The possibility of Prohibition brings to the mind of The Man from Madras Musings the several interesting happenings that took place when our State was last dry. That was during the time the Old Monk had a lot of influence – and by that MMM alludes to the venerable old sage (if you believed Kalki magazine) and wily old fox (if you trusted the Dravidian parties). It was during his tenure that State-wide Prohibition first came into effect and then it remained in force off and on till the early 1970s when the very Dravidian party that Old Monk helped bring to power and which had by then elevated him to the status of Teacher and gave him a Royal Salute, decided to wet the state with a vengeance. The Old Monk took it up as a Royal Challenge but he was told to drown his sorrows in a butt of malmsey, as Shakespeare would have said. The venerable sage retired in high dudgeon thereafter, his spirit corked and was ever bitter thereafter.

It was, however, when Prohibition was in force that it was noted that busloads of seemingly enormously pregnant women were coming in from neighbouring la Francaise towne to our city. Closer inspection revealed that the ladies were all of an advanced age and could not be in an advanced stage of pregnancy. A still closer inspection showed that the reason for the embonpoint was a tube that was wound around the stomach and carried precious liquids. The ladies were let off after a strict warning which, MMM is sure, they obeyed. Not that there were no official outlets. These required the aforementioned permit and the vending contracts for these outlets were highly profitable. It is not as though nobody benefited from Prohibition.

Prohibition times were also when those manning air and seaports were much in demand as also were those who were fly out to the Emerald Isle just south. These men, known colloquially as sparrows because of the short flights they took at enormous risk, invariably returned with goodies that did you good. And given that those were days when electronic surveillance devices had not yet made their entry, it was easy to slip in a cask or two. Capture invariably meant the caging of the sparrow for a temporary period but then there were always plenty of others. As to the commodity they brought in, these were immediately confiscated and were supposed to be destroyed. But if that did happen, those manning air and seaports would not have been in demand, would they?

Foreigners were exempt from such laws. And they too found their popularity skyrocketing overnight. Given that we were just emerging from our post-independence xenophobia, this was surprising. But then alcohol, like the politics that is currently driving the demand for prohibition, makes strange bedfellows.