My first ‘drinking’ experience was during Durga Puja holidays, some three decades ago in Calcutta. Having just joined college, one wanted to do all things adult and alcohol ranked a close number two.
Three friends pooled in for mutton and whisky. More than a quarter century later, I still suspect it was not whisky but premium diesel that we had with soda and extremely spicy chanachur to make it somewhat palatable. We had Wham’s Bad Boys blasting away in the background.
Survivors of the night maintain that I spent the night holding on to a pillow mumbling I was flying away.
Needless to say, I swore off alcohol 'forever'. Several years later, at a party, someone passed me a drink saying it was Thums Up. I had a few ‘Thums Ups’ and was decidedly happy when he revealed it had Old Monk in it. I merely giggled and asked for another.
Thus began a long relationship with perhaps the only cult brand the country has known. Definitely, the number one one.
Just as its legion of lovers, the brand has a very interesting history. I once heard that Col Dyer’s (of Jallianwala massacre infamy) father had set up a brewery near Kasauli in Himachal in the mid 1800s. A hundred years later, it was bought over by Brig Mohan. He introduced Old Monk and the rest is history.
It was the go-to friend during happy times and sad. Lots of ice, cola in summers and hot water in winters, it’s the perfect all-weather companion.
Funnily, I don’t have as many whisky memories or beer memories as I have Old Monk memories. Most of them, being from one’s youth, are reasonably NSFW and unfit to publish here.
Over time, one has realised that whisky, beer, wine lovers don’t really mind as long as any brand is available. An Old Monk lover, however, would much rather have chai if his favourite drink is unavailable.
So when I heard of the passing away of Brig Mohan, the loss felt personal.
Tonight, I’m going to pour myself a large one. And raise a toast to Brigadier Mohan.
Thank you for very memorable times, sir.
(The author is founder, Thinkstr)