room, all of us including my mother would sit down and have our drinks and snacks while soulful voices of Jagjit Singh or Pankaj Udhas would sing about beauty, moonlit nights and the days of childhood, which would often spark conversations about life, problems or even the bygone days.
A happy tradition
From the time I can remember, DPD has been a happy tradition in my family. It was about bonding, remembering and being with the family. In school I used to often listen in astonishment when my friends used to talk about their fathers getting drunk and violent. At the time, I had always associated alcohol with happiness and spending time with the family, which was why I was never averse to someone drinking in moderation. Some of my relatives used to raise their eyebrows at the practice especially because my parents were quite cool about the idea of me drinking alcohol when I was old enough. Interestingly, though we always sat with my father when he had his drinks, neither my brother or I, became very fond of alcohol. However, whenever I sat with my father to have an occasional glass of wine (my brother is still a teetotaller), it was not about the drinks but more about just spending time with the family.
Things changed when I got married. I had an arranged marriage and my husband had told me that he liked his drinks, I was quite okay about it. However, a few days after my marriage, I discovered that my husband was always told that having alcohol with parents or even talking to them about alcohol was a sign of disrespect. My husband was very particular about respecting his parents, no matter what! So, he had always had a couple of bottles stashed away in his bathroom. Every day, after returning from work, he went into his bathroom to change his clothes and quickly gulp down a couple of pegs of whiskey. This had been happening for the last ten-fifteen years. Then like a good son, he would rinse his mouth, go out and spend time with his parents and other members of the family. No one would talk about the whiskey bottles in his room or how many pegs he has had. His father too had his own stash which he would pour in a plastic glass and gulp it down. Though they could have milk, sharbat and other soft drinks, the father and son seldom sat down for a couple of drinks together. It was only when my husband had a heart attack on our honeymoon, that I realized the true meaning of DPD in my husband’s house and the perils of drinking alone.
The other day, when I was sitting with my mother and father on a DPD, I asked them why is that my brother or I didn’t consider drinking that big a deal. My father replied, ‘We never created the challenge of alcohol for you, that is why!’
The challenge of alcohol? What does that mean? My father replied, ‘I had my first drink with my grandfather. In our house, drinking was never a big deal. So, we too did not make it a big deal for you children. Infact, we made it a happy occasion.’
My mother added, ‘yes. I always ensured that you children had glasses of soft drinks and snacks when you sat with us on those DPDs. When you grew old enough, we never said no to your tasting alcohol, which meant you did not have to strive for it and soon lost interest!’
Matters of the heart
She reminisced, ‘As a matter of fact, after marriage when I used to see your father drinking, I used to get quite worried because in my family too alcohol was not encouraged openly. In one of our postings, our neighbour was Dr. Gladwin S. Das, now an eminent cardiologist in USA. I shared my concern with him and he showed me a cardiology text book where it was written that a couple of pegs occasionally can actually help in enhancing the functioning of the heart. From that time, I decided that DPD is a good idea.’
This was the first time I understood what my parents actually did. But I had to know more, so I talked to Dr. Manasvee Dubey, a psychologist. When I narrated the entire story to her, she said, ‘Your parents actually took the challenge out of the alcohol for you. Most parents don’t understand that the moment you stop a child from doing something or put restrictions, they actually make them want that thing more. Humans all rebellious by nature and the moment you agree or give them a feeling of control, they will have nothing to rebel against!’
Drink of Good Times
When I asked my mother, why she gave us a glass full of juice or soft drinks, she replied, ‘it was simply to make you feel equal to us. We didn’t want you to think that we can drink and you can’t. That would again have made you think that you aren’t equal to us in some or the other way and made you want to reach out and prove that you are equal to us.’
My father quipped, ‘Generally people drink when they are upset, worried or even ecstatic. We didn’t let you associate alcohol with extreme emotions. DPD was a regular, once-a-week affair which was about having a good time with the family in the evening. You never saw me tensed or worried when I was drinking, so alcohol never became a solution to any problem. Instead, we preferred to talk things out during these DPDs.’
The middle path
That statement brought back memories. When my husband was worried or stressed or upset, he would quickly pop in to the bathroom and take a swig or two though his family was none the wiser. Sometimes, he would drink excessively and then have arguments and showdowns which unfortunately would never resolve the problem. For him, alcohol was the crutch to deal with problems or actually express himself.
Dr. Manasvee Dubey says, ‘Drinking in moderation is not a bad idea. However, the problem with alcohol is that people consider it a taboo or a fashion statement or a solution to their problems. It is none of these. When you drink in moderation, alcohol helps you to relax, unwind and drop your guard and talk your heart out, which is actually the solution to all the problems.’
This article by Shailaza Singh was recently published in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit Section