Seven Old Monk Facts That May Or May Not Be Made Up

(Note: This is my Hindustan Times column dated 19th July 2015.)

Like an aunty who just saw the neighbour’s daughter with a boy, I have plenty to talk about this week. We were witness to the incredible Pluto flyby, a testament to the power of science and curiosity that reminded us yet again of our place in the universe.

This was overshadowed by another great scientific achievement when Professor Emeritus Of Center Parting And Net Banyan Studies Salman Khan announced his theory of ‘Selfie le le le le le le le le le le le le le’. His fans scrambled to follow his instructions, leading to a number of injuries because it’s difficult to take selfies when there are three of you on a bike.

But the news that struck deepest was the imminent collapse of Old Monk, aka Molasses That Went To College. It was reported that the dark rum was on its way out, until the makers clarified that yes, there had been a dip in sales, which they were dealing with by downing Patialas and listening to Jagjit Singh, and no, Old Monk was not going to be taken off shelves.

So in celebration, here’s a list of Seven Old Monk Facts That May Or May Not Be Made Up:

  1. As the name suggests, Old Monk was first brewed in the hills by an actual monk, because living in a monastery is so boring that watching sugarcane ferment seems like legit entertainment. Old Monk is made using the moustache hair of a military officer ranked no lower than a Colonel, and the tears of a first-year engineering student who just got dumped and in response, will spend the next four years wearing the classic T-shirt that says ‘99% of gurlz are beautiful….. the rest are in my college’.
  1. Old Monk is manufactured in Ghaziabad, a city that shares a border with Delhi and is known for its wide variety of kidnappings. It likes to say that it’s part of the Delhi-NCR region in the same way that Kambli likes to tell people that he’s Sachin’s best friend.
  1. Old Monk was the largest selling dark rum in the world for years and is India’s most loved export since Anil Kapoor’s English at the Oscars. Oddly enough, the world’s finest hash also comes from India. See, that’s the kind of patriotism I can get behind. Once I’m done with these six packets of chips, that is.
  1. The large Old Monk bottle is genius design because it shows you the exact shape you’ll turn into if you don’t stop drinking. You can also smack people over the head with it when they start intellectualising the drink instead of shutting up and just drinking it. 
  1. Old Monk fans swear that it is great at curing colds and coughs, which proves that your friends will say anything to get you to drink. In every group, there’s always that one guy who will offer scientific logic like ‘See diseases are caused by germs and alcohol kills germs hence proved SO DRINK NA SAALA LADKI HAI KYA MARD BAN WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU’RE IN A COMA JUST DRINK NA BASTARD’.
  1. For some reason, Monk fans also swear that it does not give them a hangover. These people are either lying or they’re Australian. It’s amazing how, as a die-hard fan, you could be curled on a bedsheet adorned with the previous night’s partially digested nachos while your head feels like Ganesh Acharya is tap-dancing on it, and you’d still go, “Dammit, it must be something I ate.”
  1. Because Monk is primarily a guy drink, men get turned on by a woman who can chug the good stuff. So yeah, date a girl who drinks Old Monk. Date her because her sweat smells of rum and that’s hot. Date her because she can fart the opening riff to Smoke On The Water. Date her because that girl is so much like you. No wait, she is you. You are alone, and you deserve to be if you’re taking dating advice from stupid listicles.

On that note, it is time for me to step out and get my weekend drink. If you see me performing an ode to my drink, please smack me over the head.

Chicks, Vodka, Fancy Car, Abki Baar Honey Sarkar

There are times when I’m classy and there are other times, when I listen to Yo Yo Honey Singh. This usually happens at house parties, where the unwritten rule is that once the night reaches a certain hour (Drunk O’Clock), one must drop all pretences of sophistication and flail about to songs that were written under the influence of the nastiest drug possible – being Punjabi.

Thanks to these songs, I’m now aware that Punjab’s number one industry is the Wearing Sungoggal While Indoors industry, and that a woman is a machine that you pour alcohol into until sex comes out. Of course, this is probably the nicest thing that Sri Sri Yo Yo Singh has said about women, or as he likes to call them, <insert pelvic thrust here>.

The song that first made him popular, especially in the college circuit, was an underground hit called… um, sadly, the title is unprintable, but it’s a word often used to describe politicians. It was a lyrical masterpiece that compared certain body parts to aloo pakodas, and was easily the most vile set of words ever put to music. But that minor detail aside, the beat was damn catchy. And that’s been his his style ever since: rubbish lyrics surrounded by a tune that makes you drop your standards. It’s Honey Singh’s way of showing you that a lotus always blooms in filth. Then he grinds against the lotus.

Dancing to Honey Singh is like sucking on a mango or campaigning for Modi – there’s no way to appear dignified while doing it. But that’s the price you pay for jumping around to a song that goes, “Aaj blue hai paani paani paani, aur din bhi sunny sunny sunny”. That song is a work of art. You may think that by rhyming ‘sunny’ with ‘paani’, Honey Singh is trying to give Gulzar saab a seizure, but in reality, this attempt at free verse is symbolic of how Yo Yo lives his life; as a renegade who spits at the forces that hold the rest of us back, like formal education.

He displays similar bravado in his latest track, ‘Chaar Botal Vodka’, which is also his version of a blood transfusion. Here, Honey Singh opens up about his deepest desires as he croons, “I wanna hangover tonight”. So while his rivals are still singing about the fun aspects of binge-drinking, Padmashree Honey Singh has moved on to accepting the consequences of his actions, like a real man. It is truly avant-garde, making Honey the hero that Gurgaon needs, not the one it deserves.

There’s more to Honey Singh than just parties and alcohol though. At least that’s what I gathered from a recent interview, where he said that he started out by writing soulful songs about heroes like Bhagat Singh, but when most of his audience went, “Who’s Bhagat Singh yaa? Is he like a DJ?”, he gave up and wrote a couple of hundred daru-sharu hits (which took him a total of six minutes). I’m just glad that Honey Singh wasn’t around during the Raj, writing songs about historical figures, because that would get weird really quickly: 

Honey Singh: (singing)

Blue eyes


Curly fries

Nobel prize

My kachcha dries

by sunrise

I swear

Chhoti dress mein bomb lagdi mennu 

PM: Dude, stop hitting on Edwina.

There’s also a Pakistani version of Honey Singh, an imitator and a singer who calls himself – I kid you not – Yo Yo Ali Jaan. He looks like him, dresses like him and sings like him, although it must be difficult to copy Honey Singh songs in Pakistan. You can’t really do a song called ‘Chaar Botal Roohafza’. And ‘Chhoti dress mein bomb lagdi’ is just an unfortunate choice of words. (Fearing legal action over copyright issues, Yo Yo Ali Jaan recently changed his name to – again, this is true – Poko Loko Ali Jaan. It’s sweet how Pakistan steps up and makes us look good whenever we mess up, be it with Honey Singh, or cricket or democracy.)

The trailer for Honey Singh’s Bollywood debut, ‘The Xpose’, also released this week. He stars opposite Himesh Reshammiya, another guy accused of having stuff up his nose. It is going to be a terrible, terrible film, so naturally, I will watch it first day first show. Do feel free to join me. Bring four bottles of vodka.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 6th Apr 2014.)

Wine Makes The World Go Swirl Sip Spit

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s growing older. No seriously, I’m a natural. Over the course of these years, I have done many things that you do when you grow older: I’ve paid taxes, got my own place, managed to not burn down my own place and so on. But even then, something was missing – something that would make me feel truly old.

So I went to a wine tasting.

The event was one of a series of monthly evenings organised by a company that aims at educating people about the finer aspects of wine, especially the part where you spit in the faces of people who don’t drink it. Now I have nothing against wine, because it is impossible to hate a wondrous cosmic energy that helps women lose both their clothes and their standards.

But the snobbery associated with wine had always put me off. For the longest time, it just seemed like the only way you could enjoy wine is if you had a French person lodged in your throat, critiquing it for you.

This is also partly because I started drinking the hard way: as a broke college kid, in seedy bars named after Hindu gods, where if you sat around sniffing your glass and wondered what aromas you were getting from your Cannon 10000, the big Shetty dude who owned the place would stuff masala papad into a place that wasn’t your mouth, because that’s what you deserved for acting poncey. (Oh, and the aroma from that beer was always ‘Sulabh Shauchalaya’.)

But of course, things are different now, which brings us back to the wine tasting. I walked in to see elaborate questionnaires placed at every seat, which listed every wine that we’d be tasting, and under each name were about 500 aspects that one was supposed to identify, including colour depth, colour hue, clarity, aroma intensity, body, finish and body odour and toenail yellowness of guy who stomped on the grapes.

To take us through this maze, we had the help of co-host Aneesh Bhasin, who is what you would call a Serious Wine Person. Saying Aneesh likes wine is like saying Poonam Pandey has cooties. Aneesh is the kind of man who would refuse a blood transfusion if the colour of the donor’s blood didn’t match his favourite Pinot Noir (pronounced ‘ratatouille’) In fact, a major part of his job involves travelling to exotic locales for free, and drinking wine. Sort of like an alcoholic Pratibha Patil.

So anyway, after about twenty minutes of foreplay with the wine, which involved swirling, tilting, sniffing and basically getting to know the wine to the point where I was about to confess my deepest fears to it, we finally chugged tasted the wine. My reaction differed slightly from that of the expert:

Aneesh: Hmmm… I detect a moderate amount of rose, and some strawberry on the nose. There’s a hint of lychee in here, as well as subdued hues of melon and pineapple, not to mention a whiffling of escargot and the taste of L’Arc de Triomphe, marinated in a Monet of the joie de vivre of the bourgeoisie of the Viva La Resistance. Ashish, what do you think?

Me: Grapes. There’s definitely grapes in here.


Me: Oh, and sunlight! I’m sure sunlight was involved!

I got better with the second wine, which was a Trapiche Pinot Grigio (pronounced ‘Chardonnay’) Aneesh’s assessment was “mango”, while my opinion was “hospital disinfectant”. We compromised on “mango grown in a bed pan”.

As the evening progressed, things became less about paperwork and more about getting drunk, which is also how Parliament functions. We sampled wines from across the world, including one from Africa, which tasted of Bono’s tears.

All in all, it was a superb evening and a fun Bombay thing to do if you’re a fan of wine, or of waking up the next day and exhaling enough alcohol to power a Mars rover. After all, it’s about discovering new things. Or as the French put it, “Zinedine Zidane”.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 26th August 2012. Cross-posted from here.)