Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXV No. 9, August 16-31, 2015

Short N Snappy

To prohibit or not

Everyone has gotten on to the wagon. Or should The Man from Madras Musings say the bandwagon? He alludes to the recent snowballing support for declaring our beloved State and City completely dry. Nature, or what we did to it, has already made the region water-free and now the powers-that-once-were and the powers-that-want-to-be-in-power are building a groundswell of opinion in favour of completely abolishing the other fluid – the one that cheers. To Hell With TASMAC appears to be their motto. It is noteworthy, however, that the power-that-is is completely silent on the subject.

MMM, who is abstemious to a degree (his only weakness in the wine, women and song trio is the last named), could not care less either way but he does have a kind heart and would like to point out to the lobby that demands the ban on brandy, the whisking away of whisky and abolition of arrack that without these essential commodities, our State may come to a complete halt. For, just as Napoleon (or was it Wellington?) said that an army marches on its stomach, our State and our City operate well only when considerably lubricated.

Take for instance that mega festival that happens once every five years – the general election. How can this be a spirited affair without the distribution of spirits? In the absence of this perquisite, the cadre will be dispirited and newspapers cannot claim that the campaign ended on a high note. In short, the zigzag path to the hustings will be filled with hiccups.

The only option would then be to brew the stuff illegally. MMM has no personal experience but he is informed by those that are in the know that the formula for these home-remedies is taken directly from the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (fillet of a fenny snake, fingers of a strangled babe, etc.) and the end-result is invariably double double toil and trouble. The potion gives such a kick to those that imbibe it that they permanently move to a higher abode.

Another option would be to take a tip from the wildebeest of Africa that migrate in large numbers in search of watering holes. In this Madras that is Chennai is singularly blessed for it has well endowed neighbours on both sides – the French town that has pretentions of being a State, and the IT metropolis that thinks it still is a garden city. MMM predicts that it won’t be long before our tipplers begin planning visits to these cities on the slightest pretexts.

MMM has had experience of living in other cities that temporarily went dry for various politically correct reasons (these moves are never altruistic). Those who HAD to drink every day in these places were advised to get a medical certificate that stated that they needed to imbibe in order to stay alive. This in turn translated into what was called a permit, which rapidly became the most precious document possible, spawning a whole corruption industry in its procurement. The application form in the national language of the north was evidently created by a rabid dry. The first column asked the applicant to fill in ‘The Alcoholic’s Name’ and the second one ‘Name of Father of Alcoholic’. These terms alone, it was said, turned several hopefuls permanently away from the bottle. As they say, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Dry tales

The possibility of Prohibition also brings to the mind of The Man from Madras Musings the several interesting happenings that took place when our State was last dry. That was during the time the Old Monk had a lot of influence – and by that MMM alludes to the venerable old sage (if you believed Kalki magazine) and wily old fox (if you trusted the Dravidian parties). It was during his tenure that State-wide Prohibition first came into effect and then it remained in force off and on till the early 1970s when the very Dravidian party that Old Monk helped bring to power and which had by then elevated him to the status of Teacher and gave him a Royal Salute, decided to wet the state with a vengeance. The Old Monk took it up as a Royal Challenge but he was told to drown his sorrows in a butt of malmsey, as Shakespeare would have said. The venerable sage retired in high dudgeon thereafter, his spirit corked and was ever bitter thereafter.

It was, however, when Prohibition was in force that it was noted that busloads of seemingly enormously pregnant women were coming in from neighbouring la Francaise towne to our city. Closer inspection revealed that the ladies were all of an advanced age and could not be in an advanced stage of pregnancy. A still closer inspection showed that the reason for the embonpoint was a tube that was wound around the stomach and carried precious liquids. The ladies were let off after a strict warning which, MMM is sure, they obeyed. Not that there were no official outlets. These required the aforementioned permit and the vending contracts for these outlets were highly profitable. It is not as though nobody benefited from Prohibition.

Prohibition times were also when those manning air and seaports were much in demand as also were those who were fly out to the Emerald Isle just south. These men, known colloquially as sparrows because of the short flights they took at enormous risk, invariably returned with goodies that did you good. And given that those were days when electronic surveillance devices had not yet made their entry, it was easy to slip in a cask or two. Capture invariably meant the caging of the sparrow for a temporary period but then there were always plenty of others. As to the commodity they brought in, these were immediately confiscated and were supposed to be destroyed. But if that did happen, those manning air and seaports would not have been in demand, would they?


Foreigners were exempt from such laws. And they too found their popularity skyrocketing overnight. Given that we were just emerging from our post-independence xenophobia, this was surprising. But then alcohol, like the politics that is currently driving the demand for prohibition, makes strange bedfellows.


And while on the subject of Prohibition, what do you think of the picture reproduced below? The person who sent it to The Man from Madras Musings says that it is on the banks of the Cooum but MMM has his doubts. In the meanwhile – cheersh as they say in Madras.


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