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   One of my favourite drinking places was opposite the Old Custom House in the Fort. (June 1, 1992)

Practically half the building sold liquor, but we used to go to a place on the second floor, to the house of an elderly couple. I suppose, Mr. Morarji Desaiís prohibition was a great boon to them, without illicit liquor to sell,

they would have had no livelihood and would have died of starvation.

At least that was the rationale of my drinking there. It was also of several others, most of them journalists, and some of them (those whom liquor did not kill) holding top positions in the profession today. When you are determined to drink, you will find any means to justify it.The old man had a job and had probably lost it or retired from it. He wore khaki shorts and a vest, he was fair (though he looked pickled pink with the amount of drinking he had done), and spoke English with a good accent. Something must have happened to him, because he consistently referred to the then chief minister (whom I shall not name) as cycle chor. If you asked him ó why, cycle chor, he would insist ó because that is what he was.

If you offered him a drink, he would say, ďI donít drink!Ē Then, when there were police raids on the building, the house (it was only one large room) lights would be switched off and we would sit in the dark, glasses in front of us. After the police left, possibly with their commissions, and the lights came on, we would find all the glasses empty and the gentleman looking more pickled than ever.I regret to say, especially at a time when the police are getting all the bouquets for the successful shootout at the Lokhandwala colony, that the police were the most corrupt among all those (manufacturers, dealers, suppliers, vendors and customers) connected with the illicit liquor trade. Every little policeman would turn up at the door and ask for his hafta. On one occasion, they came and flashed torches under the table at which I was sitting, though the glass was right there on the table.

Then, finding nothing they went away.The old lady of the house was a deaf-mute. With our money, she ran the house. There was a grown-up son, who was not working, and a daughter, quite pretty, who got married, got the son-in-law to stay in the same house, and two little children, who played in front of us while we drank.The girl also took to drinking and one day she suddenly died. We went to pay our respects. She was lying in the bed, candles all round her. In the opposite corner of the room, customers were

sitting and drinking.

 
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