Old Wine in New Bottle
We're a family of wine drinkers. Anyone who really knows us, and
the fact that we are absolutely not corruptible (ahem!) will
also know that at a pinch, they might be able to bribe us with a
good red wine. So when guests come in from abroad among the
other gifts they stagger in with, is the usual quota of bottles
- without which they are afraid they might not be accommodated
in the Ranganathan household.
Like vultures we fall on the bounty but then unlike vultures and
more like squirrels, we proceed to hoard it, and hoard it ...
and hoard it and once in a while (actually in the "winter"
months) we decide to open a bottle and enjoy it sitting on the
balcony, watching the sea.
Yesterday was one of those days. My mother decided it was "time"
so she brought out this bottle of French wine from our stock
which looked so good you would be forgiven for ending up with a
shirt front soaking with dribble. So then dad gets out the
bottle opener and sticks it into the cork and twists the handle
and twists and twists and twists and ... nothing happens. (If
you're getting the feeling by now that this is the story of my
life, you might be forgiven - the phrase just seems to describe
me and my life so well).
So Dad twists the handle of the bottle opener some more and I
watch him with bated breath and cross my fingers and continue to
watch and ... nothing happens. He twists some more, some more,
some more and ... the cork begins to crumble.
Disaster! A French wine about to go down the drain before our
eyes? I scold my dad for using the Rs. 25 bottle opener he
bought in Goa, on an expensive bottle of imported wine. "You
should have used a proper French bottle opener," I tell him
Dad says sadly, "There are two lying in the drawer." But it is
too late. Anyway, Dad is so used to my furious glares, he has
learnt to cope with them in an expert fashion (the same way he
does with my mother's constant reprimands about his untidiness,
his absent mindedness, his inability to listen and about 687
other major faults) by choosing to ignore it all.
To get back to the bottle. Mum assures us that there is nothing
wrong with the Goan bottle opener, she used it on a bottle of
Indian red wine recently and it worked just fine. So yes, in
fact we do notice now, that the problem has to do with the cork
- and conclude that even seemingly good French wines can
occasionally be plugged with rotten corks.
By now half the cork is lying in little bits on the table and
the rest of it is slowly crumbling into the bottle. It seems
most unlikely that we will be able to pull this one out at all,
at least not with the conventional method. We are finally forced
to somehow wrench out the opener and to use a sharp knife to get
at the remnants of the cork. You can guess the rest. The
moth-eaten bit of cork which remains in the neck of the bottle
quietly disintegrates and sinks in ... And we do the only thing
that is possible for us to do. Strain the wine through a square
of muslin and store it in an empty bottle of "Old Monk" rum.
Dad fills up our glasses and a few minutes after this heart
rending struggle has come to an end, we sit on the balcony with
our wine and take a sip. And we sip on contentedly. Don't know
if it is just that we are tired from our efforts. But the wine