Alcohol has been the unfailing social ointment for civilisation for millennia. To try and confine its potential is short-sightedness on our part.
It took me a while naming this column, mostly because alcohol to me isn’t a conundrum at all. In fact, it’s lucidity at its crystal clearest. Alcohol isn’t the problem, it is the solution—also ‘a’ solution, as the old (poor) joke goes.
And yet, here we are, scrambling for a bottle, a half-consumed nip, or a pint of something old and dusty. The day the shops opened, we forgot all our social distancing promises and swooped in like a swarm of locusts… what, too soon?
But alcohol is an essential. That much stands established. The powers that be can keep harping on about the benefits of abstinence, but nobody’s really convinced. If it isn’t the masses looking for a small fix to dilute the reality around them, it is the state exchequer wailing the loss of his/her biggest revenue churner! And yet, we keep it locked up.
Now, I do buy the reason that we risk provoking more alcohol-related abuse during these times, times when people are feeling weak and anxieties are at an all-time high. To introduce alcohol to the mix could be just the spark that this inflammable pile needs. In order to curb the police being distracted from their main task at hand, maybe it was considered prudent to keep us sober and tamed.
But that’s abuse. How about civil consumption? Surely, the majority of people don’t drink alcohol to simply unleash mayhem. There is a case to be made for easing of the nerves, better sleep, more social exchanges. Alcohol has been the unfailing social ointment for civilisation for millennia. To try and confine its potential now is short-sightedness on our part.
The trouble is that the people whom we elect as our representatives come from an upbringing which is much more old-school than most of us city dwellers. Their system of ideals roots from a reality that was jaded even a few centuries ago and yet they can’t seem to stir themselves awake. Add to this the religious angle and we have the worst case of a mindset clog blocking the system from functioning smoothly.
Now, I am not saying that alcohol solves all problems. Alcohol to me is a vestige of power, which implies that it comes with a mighty set of responsibilities. To be able to enjoy alcohol, we need to learn to harness it, not abuse it. And education is only possible when the subject is not a precious commodity that incites us to hoard it or consume it greedily when available. The free flow of alcohol encourages socially responsible usage just like cellular services. It was only once the services were democratised and made affordable did India truly harness the power of mobility.
So alcohol needs to be regulated, not regimented. The taxes from alcohol were already running the country—politicians really need to face up to this sober reality before they make their next speech arguing the case for teetotalism. Instead, get economists to run models on how to open up home delivery and give the country’s GDP the jumpstart it needs.
On a lighter note, I have been completely taken by the ways that brands in the hospitality space are finding ways to reach out to their clients while remaining empathetic and very cognisant of the fact that we are all stuck at home socialising virtually and often with limited alcohol at hand. From having DJ sets being played out live on their channels to recipe classes with their chefs and mixologists, it’s all very fun and varied. The duo behind Fig and Maple win this round for me, as they have been sending out their unique cocktail kits that come as alcohol-free mixes, which just need to be spiked up with the poison of your choice and are good for a round for four. I think the pandemic has pushed us into survival mode so hard it has woken up our creative muscle and we are flexing it like never before.
The writer is a sommelier.