Last time around, I had written about the highway liquor ban and even before the ink had dried on it, another state (proudly) claimed to be on the path to implementing complete prohibition while another tried to outdo it by claiming to clamp down on all partying by 10 pm everyday. The knee-jerk nature of these half-thought-out decisions almost appears to be the brainwork of a puerile mind. They lack maturity and almost give away a gross lack of understanding of the real problem at hand.
That prohibition has never worked is well known to us. History, time and again, has borne testimony to the failure of this device to control drinking, or drunkenness. If anything, it empowered the mafia to an unprecedented extent and led to the killing of thousands on account of consuming spurious liquor.
As for playing warden and ensuring everyone is in bed well before midnight is, again, an illogical notion. People who wish to stay up, drink and dance will find a way, always. Laws, then, are not like dams, but mere stones, which may momentarily obstruct the path of the flowing river, but eventually, the river will find another outlet around it. The force of collective choice is always stronger than any external imposition. But before I blame the lawmakers any more, or at all, I think it’s important to stress on the culture of alcohol, one that is among the oldest surviving traditions in all parts of the world, even predating many civilisations. We were drinking long before we were clothed or adequately settled. Back then, sapiens drank for sustenance, not just a weekend kick. Alcohol not only prevented disease and aided digestion—as also killing harmful bacteria that may have been present in the food—it also insulated against the cold and was the only product that could be stored for longer than a few days without fear of spoilage or contamination.
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It is this sense of imbibing that has remained ingrained in our DNA. We are almost programmed to receive alcohol in our diet in one way or another. Now, for those who argue that one can perfectly subsist without drinking as much as a drop of alcohol, all I can say is that we can equally easily stay alive without taking in any food either, living off mere sunshine and water, but it isn’t that great an idea now, is it?
That said, we do need controls—checks and stops to ensure that our one evening of irresponsible consumption doesn’t become detrimental to others around us. What we then need is a stronger implementation of the laws that exist. Stricter controls over drinking and driving, no tolerance for alcohol-related abuse or crime, and checks to ensure that spurious alcohol doesn’t manage to exist. We need to increase governance even as we lower taxes. To deny ourselves the fact that Indians don’t drink is to disillusion ourselves gravely and such blind leaders can’t helm the future of our nation.
I have never broached the same topic over two consecutive scribbles, but this time, as the entire liquor industry stands threatened—the ripple effects of which will equally severely damage the hospitality and, consequently, the tourism industry—we are on the threshold of a serious self-inflicted wound, one that will regress us by a few centuries. Again, I am not canvassing for drunkenness or irresponsible inebriation; merely trying to highlight the fact that alcohol is not the devil. It has been part of human nature since time immemorial. Only once we embrace this idea can we expect to write laws, which are capable of tackling the menace that an excess can possess. By ignoring it and trying to hide behind unjustified religious reasons and other sentiment, we are leading ourselves down a dark, decrepit abyss.
The writer is a sommelier