Whisky Uncles and How to Spot Them


Whisky Uncles and How to Spot Them

Illustration: Akshita Monga

When it comes to alcohol, India is like your snooty, almost-30 adarshvaadi cousin, who refuses a drink at family parties, but then finally relents after being egged on by relatives, gets wrecked, and dances to “Kajra Re” with your overweight aunt from out of town. We might live in a land of sanskaar, but we chug our pegs with élan, sans coke, with two cubes of ice and jyaada soda paani kam, be it vodka, whisky, beer, or rum.

From an Indian perspective, beer is traditionally viewed as a younger man’s drink, quaffed by the case, in a trendy space, by manbun-sporting hipsters. Rum, on the other hand, is the more national drink, reserved for more serious tipplers, and served with Coke. Gin is reserved for psychopaths, or ruddy, double-chinned alcoholics, but there’s only one drink, that’s a cut above the rest. An elixir for balding men above the age of 50. Call it single malt, call it bourbon, or simply good ol’ whisky.

Every Indian male above the age of 35, who has entered the hallowed era of Unclehood, has had multiple trysts with whisky in a social setting that often involve highly vocal drunkenness, locker-room talk, and made-up tales that begin with, “When I was your age…” And we’ve all been there to witness their awkward humour over Patiala pegs, either as the kids who fetched ice, bhujiya, or cigarettes while they drank themselves, or the pimply-faced teenagers who’ve been inducted into adulthood with our first drinks and getting ribbed about “naughty things”.

Just like there’s a Hallmark card for every occasion, there’s a specific type of whisky uncle you encounter in different situations.

The Ghazal-head is your soulful sombre uncle, who looks like he’s about to deliver a serious Piyush Mishra-esque monologue every time you countenance him. He usually drinks Blenders Pride, while sitting alone at the bar, contemplating the meaning of life while getting drunk and ruing the day he married his wife. He comes into his elements when Jagjit Singh comes on and then delves into an off-key rendition of “Hoshwalon Ko Khabar Kya” and other greatest hits.

The Gyandu is the yang to the Philosipper’s yin, and will actively seek you out so he can garnish your drink with some finely zested post-truth factoids.

Often found in the company of the Ghazal-head is the Chivas Reject. This is your slightly rich uncle, “own business thanks God”, which could be anything from manufacturing plastic buckets to trading in rubber bullets. He’s got some style, often appearing younger than he seems, but no game with the ladies, which is the reason he’s probably still single. Six drinks later, he is extra chivalrous, and appears out of thin air, every time a door needs opening or a woman needs directions to the loo. He hits on younger women, gets turned down and wonders why, winding up back at the bar until it’s time to leave.

On his way back to the bar he bumps into the Stock Tippler. This uncle either works in finance or plays the markets. His low tolerance for alcohol is the stuff of legend. You know he’s had one too many when anyone under the age of 25 gets a crash course in capital gains and how to maximise them, along with his CA’s number, who just happens to be his son/daughter.

Pulling the Stock Tippler onto the dance floor is the Hotstepper. This uncle is married with more than three kids. He secretly wanted to be a dancer and idolised Mithun when he was younger, but went and got a 9 to 5 with medical benefits instead. He dances like no one’s watching, but everyone’s filming, much to the embarrassment of his kids. The Hotstepper takes the phrase break a leg too literally when he tries to copy a 17-year-old’s hip-hop moves, causing a commotion on the dance floor.

Immune to this commotion is the Philosipper. He’s the one sitting in a corner, holding a session about serious issues such a politics or religion. You can’t tell but he’s already been through a bottle and to your already drunk ears he’s making perfect sense. Until tomorrow when it’ll all seem like a crock of shit or a fuzzy memory, depending on how much time you spend in his company.

The Gyandu is the yang to the Philosipper’s yin, and will actively seek you out so he can garnish your drink with some finely zested post-truth factoids. Every time you tell someone that your uncle told you about a secret BJP agenda to set up a lab to create genetically superior Hindus, the Gyandu gets a severe case of the hiccups.

Furiously agreeing with the Gyandu is the Fauxppie. He’s probably your fuppa who spent too much time in Goa in the ’70s. His free spirit gets a freedom boner, after consuming some malted spirit and will tell you how you need to stick it to the man and run to the beat of your own drummer. All while sipping expensive single malt, and sitting on a seven-figure bank balance. He low-key smokes weed, so if you’re holding, this is the uncle you can smoke with.

Before leaving the party, the Fauxppie, exchanges business cards with the Late Adopter. He’s your mom or dad’s third cousin twice removed on his mother’s side. You’ve seen him only at weddings and funerals, and got to know his name just half an hour prior. But add whisky and poof “Tu uska beta hai!” He excels at finding distant relatives’ children and announcing to the world that they are now his “progeny jaise or usse bhi badkar”. Don’t be surprised if after the sixth, he’s slipping you a 2,000-rupee note, because he missed your last birthday. Take it, hug him, and vamoose before his wife pulls him toward the buffet.

The last uncle on the list is usually the most fun to hang out with. He is a combination of everything that’s great about drinking with uncles. He is a high-functioning alcoholic, and the proverbial king of this jungle. Let’s call him the Keyser Sozzle. He is a myth, an enigma, just like the real Keyser Söze. Nine times out of 10, Keyser Sozzle is either Punjabi or Sindhi. He can out-drink, out-talk, and out-dance any other uncle worth the salt and limbu he’s sucking on after throwing up. He’s on a first name basis with Johnnie Walker, Jim Beam, and Jack Daniels and is the life of the party. Chill with him and you get starters on priority (because he’s tipping the waiters); the girls are pretty, because this uncle is one charming devil; and the bakchodi is minimal, restricted to sexual innuendo, politically incorrect jokes and wisecracks.

This is the reason why Keyser Sozzle is my spirit animal, the type of uncle I wish to turn into in my dotage. If I can only shake my fucking aversion to whisky.