100 Days in India Project

Wine Store in Udaipur, India

10/ 100 Wine Store

Udaipur is a stunningly beautiful Indian city in Rajasthan which, like many other towns in India, is inhabited by people following a huge array of different religions. The most prevalent faiths seemed to be Hindu, Muslin, Jain and Sikh — all of which discourage the drinking of alcohol.

In the daytime, we didn’t see any alcoholic beverages for sale anywhere. We were even looking because there were a few days when my wife fancied a beer but there was none to be had. [There actually was one place we stayed where the host, used to Western tourists, seemed to be able to regularly acquire a small stash of Indian lager. He was adamant that he wouldn’t sell it to us, but we could help ourselves to a can or two from his fridge as a little gift as long as we left a financial donation of a specific value in the jar on his desk.] It was a noticeably stark contrast from our own country where drinking alcohol has been so normalised that excessive drinking is tolerated, even when the costs to society are undeniably enormous.

Udaipur was the first place where we did actually see alcohol for sale, but not ever in the daytime. When the sun had set, and the few working streetlights began to emit their feeble glow in the smoky gloom, we spotted one or two of these caged Wine Stores, brightly lit along otherwise dark streets. The first thing that drew our attention wasn’t the shops themselves, it was actually the small gatherings of customers, clearly nervous about their purchases. The streets were almost deserted so these small gatherings naturally caught our eye. These weren’t the usual tightly-packed, and very noisy, disorderly queues like the ones you’d find in a railway station or airport in India. These were a widely spread scattering of people with covered faces who didn’t seem to want to be recognised by anyone else. We watched for a while as they came and went with barely a word muttered.

They reminded me of moths, drawn to the bright lights of the shop. Unlike moths, however, they very quickly left the glowing neon and disappeared back into the shadowy depths of the city to drink their nectar in secret.