When you imagine grandmothers, the vision you conjure up tends to be of a frail and fragile woman, voice raspy with experience. But not a Bengali grandmother. Whether they are young or 'young at heart' they all have the might of a lumberjack (no seriously, why does my dadi insist on bringing home logs from the local park to stash away in her shed?) If you've ever heard a foghorn, dadis tend to be several decibels higher and that's when you're within a five foot radius. I haven't even lived long enough to witness what happens when you get on their bad side.
The point I'm trying to get at is: Bengali grandmothers are a force to be reckoned with.
Even though my dadi has lived in England for forty odd years, she has managed to pick up the words but can't read it at all. That didn't stop her from being the life of a party. You'll have to drag her out of a ten-times-removed-cousin's kitty party by the end of her saree. These functions are usually teeming with snacks and desserts and drinks made generously by guests, so it wasn't out of the ordinary that when it came to her turn to host, her friends brought over a bottle of ginger ale (her favourite!) Despite being told by everyone around her to take it easy on the sugar, my dadi downs fizzy drinks like a drain. Her exact words are: "I'm going to have to die some day, might as well enjoy myself on the way!"
The following day when I went to visit, she was bedridden and had a horrible headache. Nobody could figure out why. Maybe she ate something that went off last night? Or maybe she was exhausted from having guests around? She may be old but she's one hell of a trooper, little sniffles like that rarely keep her down! She was finding it hard to walk in a straight line, slurring her words, laying slumped on the sofa with the living room curtains drawn. We just couldn't get to the bottom of it.
That is- until my uncle checked the fridge. At first glance, it looked like cloudy apple juice, or as my dadi assumed, ginger ale. There, lining the cool compartments were three plastic bottles of Morrison's medium dry cider. For the first time in 74 years, she was not only blind drunk but had a whopper of a hangover! Although she did not find this funny in the least, and I'm sure God will forgive her (and her equally unknowing relatives), this is probably the story I will share with my children. That their great-grandmother single handedly drank a bottle of cider, got her friends tipsy in the process and lived to tell the tale.
Moral of the story? Always read labels carefully.