Representational picture
Representational picture

BHOPAL: The tipplers in Bhopal were well aware of Dry Days. They knew that the suppliers of the liquid they love the most would remain shut when the nation celebrates its independence, its evolution as a Republic, the Mahatma's birthday and on a few other occasions. But they had no experience of Dry Weeks and Dry Months.

And that was precisely what they had to encounter during the lockdown. The liquor vends in the city downed their shutters on March 24 and did not reopen till June 9 - an almost 80-day Dry spell.

It was an apocalyptic, cataclysmic event for them – especially as it was a bolt from the blue. The Teacher's disappeared, the Johnnie Walker's evaporated into thin air, the Royals refused to Challenge and the Officers had no Choice.

In the initial days, those who had stocks of booze were greatly sought-after. But they were not exactly willing to part with their prized possessions. And all said and done, how long could have their hoards lasted?

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. And so, the worshippers of Bacchus invented ways of satiating their desire for the high. And by a curious coincidence, the owners of the bars and the liquor vends decided to help them out. Of course, the latter's intentions were not purely philanthropic. They also wanted to make a pile on the sly.

You could have had any brand. But at a price double or even triple of the usual. But did it matter? No, not at all. The cops, of course, played spoilsport, stopping vehicles to check whether liquor was on board. In one case, several crates of IMFL were found resting under garbage in a municipal corporation vehicle!

Concealing liquor bottles in your vehicle developed into a fine art, especially after liquor shops in the neighbouring districts were opened while those in Bhopal remain closed.

June 9 was a red-letter day for the boozers. Huge crowds thronged liquor shops well before the appointed time for their opening. Cops in riot gear were in attendance to ensure order. But they needs not have worried. The general joviality that prevailed excluded any possibility of a brawl breaking out.

FAST FORWARD

Lesson learnt

Once bitten twice shy, the city tipplers now make a run on the liquor vends even at the slightest hint of a prolonged closure. The veterans store at least a week's supply, just in case. And they are sure that the authorities would think twice before constricting liquor supply. After all, excise is one of the prime financiers of government exchequer!

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