We know the Malayalee love for alcohol. We know the Malayalee love for strikes. And now, a few Malayalees have combined the two. A bunch of drunkards recently went on strike in Alappuzha, Kerala, to reopen a wine shop. And it being Kerala, the strike worked.
The Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC), which holds a monopoly in the state’s liquor business, had started an outlet in Alappuzha town six months ago. The shop worked for precisely one day and had to be closed down following protests by the administration committee of a nearby temple. The wine shop was then shifted 7 km away. Unfortunately, there was a church in the new location. Church authorities opposed it too, and again, the shop ran for one day before the shutters came down. Since paying rent with no revenue in return was not an attractive idea, the KSBC decided to close down the shop.
On 14 October, the KSBC’s employees came to remove the stock and clear the building. To their astonishment, within a minute or two of their opening the shop, 50 people had formed a long queue outside. They were clients under the impression that the shop was about to open. To their dismay, the KSBC employees declared that they were only there to close the shop forever. The bottles were then loaded onto a tempo van. This was too much for the customers to bear, and they refused to let the stock be taken away.
Veteran drinkers 63-year-old Pushkaran and 70-year-old Lalichan rose to the occasion and took leadership of the struggle. Both splayed themselves on the ground in front of the vehicle, announcing a struggle ‘until death’. The driver could not move the vehicle an inch forward. “We have to shell out Rs 40 for an autorickshaw to go to the next shop. If this shop is retained, we would have been able to save that money for our family,” said Lalichan, using irrefutable logic.
The deadlock continued for hours until KSBC managing director P Vijayanand intervened and assured the protestors that the shop would remain in place. The ‘strike’ was then called off. The shop, however, has remained shut since, but Lalichan, Pushkaran and their followers are ready to wait patiently for that glorious day when booze will be sold here again.