Dec 2, 2009
Nothing in Nature’s sober found
But an eternal Health goes round.
Fill up the Bowl then, fill it high –
Fill all Glasses there; for why
Should every Creature drink but I?
Why Man of Morals, tell me why?
- Abraham Cowley, Welsh poet (1618-1667).
Prohibition comes natural to humankind, starting from parents forbidding “no”s to toddlers. But, despite the utter failure of Prohibition in many countries, including USA and our own Bharat, there are killjoys who, under the skirt of obscure laws, enforce de facto prohibition in the guise of cumbersome and burdensome rules. The latest instance is the resurrection of some rules to ban serving alcohol in halls and outdoor function venues like lawns without a series of permits and permissions from the Excise and Police departments. (Daijiworld broke this exclusive story recently). We are being pushed into the kingdom of killjoys.
Alcohol, in its many avatars, has been part of celebrations, individually and collectively. The Bible (Corinthians XV 32) says: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”. Echoing the same sentiment, John Fletcher, English dramatist (1576-1625), said:
Drink today and drown all sorrow;
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow.
It is not that the babus and cops want to save the citizenry from getting high. More the rules, greater the opportunity to blackmail for bribes. When you are caught for drunken driving, you are pulled aside and you have a chance to get yourself released quietly after you suitably grease the palms of the cops. There is no public scene created. But, when your grand function, with hundreds of guests having a gala time, is raided, your prestige and name are on the block – because, as host you would be the first to be arrested with the guests watching the drama. I should know because I had a close shave on this account.
Not getting a hall in the December-end wedding season, I organized the reception for my daughter, Primrose, on the lawns of Western India Hockey Association, just outside the Churchgate Station in Mumbai. Mumbai has the rules – now proposed to be enforced in Karnataka, in force. I spent much time in getting the permit, with the conditions of it highly daunting. The day of the wedding, I met the top Excise official and got an assurance of no raid.
However, when the function was in progress and everybody was happily loaded and dancing, a posse of policemen rushed into the venue and headed for the bar which also hosted the music system. As I took in the situation and started sweating, the police party slinked back quicker than they had come in. It turned out that the then Police Commissioner, Ronnie Mendonca, an invitee, had entered the venue. It also turned out that the cops had come responding to the complaints of nearby residents about the loud music played. Ronnie Mendonca told me to lower the volume and everything went on without further hitch. But, I still think of the potential risk of an Excise raid and the large ransom I might have had to pay to save the day.
Let us now picture the scenarios that would emerge to beat the new rules. During the Prohibition era, hip nips were the rage. They were metal bottles, like the flat quarter bottles of today but more flat and wide, and fitted snugly in the hip pocket of pants. Whether to have the liquid neat, in one go or in installments, depended on ground conditions and the tolerance threshold of the escorted female partner. But, can you imagine cops tapping the bottoms of hundreds of males for their bribes. Today, most have vehicle –two-wheelers or four-wheelers. These can host the bottles of alcohol and soda or pre-mixed concoction and one can visit the vehicle just as one goes to the toilet to relieve – in this case to reinforce. Again, imagine police checking every vehicle parked to extract their bribe – rather than going out to catch the robbers and terrorists. Better still, in these days of ubiquitous bottled water, all you have to do is to take your premix of soda and vodka (colourless) strait to the hall or lawn and down the liquid at your ease.
I foresee other ways out. The old mantap in the forecourt will make a royal return. While the ceremonies go on in the mantap, your bedroom will be turned into a bar room – as you are free to entertain in your home. For the future, architects might include a bar room in your plan for a cottage or bungalow. In the existing cottages or flats the pooja or altar rooms may be turned into bar rooms – as the gods and deities are more tolerant and wink at human frailties. Eventually, benders will go to such home bars, by turn, rather than regular bars where prices are loaded to recover the killing licence fees. There would be car bars which will need thousands of cops to police and the risk of the lone cop out to collect his bribe being assaulted.
I want to end singing hosannas for alcohol:
Drinking will make a man quaff,
Quaffing will make a man sing,
Singing will make a man laugh,
And laughing long life doth bring,
Says old Solomon the King.
Alcohol is a direct route to heaven: If you drink, you go to sleep; if you go to sleep, you commit no sin; if you commit no sin, you go to heaven; so, drink and go to heaven! You can apply the same logic to procreation and you have your solution to population control!
They say that a donkey can go without a drink for a fortnight. But, who wants to be a donkey? Cheers to that!
Cops with pants down!
In the Prohibition era in Bharat, the bootleggers had a cozy arrangement with the cops – protection against hafta. If they had to raid the bootleggers, the cops would forewarn, and the decks will be cleared. They would, however, take with them, unofficially, some stock for their personal consumption But, the cops became greedy and to blackmail the bootlegger, planned a raid without warning. But this didn’t go well with one of the cops who thought it was namak haram – biting the hand that feeds. So, this cop informed the bootlegger about the planned secret raid. The bootlegger generously laced his stock with a strong purgative salt. The cops celebrated their raid by greedily downing the illicit hooch. The whole police force at the station had to Q up at the only toilet they had –with their pants down!
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website www.welcometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).
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