A glass of Beer (or a peg of Whiskey, sir?)

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Uncle Mehra, my 75-year-old friendly landlord, is not entirely happy with me as he rightly feels I don’t enjoy alcohol. Not that I don’t consume liquor because I believe that’s unhealthy or not a good thing to do. I simply don’t like the taste. That, however, hasn’t stopped me from drinking beer once in a while (I don’t even smell so called hard drinks like rum/vodka/whiskey etc.). Last time I did take beer was five days ago when a friend of mine on his way to Afghanistan transited in Delhi and came over to my apartment. Every sip was like a big hurdle. Uncle Mehra wasn’t with us that evening (his son was) but he doesn’t like it when I make terrible face while reluctantly sipping beer which tastes like gaumutra (cow’s urine) or something to me. The only difference is that the latter is considered holy (and healthy) by our tradition.

The main subject of this entry, however, is not my disliking (or, occasional liking) of alcohol. It’s about the photos above- where Indians are seen buying liquor from a Wine and Beer Shop in Paharganj, Delhi. There’s significant difference between the distribution system of alcohol in India and Nepal. Which one is better? Of course, the Indian system because it’s more organized and controlled. I think some level of control is needed.

Alcohol may well be the most widely and freely available thing in Nepal. There’s no control at all. As we say in Nepal, there’s alcohol where there’s no water. Drink beer, save water is not just a slogan printed on t-shirts. Bottles of beer or vodka or whiskey are freely sold to anyone (regardless of age of the buyer) in almost every shops in Nepal. And you can consume the thing anywhere: right on the spot where you bought or on the streets or go to any eatery on sight and open the bottle.

Even after a year and half of living in Delhi when I realize that liquor is sold in a very controlled manner here I sometime instinctively say: What the crap, no democracy in India? LOL. I know I am kidding. Yes, I have been arguing that India has a limited democracy, especially compared to what we have in Nepal, but that’s in other contexts.

I don’t know in detail about the liquor distribution system in Delhi but this is what I can see in the market. There are select outlets, for example, two, in the whole of Jangpura/Bhogal area. They are liquor specific. They don’t sell rice and vegetables. Not even sitan (सितन). Those kinda stuffs are sold in a shop attached to liquor outlets. The calendar has some Dry Days meaning liquor outlets are closed on those days. Because there are only a few liquor shops for a neighborhood or two, they are almost always crowded (overcrowded in the evenings).

I found the Paharganj liquor shop and the way people bought small bottles of vodka or whiskey very funny. I had never seen like that before. It was as if people were buying movie tickets.

27 thoughts on “A glass of Beer (or a peg of Whiskey, sir?)

  1. there has to be some regulations in Nepal, i agree. here in Tasmania..we have to show our id to liquor shop and even your Uni id won’t work..u have to show your passport or else you’ll be in trouble.
    reminded me of my days at hostel days in nepal when we used to go to the nearby supermarkets and grab bottles!!!it was that easy…and mind you..none of us were above the age of 18!! ha ha CHEERS!!!

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    1. Nepal seems to be providing a lot of freedom to its citizens! As for the free drinking culture, it could also be because of its cultural aspect. For some (or many actually) communities, drinking is deeply rooted in their culture and lifestyle.

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  2. is it run by the govt? and may be subsidised? or more likely overtaxed🙂 – and have you ever tried to buy some yourself? just for ‘investigative’ purpose i mean😛

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    1. seems like all these sarab ka dukan are run by private contractors with license from the government (Excise Department– and apparently they they hold the key to pricing and many other aspects of distribution).

      The linked page says “The private entrepreneurs are also holding 89 shops for retail sale of IMFL & Beer all over Delhi.” ONLY 89 for a city of 10 million people??? unbelievable!

      [BTW, today’s news is: Delhi gets first liquor outlet at shopping mall]

      I think liquor sale is heavily taxed. But the friend mentioned in the post above said a bottle of Tuborg beer that he bought for IRs 50 was still cheaper than in Nepal. I am not sure if that is the case though. I have not only tried but actually bought beer and whiskey several times (:) )- and the investigations went very well.

      But that figure-89- is confusing when i read this news report of September 2009.

      New Delhi, Sep 30 (IANS) Time to say cheers! The Delhi government Wednesday decided to open 83 more liquor shops in the city and allow opening of alcohol vends in malls too, but said its excise policy encouraged consumption of mild liquor instead of hard drinks.

      The decision was taken by a Delhi cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. With these 83 new shops, the number of government controlled liquor shops in Delhi will go up to 590.

      “The Delhi cabinet approved the Excise Policy for the year 2009-10, which would encourage mild drinks over hard ones while allowing newer outlets for the sale of liquor,” it was announced after the meeting.

      Delhi Finance and Excise Minister A.K. Walia said a new type of licence for wholesale supplies of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) is being introduced where the wholesale supplier would be allowed to open retail shops of his own products registered in Delhi.

      “It also permits opening of new vends in malls. A new type of licence for stand-alone restaurants is being introduced where only wine and beer will be served,” Walia added.

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  3. Here in Nepal though we don’t have such rules implemented as in India or other developed countries, I have noticed that such trends will be followed soon in Nepal also. As I have seen some shops selling only liquor around Kalanki area… Even in the remote areas “AAMA SAMUHA” are raising the voice against excessive sales of alcohol and have read the news that some of them are even successful to make the village free of alcohol… Its quite exciting…

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    1. Yes, the role of Aama Samuha(s) is commendable. Some districts have been declared dry zones I guess. But no idea if they are maintained so all the time.

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  4. Hi Dai,

    Ditto here.

    During the new year celebration this year me and some of my Indian friends
    took a long drive towards the suburbs. We bought beer on the way. I instantly opened a bottle and as I was about to sip, both of them shouted at once. I didnt know it was an offence. We covered the bottles with newspaper and took sips wherever it looked deserted. Through the entire 4 hrs. journey we managed to finish 3 bottles each. The whole experience was so different. New Year Celebrations but with fear. Fear of being caught.

    Though, I am entirely with you. There should be some control.

    BUT, during summer (needless to mention.. humid Indian Summer) its almost impossible to find chilled beer in such shops. On such days I wish I was in Nepal.
    Keep writing Dinesh Dai.

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  5. In fact, alcoholic beverages were constantly strange to me before last year’s wedding feast on the auspicious occasion of Janie D’s wedding with John (Bhena) at Viva Banquet, Teku. I too made terrible face while reluctantly sipping beer however, half a glass of juice too didn’t work. it was not plenty enough for changing the flavor. It still tasted like Gaumutra to me.

    Talking about the system, India is far better than Nepal in its implementation.

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  6. I still remember those days when my seniors (brothers, uncles and neighboring uncles) used to send me for their desired liquors to the nearest THEKA (liquor outlet). But The Theka officials used to deny even scold me because I wasn’t of 18 or above years. According to the local authorities of Delhi and Mumbai, everyone must be of 18 or older to buy alcoholic beverages and enjoy as well; (if law is supreme). Thus, they were firm on their decision that they never allowed me to buy it until uncles and neighbors requested them that that wasn’t for me. Afterward they used to grin.. as they would give me bottles of liquor whenever I walked off there for it.

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    1. I have seen people, ‘professional drinkers’ I say, who make faces which I could read as their dislike of the taste of the liquor.. But that hasn’t stopped them or others from drinking alcohol. I can happily go for Maaza over Tuborg anytime happily but pro drinkers shun juices like Maaza n say: Dhat.. is that a think to drink instead of beer or whisky? LOL

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  7. “Well, show me the way
    To the next whisky bar
    Oh, don’t ask why
    Oh, don’t ask why

    Show me the way
    To the next whisky bar
    Oh, don’t ask why
    Oh, don’t ask why

    For if we don’t find
    The next whisky bar
    I tell you we must die
    I tell you we must die
    I tell you, I tell you
    I tell you we must die…”

    – The Doors (Alabama Song)

    …and then one day somebody showed me the way to the whiskey bar.

    Few incidences (oh, yeah, Adults below 18…yeah, nevermind read it! what the heck!):

    almost jumped off the window…everybody else was drunk too…nobody was intrested to save me or to be the eyewitness of the incident,so i stepped back to the bed. Next morning, from the road, the window looked pretty high up. That was while i was in grade eleven. I myself was, at that time,i guess, just a few years past elven!

    Next, well, there are so many, actually; I am being selective here:)(and it takes years of hardwork and dedication to choose one or few from many!) Anyways, filedtrips were always wild and they, most of the time, gave the hangover after knowing the internal marks of the fieldtrip based subjects. “I found you incredibley irresponsible…do you remember what you did in the fieldtrip(s)?” To be honest,teacher(s), I didn’t, I don’t. I was drunk, wasn’t I?

    Next, talking about books and poetry…writers and singers…meditation too (jesus!) over the glass of local alcohol. And then emptying the pockets and making a heap of money on the table…and hoping there is a
    five hundred rupees note accidently hidden inside the crumbled five rupees note!We never found that five hundred rupees note though.

    Okay…and TGIF. And the cork needs to be pulled out! Cheers!

    And, Mr. Wagle, great pictures!Melting moments! The other day I was wondering if you are the happiest man in the world,and if you ever sleep on the job! Probably not!!I guess, on the contrary,and i don’t know what it means though, the job sleeps on you! Good luck! Write a book!

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    1. Kya baat Dean!

      Growing up with Whisky ko Chuski. Rakshi is very much into our consciousness (and in various ways)..enough has been written about it (worldwide and in Nepali literature or discourse too) and still that is not enought! So will be written more like you did above which is v interesting account.

      And thanks for liking pics.

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  8. ek bud jo chhoot jata hai
    kya usime sab rah jata hai
    kab mitegi ye pyas
    jo pilati hai najane kaisi kaisi barshat

    udhar dekho..o hasa
    idhar dekho ye phasa
    mujhe dekho mai bujha
    tume dekho…albida!

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  9. dinesh dai,

    you took almost 20 days to post your article. i was eagerly waiting to read your lively-article.

    well,here in Nepal,we do have niyam kanun (recently gov has announced that there wud be separate shops for liquor), tara prayog chhaina.

    anyone anywhere anytime can buy anything (beer, rum, vodka etc)

    thank you dai.

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  10. Dinesh Dai, one part of my job in my hotel involves ensuring bar transactions are up to date. I think some of my experiences in India might surprise most of you.
    It goes like this:
    * The license holder shops (offshop) and bars (onshop) need seperate kind of licenses. Getting a bar license is both tiring and a lenghty process.
    * Things get more complicated once you get the license. Three different kinds of registers are maintained on daily basis regarding everyday sale of liqor. Forget the bottles, every single peg sold has to be recorded.
    * Inspectors from both the Excise and Sales Department make surprise visits and check the registers maintained. They would then randomly measure whisky bottles to make sure there’s no difference. Any difference and you would be sued. Your license would go. You would be blacklisted. No further business of similar nature even for your close family members.
    * Even the batch numbers of beer bottles and whisky’s are cross checked from distributors.
    * This is one reason why beer is cheaper in India than in Nepal as you mentioned. The revenue generation is so regulated and systematic that theres almost no loopholes.
    Will write more about this tomorrow.

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  11. when i had been to India first time I saw the name of alcoholic shops (angragi sarab ki dukan, yaha desi daaru miltahey & lots) funny names. I asked my frn …she told me about the system in India about alcohol & feel wow at least they have system but ….ours ……no nothing

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    1. even though we hear a lot of things about india and think that we know almost everything about india, it turns out that there are still so many other things about india that surprise us..

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  12. One basic difference i see in Nepal and India related to drinking culture is that ….. though u claim the no. of liquor shops are more in any city of nepal than in delhi but the crime rate due to drinking is still far much less than in Nepal.

    Every day you can find a news abt that…

    Jst imagine if Delhi were like Nepal ….. OMG … … isn’t it?

    There perhaps u can enjoy a drink… here u need to run away… in most of the cases …. thats what i feel🙂

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    1. but i think the rate of general crime is very high in delhi..compared to kathmandu. killings, rapes and other criminal incidents are almost daily reported by the press here.

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  13. great one!!

    i never knew this fact having stayed in delhi for more than a year….

    seems funny to me, being raised up in newari culture…. where alcohol is considered as holy as gaumutra n its consumed like daily meal by my elders.

    my grandmothers still prepare it at home in every big festival… bisket jatra is on the way, so may be a few drums of alcohol have already been prepared ! :p

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    1. i was expecting this kind of comment and glad that you posted! yes, we have this cultural aspect of alcohol that has its own special place in our society. as some of us say: jaatle payeko. जातले पाएको !

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  14. Hey Wagle, Interesting observation here. I remembered these kind of shops mentioned in “The White Tiger”. About taste of alcohol, I don’t think anybody drinks beer for taste. You should try more glasses. After few glasses you may feel the taste of beer better and holier than gaumutra🙂

    I am studying in Norway. Here in Norway,the normal shops are only allowed to sell beers. Wine and Liquors are sold in special shops which are owned by government, which is rather expensive. That’s why we can see people rushing in duty free shops in the airports. In Saturdays, they stop selling alcohols very early compared to other days, in spite of that its common to find drunk people around city centers in Saturday night!

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  15. HEY BRORHER…IN DELHI WHERE CAN I GET OLD BOOKS OR BOOKS AT LOW COST? IS THERE AY GOOD PUBLIC LIBRARY? books at CP are expensive and they mostly over charge.any idea???

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