Dry way ahead

Three dry days are coming up — this Saturday (September 29, Anant Chathurthi), next Tuesday (October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday) and October 8 (end of prohibition week). Having realised that a lot of beer will need to be stocked up on, the search for a logical reason justifying the origin of dry days began. Unfortunately, nothing surprising came up. The government’s aim apparently is to avoid any violence on these days because the rest of the time, we usually walk around in camouflage pants and war paint. But MK Gandhi’s book, Key To Health, explains where this decision probably came from.

Published in 1948, the book clearly defined the legend’s stance on drinking: “Alcohol makes a man forget himself and while its effects last, he becomes utterly incapable of doing anything useful.” Thankfully, he didn’t say anything about women.

In 1937, while propagating prohibition, Gandhi used to write articles for his newspaper, Harijan. As per an excerpt published by the South Asian Research Centre For Advertisement, Journalism and Cartoons (yes, cartoons!), he said while referring to the revenues generated from liquor sales: “Excise makes people pay for their own corruption, moral, mental and physical.” He also said, “Thus prohibition means a type of adult education of the nation and not merely a closing of grog shops.” And he mentioned in another similar article in 1947: “It is criminal to spend the income from the sale of intoxicants on the education of the nation’s children or other public services. The government must overcome the temptation of using such revenue for nation-building purposes.” Now imagine overcoming the temptation of spending “just R19,581 crore”, which according to a recent newspaper report is what the excise department in Maharashtra earned during 2005-2010.

It’s less shocking now that October 2 is a dry day. Though, in 2008, the fact that our country attempted to make Gandhi’s birth anniversary a global dry day was a bit much.

Luckily, like most farfetched government decisions, this one too didn’t work out. If this still doesn’t cheer you up, think of those 6,000-odd people who comprise the entire population of Moore County in Tennessee (USA). The citizens of this dry county not only have to travel miles to buy a bottle of booze, but they also have the world-famous Jack Daniel’s distillery located within sight to taunt them every day. Now this is what can be called a tough life.


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