When wine flowed like water

The denizens of a certain Indian state enjoy their daily tipple. In fact it has the highest per capita alcohol consumption in India. Perhaps it has something to do with the tourists, both Indian as well as international, making a beeline for its back waters.

It is a fact that anything related to alcohol makes news here. 

When any region in the world is faced with unprecedented rains and flooding, the social media is flooded with stories of survival, stories of rescue and the like. But in this state, in addition to people related survival and rescue stories, alcohol too made its presence felt on social media.

Yes, you read that right. Once on a rainy Saturday morning, when I myself was recovering from a hangover from Friday excesses, my mobile pinged a notification. When I opened it, a video unfolded before my eyes. It was a video from this very state trying to recover itself from flooding. 

I saw a person bent over a flyover, trying to rescue someone or something from the flooded street below. A lot of bystanders nearby were making a big hullabaloo and running around the rescuer in circles. Many instructions were barked out, everyone advising the rescuer on the best way of rescue. My admiration went up a notch. Not only were they rescuing someone, they were determined that the rescuee shouldn’t get injured in the process; no, not even a scratch.

It seems, the rescuer wasn’t able to reach all the way down but was he discouraged? No. He removed his garment covering his legs and tied it to something. I think there was another good Samaritan below too. Finally their partnership succeeded and everyone on the flyover got involved in pulling up the parcel. As soon as they could catch hold of the basket carrying whatever was being rescued, a huge cry of triumph went across the flyover. The basket was lowered with the greatest care, the covers were opened…and many hands plunged inside. When they emerged from the basket, the mystery was resolved. Each hand was now the proud owner of an alcohol bottle! Whether it was beer, whiskey or rum, that’s not important. What’s important is the brotherhood shown; there was no pushing or shoving, everyone was happy with one. Such is the unifying power of alcohol.

That was then.

Today was another day when it made news here. I woke up and fetched the daily newspaper. And my groggy eyes widened on reading a story on the front page. It went like this –

Anitha woke up as she always did, at the stroke of 6.00 am. Afterall she had to prepare the breakfast and food for her office going husband, Anil and their two school going daughters. When she turned on the tap and blindly splashed water on her eyes, she let out a bloodcurdling scream. Anil and both daughters woke up with a start. Anil bolted from the bed and rushed to the bathroom. Relieved to see his wife standing but holding her palms to her eyes, he asked, “What happened?”

“The water…the water”, she screamed. “It’s burning my eyes”.

Anil opened the tap and was shocked to find brown water flowing. “The water seems to be brown. Let me check the other taps.”

He checked and saw brown water flowing everywhere. He let it flow for some time, thinking that some rust must have been dislodged. But no, the brown water continued to flow. 

“I think, let’s check with our neighbours, the Nairs”, said Anitha, whose eyes had stopped burning now.

The same phenomenon was repeated at the Nairs. In fact, the same phenomenon repeated throughout their housing society. 

Everyone collected in the building lobby below. A few men went towards the common tap. Mr. Nair, who was the adventurous type, tasted the water. Taking one sip, his eyes lit up. He asked Anil to taste, who did likewise. But unable to bear, Anil threw up.

With a poker face, Mr. Nair said, “I think it’s whiskey. Anil is a teetotaller, that’s why he couldn’t stand it.”

Just then, few others tasted too. Someone said, “It’s not whiskey, it’s rum.” While a few others claimed it tasted like beer. However everyone reached to the conclusion that it’s alcohol which was flowing through the taps. Though most were happy with these state of affairs, their suppressed fantasy coming true, they realised that for day to day living, water is better, especially when one is living with the family.

So they decided to complain to the authorities. Finally the authorities were able to pinpoint the exact cause, and the culprit was… the authorities themselves. The Excise officials to be precise. 

They were in possession of an old stock of various types of liquor, recovered almost 6 years back, from a raid on a bar, which happened to be in the neighborhood of the affected apartment building. The Excise officials had tried to destroy the stock by digging a pit on the bar premises and pouring the liquor into it. Unfortunately, the delinquent liquid found a way into the neighbouring well, which was being used as a water supply source for the occupants of the building. 

Thus arose, the happy state of affairs. 

It is whispered that whenever some grief falls on the denizens of the state, alcohol rises to subdue all darkness and restore happy hours.

Yatindra Tawde

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