I went out yesterday morning to buy some beer. Before the state government took over the liquor business, one could enter a respectable place and choose from a fairly wide selection of Indian liquor (no wine, though, even though there is quite decent Indian wine, and even though liquor stores are called Wine Shops).
Now, though, the liquor stores are filthy, with only the cheapest brands on sale, and are apparently intended to convey the message that if you keep alcohol in your home you are destined for one of the lower circles of hell. Drink in hotels or clubs (independent restaurants aren’t allowed to sell alcohol): fine. Drink at home: hell.
I went to a Wine Shop on the corner of Mandaveli High Road and C.P. Ramaswamy Road, because I was headed to Cinema Paradiso. I walked inside the gate. A group of what the Indian press used to call boozards clustered around the doorless opening to the Wine Shop. To the left was a makeshift stall featuring some kind of bright orange-red fried snacks. I walked through the assemblage to the counter, told the man inside that I wanted Kingfisher beer, which fortunately he had, and waited while he hauled a case from the back of the small room.
As I stood there, I felt a tapping on my shoulder. I turned, and a horrible-looking, toothless fellow grinned at me and said, “Hello, Madam.” I said quietly in Tamil, “Don’t touch me.” He immediately stepped back, and one of his comrades said, “Sorry, Madam.” I paid for my beer and carried it out to my car. It was nothing at all, really, it ended almost as it began; yet it upset me.
I would be grateful if someone could tell me a) where to find a decent Wine Shop in Chennai with a good selection; and b) why the Government took over this business in the first place. They were already auctioning off licenses to run the Wine Shops for large sums, and there is already a tax on every bottle sold. Why did they need to take over alcohol retailing?
The beer was good. But that’s another story.