Departure Lounge Bar| Kolkata Airport | India
We’re just about to leave India and go to Thailand on our 90 days backpacking around south east Asia. We’ve had a few alcohol-free ‘dry days’ due to the Indian elections, but since I’ve been coming to India I’ve known that alcohol bans (whether due to elections, wedding etiquette or not having a licence) are very loose arrangements and I’ve seen all kinds of antics over the years to circumvent the rules.
I’m reminded of a friend of mine who was backpacking around in India with a group of friends a few years ago; they hopped off an intercity bus for lunch in a sleepy town on a highway in the middle of nowhere.
Lunch was an easy decision because there was only one place to eat: a roadside wooden shack, a dhaba, that served hot chapattis and dahl.
They sat around a table and his friends ordered soft drinks, (Mirinda, Sprite and Limca) but he ordered a beer. He didn’t know that, due to the elections, it was a ‘dry day’.
The waiter thought intently and went to the man at the till and they had a conversation glancing back occasionally at my friend.
The waiter returned. “Please come with me,” he said.
My friend followed him to the back of the restaurant till they came to a door which opened in to a simple bedroom with shuttered windows, flowery plastic curtains, a double bed with posts for a mosquito net and a side-table.
“Please sit,” the waiter said to him, so he sat on the bed. The waiter closed all the shutters, drew the curtains and left the dimly-lit room; he returned soon after with a bottle of beer, which he poured quickly in to a glass, smacked it down on the bedside table and left hurriedly.
My friend heard the bolts of the doors being fastened and there he sat, in semi-darkness, drinking his glass of beer on his own.
After ten minutes there was the sound of the door being unbolted and a torch beam shone on him; the waiter was either checking how much of the beer was left, or presumably, that my friend hadn’t tried to escape his captivation.
Eventually, once he had finished his beer, the waiter came back and removed the glass and bottle. The curtains were opened and the shutters unfastened.
His friends had finished their soft drinks and their lunch and had wondered where he had gone.
“We thought you were kidnapped,” said his friend.
“Just a quiet one for the road,” he replied.