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

A trip to Adivare

It was supposed to be an extended family visit but due to various genuine reasons, the other family members couldn’t make it but we decided to proceed.We had booked by Tejas Express from Thane to Ratnagiri, which is an early morning train and due to my mistake, we reached Thane station still earlier. The train reaches Thane station at 6.25 am. but I had misread it as 5.25 am. and had to face angry, sleepy stares from my wife and daughter. But since there was no other option, we waited it out for the train to arrive. Thankfully the train was on time so the wait did not extend for long.Tejas Express is one of the best trains in india and we were impressed with the spacious and clean interiors as well as the catering service. I must mention the excellent masala tea which was served. Very invigorating indeed.We reached Ratnagiri station on time. I have seen Ratnagiri station so many times but it still fascinates me, the way it has been constructed, gouged out of a small mound and retains an old world charm.After having a simple but tasty veg lunch at my company guest house and after freshening ourselves up, we moved to Ratnagiri ST Bus stop where we spent an eternity awaiting our bus for Adivare, to arrive. Every bus which came into the bus stand seemed like ‘our bus’ only to disappoint us with the town nameplate displayed at the front. Finally ‘our bus’ did arrive after almost 1.5 hours (@40 km.) and we were on the way. The short journey of approximately 1 hour was spent in catching up on our sleep.Why Adivare? Someone might ask as it is not on every tourist’s tourism goal. Well it happens to be the town which hosts the Kuldevi of the Tawde family, Maha Kali. In fact, in addition to Maha Kali Devi, it also hosts Maha Saraswati Devi and Maha Laxmi Devi. In addition to this, the Tawde extended family (all Tawde’s located anywhere in the world, irrespective of their native villages) have contributed to build a very elegant and imposing Tawde Wada (Tawde Atithi Bhavan), which is located off the Ratnagiri-Adivare road at a distance of @2 km. from Adivare towards Ratnagiri. This Tawde Wada was supposed to be our abode for the next 2 days.Though we had seen photos of Tawde Wada many times before, nothing had prepared us for the imposing red structure which greeted us, as we entered through the gates. The huge swords and shield which adorn the imposing, front facade give a fort-like feel to the already formidable construction. The central portion is occupied by a huge hall which also serves as a temple for Shree Saptakoteshwar (a form of the Lord Shiva), the Kuldaivat of the Tawde family. As the small reception desk is also in this hall, you have to remove your footwear outside and enter.We were warmly welcomed by the ever smiling caretaker, Mr. Sawant who registered us and then guided us to our room. After freshening up and resting for a while, we were outside to admire and explore the exquisite building.The lawns in front are very well maintained and so is the driveway. Though a huge structure, there are only 8 rooms which flank the huge hall in the centre, four on the lower level and four on the top. The construction itself reminds you of Rajasthani havelis, though there are no intricate carvings or designs. The building itself is made using laterite stone. It is apparent that the focus of the Architect was to give an exclusive feeling to discerning connoisseurs rather than maximising profits, which would be the main aim of any ordinary hotel.The homely atmosphere is further strengthened by very down to earth staff who are helpful and ever smiling. We had sumptuous veg meals on both days which reminded us of homemade food.On the second day, we proceeded to the Maha Kali temple in Adivare by an autorickshaw in the morning. The peaceful surroundings and no crowd allowed us to proceed with our prayers at a gentle pace. The highlight of the temple is the brightly painted, intricate carvings on wooden ceiling of the temple.In the same complex there is a Shiva temple which is said to be very ancient. A huge anthill from the floor, right upto the ceiling, occupies one corner of this temple which is said to be the abode of a cobra. A sighting of this cobra is said to be very auspicious.There is also a Ram temple in this complex where we prayed for the wellbeing of all.From Adivare, we proceeded to another temple nearby, the Sri Dev Kanakaditya temple which is dedicated to the Sun God and located in Kasheli village. It is one of the few remaining Sun temples in India. The murti is tejasvi (lustrous) and the entire temple complex is recently renovated. Beautiful and highly polished wooden carvings and pillars grant this temple a serene atmosphere.The story associated with this temple is very intersting. It is said that the main murti has been brought here from Prabhaspatan in Gujarat and here is the story -Many centuries back, a businessman from Prabhaspatan was proceeding on some business trip by a ship and he was carrying with him a murti of Sun God on the ship which was handed over to him for safe keeping by a priest of the Sun temple in Prabhaspatan. Once the ship reached the sea near the Kasheli village, it refused to budge! It did not go further so he instructed the seaman to reverse it but to no avail. One night, the Sun God appeared in his dreams and instructed him to take him to the shore. Early next morning, the businessman proceeded to take the murti onto the shore and established the idol in a small cave. Once this was done, the businessman was able to proceed further on the trip on his ship.Now it was the turn of the Kanaka, an ardent devotee of the Sun God, and a resident of Kasheli, to get a dream. The Sun God appeared in her dream and told her about his arrival on the shore and asked her to search for the cave which she dutifully did, alongwith the other villagers. With great pomp and gaiety, Sri Dev Kanakaditya was brought to his current location in the village and installed. The temple is said to have been constructed by the Shilahaar dynasty and there is an ancient tamrapat (copper plate) in the temple which establishes the ancient origins.The rest of the trip was rest and relaxation and then we were on the way back to Mumbai.Yatindra Tawde