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Tres bien, TASMAC!

If the ongoing State-wide protests for total prohibition succeed… it would obviously mean the end of liquor in Tamil Nadu, no? No. It would even more obviously mean the end of Tamil films.

Seriously, no one seems more addicted to the TASMAC bars than Tamil filmmakers. I don’t mean they are addicted to them personally, it is just that they seem to be no more capable of making films that don’t involve a TASMAC bar scene or two.

The situation is so bad that the Censors may soon begin to insist that Tamil movies mandatorily carry a label announcing their contents (“This film contains: 17% alcohol-related sequences; 26% songs most of which have been sung, off-key, by the film’s lead actors themselves, but are in the film so that we could have a function to release them before its release; 23% pointless comedy scenes involving Soori/Thambi Ramiah/Satish; 11% fights made of 95% CG-enabled graphics; 12% story worked out of an obscure foreign film which we hope no one else would have seen and 11% scenes that we will cut after the critics complain that the ‘second half lags and needs trimming’”). On the face of it, this might seem far-fetched. But if you are in the Censor Board, you might already be smacking your head and going, “jeez, why did this not occur to me?” And most likely you will broach this idea during the next meeting of your Board members.

But it is still unfair to accuse Tamil filmmakers that they are filling their movies with TASMAC scenes, when our every day lives are exactly filled with very similar happenings. Tamil Nadu has around 6800 TASMAC outlets, 1500 of which are surely located in the 9-km stretch that I take to office.

Okay, I was exaggerating. But the point is I pass by a lot of wine shops on my daily commute, and every day, no matter what time of the day it is, I see a lot of desperate men and, worryingly, women too, stationed in front of these shops. That is how bad the situation is. Or to be precise, that is how bad the traffic jams are, which stall people everywhere including, as in this case, in front of wine shops.

As I get to see a lot of these liquor shops, I would say TASMAC shops are — Oxford dictionary people may want to include this in their next edition — the places where it is most difficult to get liquor from. The other day I saw a TASMAC shopkeeper snatch back the bottle from a person after he (customer) asked, most unreasonably, for the return change (remainder amount). The shopkeeper threw back the money at the customer’s face, who rather than getting angry, began to insistently beg with him. If the shopkeeper were a taxi company run on app-based service, he would have announced ‘surge pricing’ then and there itself.

No other retail place in the world treats its customers with as much disdain and insensitivity as TASMAC outlets do and still pull off such roaring business. This is how liquor can intoxicate people? Nay, this is how State-sponsored monopoly can stone out people.

But you have to accept that most TASMAC shops have attendant bars where customers can sit at leisure and vomit or create ruckus. Seriously, most ‘TASMAC bars’ are spots you would not step into unless you are kidnapped there at knife-point by crack IS terrorists.

But not all bars are dowdy and dingy, some in fact are decent and you can get in and drink and order food, provided you have your intestines lined by asbestos or some such material of strength. One of the main causes of death of alcoholics is cirrhosis of liver, which modern research has confirmed is caused by eating at TASMAC bars.

In case of TASMAC outlets where there isn’t an attached bar, I think Tamilnadu Industrial and Workers Act or some such, confers on tipplers the inalienable right to treat any nearby place, vacant or otherwise, as a full-fledged bar. If the owners of the place protest, the same Act further confers on drinkers the most reasonable right for freedom of expression in the form of scandalous cuss words in violent retaliation.

For all the problems TASMAC tipplers cause I would any day accept them over wine guzzlers. Drinkers at TASMAC can become bothersome clowns when they get high on beer or rum or vodka or whiskey or whatever they sell as liquor in these shops. Whereas your average wine-drinker can prove to be a bigger jerk even without tasting a single drop of it.

In my experience, wine drinkers have been pretentious and snooty, almost feeling that other liquor when consumed eventually emerge out as urine, while wine comes out as, I don’t know, eau de cologne.

If you have encountered a wine snob, you will not demand total prohibition, you will actually thank the government for getting its liquor policy spot on, which is letting regular TASMAC outlets be ‘wine shops’ without actually selling any wine.

Also, French words in Tamil films would be incomprehensible.


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