Kolkata: Many purists, real and otherwise, are disgusted by Mitchell Marsh resting his feet on the ICC World Cup. But what fact-checkers must ascertain, with customary rigour, is the validity of his liquor licence, as he was clearly being anchored by a bottle of alcoholic beer. In the state of Gujarat, a state of inebriation is banned by prevalent law inspired by age-old high ground.
This actually set me back to 1995 or so, when by dint of an academic opportunity, my Bengali origins were seconded to the city of Ahmedabad. The city was clearly a haven for both ambitious youngsters as well as greedy ice cream lovers, as proven sumptuously by Vadilal and Co, maestros in the craft of desserts. Truthfully, the dabelis were rather potent as were the ethnic thalis flaunted by the village-like eateries, the paneer clearly the reigning monarch. In a state that was rather happy, surprisingly without the influx of fleshy indulgences, there was however just one stumbling block, overcome thankfully with surreptitious jugaad. Gujarat had been a stern dry state, ever since we parted with the masters from the foreign land.
In our hostel though, a hostelry on holidays, this was just a token challenge. Folks from the venerable NCR as well as the vulnerable Gangetic plains had discovered their magic potions, inspired by past generations of similarly challenged. At the dead of night or the crack of dawn, we would visit the sarpanch of neighbouring villages, or his designated Ravindra Jadeja. Wherein, with much discretion, a bottle of Mcdowell’s would be thrust on an unsuspecting palm, entrusted with a higher-order task.
But typically, and this happened more often than not, we found that the PET bottle was infiltrated by a thrifty syringe. Therefore, the manufactured liquid was partially removed and replaced by either drain water or some copious substitute, much to the chagrin of the imminent connoisseur.
The drama of the process would compete vividly with a current-day OTT serial and that perhaps compensated for the deficit in authenticity. As if fellows of that vintage knew the real from the fake, but full points for premature discernment.
There were other ways, as well, that the persistent gentry sought the solace of absolution. The charming colonial outposts of Diu and Daman, where Perestroika and Glasnost operated in merry tandem. Daman was just four hours away, next to Dour Vapi, while Diu with its flamboyant beaches, further tested the progress of the pilgrims.
But both were truly sunny and spunky spots, with pedigreed pomfret playing happy consort to Sandpiper beer, the inspired creation of Inertia Breweries.
The latter, yet another victim of Vijay Mallya’s chequebook purges, like Kalyani Black Label, Golden Eagle and so many unsuspecting brews.
The other delightful quirk of this enforced denial, with limited refuge, was the erstwhile metre gauge line connecting Delhi and Ahmedabad. More persistently, the first stoppage of the Ashram Express at Mount Abu, inspiring the iconic Abu Dash. Wherein, persistent devotees made the most of the very first ‘wet’ stoppage, armed with Stand Up beer bars, manned by diligent gatekeepers who stopped selling the moment the train was due to depart.
Legend confirms that never ever was even the most pious soul left behind, such was their picture-perfect precision. For a modest consumer like me, two 650 ml bottles were indeed the maximum and the GOAT cadre in the mix could possibly gobsmack three. Nowadays, alas, the lines are broad gauge and such romantic hullaballoos are destined for memoirs, large or small.
There were, also, a few brave hearts in the batch who braved the draconian local police at the onset of academic terms, by concealing vodka in Sprite and Limca containers.
At such points, the stations were manned with extra zeal, as the long legacy of outstation students seeking inflatable allies was, by then, well established. Punishment, if apprehended, could range from the sublime to the serious - confiscation by cops perhaps the mildest penalty. Else, incarceration in the grievous cells of Navrangpura, the dreamy desserts of Chills Thrills and Frills ( CTF) just an audible mirage.
But we were deeply envious of certain professors, who by dint of advancement in truthful age and usually imaginary ailments, were entitled to a monthly quota of inebriation. By filling up black and white Nehruvian forms, which demanded the name of the alcoholic’s ( less liberally expressed as Sharaabi) father and occasionally, further lineage.
The booty could be picked up from empanelled stores like the one in Cama Hotel, manned by the Gestapo and Staasi of modern times. Much later, when on official tours, I realised that the protocols for out-of-state visitors, domestic or foreign, were designed to thwart even the most Mafiosi thirsts. Copies of tickets, up and down as well as hotel vouchers just the beginning of a fanciful train of paperwork, for just a can of Budweiser.
Therefore, it can be well surmised that Mitchell Marsh’s greater sin may well be the unauthorised consumption of alcoholic beer, as plainly evident from the right hand.
The nation must demand a certified copy of his liquor permit, after a full declaration of his parentage, claimed and acclaimed.
If such documents are not produced, suitable legal action must be initiated and if a diplomatic row is collateral damage, so be it. The foot on the World Cup pales in comparison as that is clearly an error of arrogance, and emotion and not a breakage of law, DRS not necessary in this case.
Australia deserves every possible credit for a supremely stellar show. But the celebrations should have been consummated by buttermilk or lassi, the infusion of beer a cultural insensitivity apart from all else. Mitchell Marsh needs to prove his innocence, or else pay for his frothy guilt.