Wine and rabbit

Drinking and meat-eating — these are two things that I never associated with Tamilians before I came to Chennai. My perception was strengthened soon after my arrival when a friend put me up at a ‘mansion’ (a bachelor’s hostel), where a board read: “No liquor allowed.” And when I was looking at newspaper ads for a house, I found several that offered apartments on rent at reasonable rates, but “only for vegetarians.” But within months my opinion was turned upside down. Chettinad restaurants serve not only mutton and chicken but also — as I discovered to my horror — pigeon and rabbit meat. Perhaps nowhere else in the country the menu card includes rabbit and pigeon. Not to mention quail.

There is a dingy booze shop I go to with colleagues every Saturday in between editions. The liquor is sold from an old house, and the courtyard of that house serves as the bar. Smoke from the dozens of cigarettes and the bar kitchen burns your eyes, and the stench — of alcohol, of fried food, of poverty, of dirt — is often unbearable. It is a different matter that alcohol soon induces anaesthesia. Evn then, I always try to sit with my back towards a cage that is kept in the courtyard. It contains quails — tiny, brown birds looking puzzled. And it is the habit of one of my colleagues to order kada fry (quail fry). When the dish appears on the table, I try not to look at the cage.

As for the habit of drinking, Chennaiites perhaps drink more than anyone else: booze shops like this can be found every half-a-kilometre in the city. They are the first to open and the last to shut. And they are open even on Independence Day! — I just found that out. After sitting on the computer for most of the afternoon, I felt like having having a drink, but I wasn’t sure if the ‘wine shop’ would be open. So I sms-ed my grocer-friend whose shop in right opposite the liquor shop: “Is the wine shop open?” Within seconds came his reply, “Yes.”

So off I go to buy some whisky, and when I am back, I shall raise a toast to Chennai Metrobloggers.

12 Comments so far

  1. phantom363 (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 10:36 pm

    well well well !! so much so for stereotypes!
    till recently, the bulk of the tamilians outside of tamil nadu were brahmins, who till the 90s, by and large eschewed booze and meat. or even if they indulged in it, it was on the sly.

    with the younger generation, it is hedonism gone wild. so it is with the rest of tamil nadu. tamil culture has always accommodated alcohol. and tamils historically are meat eaters. just like the way, we think of bengal and fish, i guess. another stereotype, but it so happens, keralites consume more per capita fish than bengalis…:)

  2. vinod (unregistered) on August 16th, 2006 @ 1:14 am

    infact the highest per capita consumption of chicken in India is in Chennai…. and the localites are hardcore non-vegetarians… brahmins are on top of that list, with so many chicken iyers and iyengars…

  3. R.S.Money (unregistered) on August 16th, 2006 @ 3:56 pm

    Acccording to the Iyers and Iyengars the poultry brought chicken non productive and not layers of even eggs; therefore of vegetarian stuff; if it is not eaten it serves no other way to public; and it would face its death in natural way without any gain or any benefit for the universe on its birth.

  4. Jacky (unregistered) on August 16th, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

    Is this going to be a series on your fallacies about chennai mythos? Every one from a different state will carry his set of fallacies along, sometimes they’re correct and sometimes they are wrong but are they are worth the metroblogging space? i dont think so cos it lacks interestingness/usefulness.

  5. hari (unregistered) on August 16th, 2006 @ 6:14 pm

    Vinod, is your statistics taken right out of your head or from a valid source, if so can you please point to the source?

  6. Bishwanath Ghosh (unregistered) on August 16th, 2006 @ 7:05 pm

    Jacky, a few points:

    1. “Worth the space?” — that’s a very valid question if one is talking about a newspaper or magazine. But there is infinite space online: just that the reader has to choose what he/she wants to read.

    2. If there were no fallacies, there would be no scope for travel writing. In fact, the word to be used here is “impressions”. Often it is the outsider who points out things that locals don’t even notice because they tend to take it for granted.

    3. If something “lacks interestingness/usefulness”, you are welcome to ignore it and move on to things that are interesting and useful.


  7. Jacky (unregistered) on August 17th, 2006 @ 1:26 am

    So you think the tone of your post was informative and not a mere rant? IMHO, rants are best kept in someones personal journal and not on metblogs. It’s not a team work, your readers will not be used to your peers standards of blogging (obviously I’m talking about informative blogging) and you can ask your readers to skip and go somewhere else if they don’t like it.
    Okay, Have fun.

  8. Divya (unregistered) on August 17th, 2006 @ 8:57 am

    Tell you what I am a Chennaiite, love my steak and my cabernet sauvignon, couldn’t live without it on Fridays. Have to let you know this “stereotype” does not have much meat to start with, I think.

  9. phantom363 (unregistered) on August 17th, 2006 @ 9:07 pm

    quoate divya: love my steak and my cabernet sauvignon, couldn’t live without it on Fridays.

    steak & cabernet in chennai? i was surprised at the poor lot of the holy cow :(. then i visited the link to your blog and discovered that your domicile was the u.s.a. okay, now that is feasible. and the american cow (no double entendre meant here) is not holy :).

  10. pooja (unregistered) on August 19th, 2006 @ 12:28 am

    there is this place called valli wines, do you know what im talking about? me and my cousins ALWAYS end up having a blast at this place, and you have my stomach growling for some good curry

  11. Victor Suresh (unregistered) on August 27th, 2006 @ 11:24 pm


    Your blogs are interesting. Keep them up.

    I am a non-vegetarian who loves vegetables. Apparently, our ancestors were strict vegetarians and its influence can be seen in the family customs. For example, we do not serve meat during weddings. Recently I was told that even those subcultures (mainly caste-based, but location all matters in defining a subculture) in Tamil Nadu that have a strong tradition of eating meat, abstain from it during housewarming ceremonies.

    Someone had commented about Tamil culture always accommodating alcohol. True, there are references to alcohol consumption even by females in a non-negative manner in ancient Tamil literature. But, I am told that there are some negative references too. The present state of alcohol consumption in Tamil Nadu is pathetic. The objective of most drinkers seems to be to get drunk the fastest at the lowest cost. This is the result of alcohol consumption being perceived as a bad habit by the Tamil society in general.

  12. arkaym (unregistered) on August 30th, 2006 @ 4:37 pm

    Hey Bishwanath .. where is this dingy drinking hole in Chennai that serves Kada Fry. I would like to give it a dekko..
    Nice article you wrote and am constantly amazed when a lot of people think most Tamilians are Veggie.. when its only tiny percentage of the population who are veg by tradition. Similarly when one travels abroad .. the firangs somehow have got it into their heads that most of us Indians are Veggies!

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