A satirical look at the Bihar government’s imposition of Prohibition. Rape and murder now carry far less punishment in the state than the possession or consumption of liquor. Yes, you read that right.
A hapless and helpless—albeit hopeful—Paro was busy running from pillar to post. After all, with Devdas in jail for consuming liquor and Chandramukhi in jail for serving liquor, it was now up to her to arrange money and lawyer for her beloved’s bail (as for Chandramukhi, well…she would just have to fend for herself).
And thus, a pained Paro pawned all her personal property, aka streedhan (after all, husbands are seldom keen to finance and secure their wife’s ex-lover’s freedom); although she was not certain if there was indeed a way to prevent her fella from becoming a felon… After all, prohibition laws in Bihar—where her paramour Devdas and the courtesan Chandramukhi were caught merrymaking with some sherry—was tighter than the tightest embrace of a boa constrictor. (Note to reader: In fact, truth be told, I’d rather take my chances with a boa constrictor…at least, I might survive!)
But try as much as she could, she could not convince a single legal eagle to take on Devdas’ case.
However, the resolute Paro was not going to give up so easily. Before she made a last ditch attempt at rescuing Devdas from the deathly paws of the perilous proclamation on Prohibition, she knew she had to see her sweetheart… one last time.
PARO (Anguished): Oh, Deva! Did I not tell you—time and again—that drinking was bad for your health? If only you had listened to me sooner, you wouldn’t be in the slammer!
DEV: Oh, Paro! Stop sprinkling salt on my open wounds!
P (Astonished): Even now, you are thinking of Tequila shots?
D (Airily): No! No! I was just using an idiom…
P: You are an idiot, that’s what you are! Who asked you to drink here in Bihar? Couldn’t you wait till you got back to Calcutta, you fool!
D: But I had no choice, Paro. Alcohol is my penance…
P: Well, it certainly got you into the penitentiary—the perfect place for penance!
D: Oh, Paro…but you do not understand. I solely drink in sufferance.
P (Angrily): And I am suffering because of you both. Here I was, hoping that you two, in time, would become lovebirds, but no, you both had to go ahead and become jailbirds.
D: But Paro, my love, please...I need to drink. How else am I going to court a courtesan?
P: Oh, Deva! Now, you won’t even be able to court the courtesan in the open court. Eeesh…why do I even bother talking sense to you!
D (Soothingly): But why are you so angry, my beauteous damsel?
P (Sighing): I am just mad at the mad government, you madman!
D (Smugly): Well, I can certainly understand that.
P (Sardonically): Can you??
D: Yes, you’re angry that they took me away from you…
P: Oh, please! Good riddance! You were only going to turn up later and spoil my marital life. (Thinking to herself) In a way, I actually need to send a Thank You card to (Niti+Eeesh) Kumar.
D (Sweetly): I know you’re saying all this out of love, my dear…hoping that it would make it easier for you to part
P (Surprised): You men are such fools! There’s one who’s busy making legislations in the name of women…and then there’s you.
D (Scared): Now, Now, Paro. Let’s not get carried away and call him names here. Even the walls have ears. Hmm…I’ll be rotting here for life.
P: Not if I can help it, Dev.
D: What do you mean? What are you planning to do?
P: Well, I’m sure you’ll read about it in the papers tomorrow.
D (Shaking): No! No! No, Paro! You must not immolate yourself for my freedom! And you mustn’t worry about me either. I will stay here for life, happy in the knowledge that at least you live in a Prohibition-free state.
P (Startled): Immolate myself! Are you nuts? This is the 21st century, and I’m a W-O-M-A-N! Don’t you see…If there was ever a time to be born a woman, it is now!
D: Oh, so what are you planning then?
P: Do you remember what that old loon—your father—always used to say?
D (Trying hard to remember): Never…marry…a…demi-monde.
P: No. No. When you can’t convince…confuse! That’s what I am going to do. Use logic and reasoning. You see, if Nitish Kumar was Superman, logic would be his Kryptonite!
D (Admiringly): Oh! I completely forgot you topped the logical reasoning section in CAT…Silly me! So, what’s the plan you’ve thought up, darling?
P: Well, I will tell you all that in a while. But tell me something, Dev. How have you managed to stay away from alcohol for so long, now that you are in jail, I mean?
D (Proudly): Who says I am staying sober? Shri Narayan Mukherjee’s son abstains neither from wine nor women!
P (Astounded): What! Liquor…you’re drinking here, in prison?!
D: Honey, what Mahatma Gandhi taketh away, Mahatma Gandhi bringeth back as well.
P (Confused): What the hell are you talking about?
D: Money, my dear girl, money! Money has the power to transform “dry” into “drenched”. That is why, as long as you’re carrying some MGs in your wallet, you can even get liquor in Gujarat on 2nd October.
P: True, very true. As long as there is demand, supply will always find a way! (Paro pauses for a moment, before she speaks, hesitatingly.) So, how about you arrange for some liquor for us, while I tell you about the points I plan to take up with the Chief Minister tomorrow during the Junta Durbar.
D (Shocked): Liquor! For you??
P (Sheepishly): You know how it is Dev, the heart craves what it cannot have. Ever since booze was banned, I have this sudden craving to drink as well.
D: Absolutely not, Paro! I will not have you go to prison as well. It’s bad enough that Chandramukhi and I are stuck in this hell-hole.
P: Ok, Ok! Don’t get your prison-provided knickers in a twist. I will drink when I get back to my mansion.
D: Anyway, forget all that. Tell me, how is the situation outside? Who else got arrested?
P: Well, a ghazal singer was arrested yesterday.
D: Oh, really! So where was he drinking? At home or in a hotel?
P: Neither! He wasn’t drinking at all. He was actually arrested for singing the famous Pankaj Udhas ghazal, La pila de sakiya, Paimaana paimaane ke baad…
D: God! Is the situation really that bad out there?
P: Yes, it is. As a matter of fact, murder and rape have become a lesser offence. You’re much better off with a corpse in your closet, but beware if you have so much as a thimbleful of liquor.
P: You know, what irks me…the way this stupid piece of legislation tramples on the Principles of Natural Justice.
D: What ever do you mean?
P: The quantum of punishment, Dev! They’re going to seal every property and premises where a person is found flouting the law. What I wonder is if a man is drinking and they send him to jail and seal his home, where is the family going to go? What crime did the family commit?
D (Thoughtfully): I know what you mean.
P: Besides, when and where has Prohibition ever worked? Did the Temperance Movement work in the UK, USA or Europe? All that it managed to do was to change the topography of the liquor trade. Once the liquor trade took place above the ground, now it will shift under the ground. And we will have many Al Capones in the making. Then again, that’s Bihar’s and the Bihari’s problems. Why do I care? I will be far away in Calcutta, splurging on sarees.
D (Sad): Hmmm…
P (Excited): Oh, I almost forgot to tell you!
P: The government is going to give a bucket to all the judges.
D (Perplexed): A bucket!! What for?
P: Remember how the Chief Justice broke down over the three-plus crore pending cases in Indian courts? Well, considering the sheer volume of liquor-related cases that will be coming up for hearing in the courts in the imminent future, the Chief Minister decided to distribute the buckets—absolutely free of cost—so that the judiciary can cry to its heart’s content.
D: Well, that ought to take care of the drought at least…but Paro, please be careful! They are the government. They’re all powerful!
P: Don’t worry Dev…I’m a Woman!
Mallika is a PhD in Marketing from IIT Kharagpur, and author of three management books which are prescribed textbooks in universities across India. She has taught in India and abroad, and also written the bestselling thriller I’m A Woman And I’m On Sale. She is currently pursuing a degree in law.