Take it from a retired expert: most country liquor tastes and smells foul, of cockroaches, rats, gutter water, rubber football bladders and the spray from the old Flit pump. In fact, the most pleasant, or least unpleasant, among all the tastes and smells, is the Flit spray.The rubber taste comes from the football bladders, the inner shell (balloon) of the football in which the air is pumped. Liquor is carried in these bladders, tied to the body, to avoid detection by our sharp and vigilant police force. It is also carried in cycle tubes, wrapped around waists.
The gutter water smell comes from the municipal sewage in which the bottles are kept. At Falkland Road, behind a building and over a sewage tank, there was a bar that I used to patronise after night duty, at an hour when all other bars were closed. Hundreds of nip bottles were kept in the gutters. The bartender, or one of his minions, would open a manhole, pull out a bottle and pour the contents in an unwashed glass for me.Not all country liquor I have had has been equally foul. The best I have had has been at the Versova fishing village. It was clean and made mainly for personal consumption. In fact, it had developed such a high reputation, that most places in Bombay where illicit liquor was sold, the seller would claim it had come from Versova. It was a little like our whisky manufactures claiming - blended with scotch.
I was also once taken, by the late U. G. Rao, to the row of fishermen's houses constructed along the edge of the Mahim creek causeway and abutting into the sea. We were taken through the house to the backyard, where we sat on the rocks, the sea touching our feet, and drank. I remember it was a moonlit night with two moons, one in the sky and one reflected in the sea, but I do not remember the quality of the liquor. We had started drinking at Colaba, then moved on via Chira Bazar, Prabhadevi and Shivaji Park to Mahim, and by that stage I was in no position to judge the liquor.
I do remember that after the last round, we returned home by bus. Because it was Mr. Rao's contention that a true drinker must, after his full quota and more, travel by bus and not taxi to establish that he can hold his drinks.
I could hold my drinks very well, though I never enjoyed my drinks, only the after-effects. I used to douse my country in Coca-Cola to kill to some small extent the taste and smell. Today, when I think of the amount and kind of foul drinks I have consumed, I feel like instantly puking. You may then ask me why I drank them. To answer that, I would have to tell you my life story, and I am not going to do that.