We were returning from an extended weekend trip. It was late in the night and suddenly out of nowhere two bumps seemed to spring up on the road, about 50 metres apart from each other. Those in the back seat literally hit the roof and started raining curses on me!

I was a frequent traveller on this route and did not remember the bumps being there a few days ago when we had left on our trip. It was only a few days later that the truth struck me. While travelling by bus to work, I realised that the bumps were flanking a Trivandrum Beverages Corporation Outlet (Bevco). One of Bacchus's followers must have been hit by a vehicle in his (fortunately not yet time to use the gender-neutral pronoun) hurry to imbibe the spirit of Bacchus. Bacchus could not bear it and commanded “Let there be a bump” and there arose a bump.

There was a time when tea was the national drink, so to say, of the State. But tea is now no match for the bubbly. Holiday or no, morning, afternoon or evening, there is a long line of eager devotees on Bacchus' doorstep. Hindu, Muslim or Christian, here there is equality and the oneness of spirit. In line they stand, no one a bigger or smaller person, richer or poorer. They pay obeisance, take the offerings from a cubby-hole in the grilled partition and rush home to achieve a spirit-ual nirvana. Right leaning, centrist or left leaning, all finally lie prostrate before Bacchus.

But should a teetotaller like me blaspheme Bacchus? Is he not the benefactor to all of us? The other day, I was charged a small fortune as nokku kooli for unloading things in my house. But there was no need to be angry. The same evening, a major portion of that money had reached the government coffers through the local beverages outlet. Indirect taxes, so to say! The money I was hiding from the taxman was being collected through Bacchus' disciples. And what sincerity to work; even at the cost of their own health and life they were filling up the government coffers. I am a humble government servant and I need the government coffers to be full to receive my monthly salary. Besides, evening field visits to this wayside temple can be arranged for schoolchildren to be taught the method, discipline and advantages of standing in a line.

In fact, I have a suggestion to ease the life of these devotees. The public distribution system (PDS) should be allowed to double up as centres to partake of the spirit of Bacchus. The crowds coming to the PDS shops will reinvigorate the dying PDS. No more standing in a queue. Bacchus will be available in disposable glasses. And once they have downed their quota and are down and out, bed and linen can be arranged by the roadside. No more complaints about the poor quality foodgrains from the PDS. In fact, the rotten and rotting foodgrains can be used to manufacture more spirit. Women also need not worry. No more beating and battering at home. Instead, women's self-help groups will supply beaten eggs and fried fish to go with the drink. The money their men did not bring home from work, they will earn back through this. A win-win situation for all. Reason enough to uncork the bubbly once more! Three cheers to Bacchus!!!

(The writer is Assistant Professor in Surgery, T. D. Medical College, Alappuzha, Kerala. His email id is: Philip.umman@gmail.com)

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