The world of drunks
K S S Pillai
All religions prohibit alcohol drinking in a civilized society. The habit is regarded as ‘the work of Satan’, and the believers are called upon to shun it.
It is a fact that one who drinks an excess of alcohol loses his ability to think straight, let alone walk. The media are full of reports of drunk people indulging in all kinds of criminal activities they will never indulge in when they are sober.
They beat the womenfolk, kill or commit suicide for not giving money for drinks, and do many such things. Several affluent people are reduced to penury due to the habit. While the lawyers defending such criminals plead for leniency, blaming alcohol for their actions, the de-addiction centres are full of people brought there to get rid of the habit.
Most governments make a quick buck by taking advantage of this habit of people. The lion’s share of their revenue comes from taxes on ‘sin goods’ like alcohol and tobacco products.
In states like Kerala, which pays the highest daily wages even to unskilled workers due to militant trade unionism, long queues are seen throughout the day before state-run liquor outlets. Those standing patiently in lines do not care about religious texts calling the habit of drinking the “vice of the wealthy rather than that of the poor.”
Some states reluctantly impose prohibition due to their association with the Father of the Nation. Since most people believe in eating and drinking what they like, getting the banned items, though at a higher price, is not difficult even in these states.
The consumers are safe because many suppliers are law enforcement officers earning an extra buck while off duty. Some states have small Union Territories adjacent to them, but several influential people are against merging them with their states as they are the closest legal watering holes.
Drunkards provide some light moments, too. One common sight in Kerala during the Onam festival is that of drunks sleeping on roadsides in strange postures. One comment at the bottom of such a photograph recently was: See how sad the people are after their erstwhile king Mahabali went back after visiting them!
The other day, I was amused to read a story about a drunk gentleman disproving the theory that drunks cannot think properly. He was driving his car late one night when he saw the police checking to see whether people were driving drunk.
He stopped his car immediately, left the driver’s seat, and took a seat behind. When a policeman approached, he said the driver had run away upon seeing the police. The sympathetic officer in charge asked a cop to drive him home!
I know another man who used to run a tea shop in my village. The only alcohol available was the coconut toddy sold in the village toddy shop. He would visit the shop every night to have toddy along with the tasty dishes prepared by the women working there. While returning home late at night, he would sing at the top of his voice.
On reaching the road in front of the house of the headmaster of the local high school, a strict disciplinarian, he would go silent and resume his songs only after leaving that house far behind.
Later, the government issued licence to the highest bidders for opening arrack shops. One was opened in the field in front of my home. The worshippers of Bacchus would start arriving early in the morning. Ignoring the quotes in religious books, “Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks,” they would have their first dose of alcohol in the shop and return many more times during the course of the day. One welcome outcome was that I could meet many classmates in front of my house during my infrequent visits home.
An interesting argument in favour of drunks is that they usually speak the truth, while people tell lies in courts of law after swearing on religious books.
(The author is a retired professor of English. A regular contributor to ‘The Kashmir Vision’, his articles and short stories have appeared in various national and international publications)