07 June 2011

India experience - Week 2 - Tamil Nadu, a conservative Indian state

In which I go to a shady place to buy beer, understand how many people fit in a Rickshaw and run away from the police.

Just like the US (and in lesser scale Brazil), India is divided by different states with its own laws, as long as they fit into the national framework. I didn't know this, but Tamil Nadu, the state which Chennai is the capital, is a very conservative state. So me and Tom went to buy beer for a party. Wait, wait, wait, you don't understand the seriousness of the phrase I just wrote. So I will copy & paste something I found in another blog:
Before the state government took over the liquor business, one could enter a respectable place and choose from a fairly wide selection of Indian liquor (no wine, though, even though there is quite decent Indian wine, and even though liquor stores are called Wine Shops).
Now, though, the liquor stores are filthy, with only the cheapest brands on sale, and are apparently intended to convey the message that if you keep alcohol in your home you are destined for one of the lower circles of hell. Drink in hotels or clubs (independent restaurants aren't allowed to sell alcohol): fine. Drink at home: hell.
So me and Tom arrive in this place by the roadside, nothing but road & dump around, except for a always closed shady "restaurant", curiously called "Jackie Chan". We go to the BACK of Jackie Chan and find a few old tables with some very strangely looking men. Even thought there are tables, I don't think there is anything there, there are not even walls around those tables. After the tables, we see a small house, bare cement and no painting, totally sealed by heavy rusty grates. Behind those grates, we see liquor. We approach the grates and a guy wearing some sort of skirt - ok, that demands some explanation:

Here it is very common for men to wear something called lungi, which is basically a skirt or, most likely, a piece of cloth in very poor shape:

Men wearing lungi, the one in the right is the most common I see.
So we approach the grates and a guy wearing some sort of skirt ask what we want. I mean, he asked SOMETHING, and we assumed it was that, because he made sure to speak Tamil, not English. Tom says:

- Do have Budweiser?
- No.
- So give me 5 Kingfishers. - Kingfisher is a typical Indian beer.

When the guy opens the fridge, Tom spot that there are some Budweiser bottles there. He then says: - No, no, Budweiser, the red one.

The guy serving the beer looks confused, but after some insistence, Tom is able to get 3 Buds and 2 Kings.

I ask for the same 5 beers and the guy in skirt complains about something in Tamil. Tom says that it is separate, because apparently here (or in this "shop", I don't know) you can't buy more than 5 beers. I manage to get my 5 beers, but the guy in skirts refuses to give me a bag. Even though he is working there, probably he also believes if you drink alcohol you are doomed and should be treated like a dog. Why did I choose a place that has more alcohol regulations than Norway?

So the beers were bought and they served the purpose of pre-partying at my new flat. Once the pre-party was over, we decided to go to the club called Candy. The thing is that we were 8 people and outside there was only one small Rickshaw.  We didn't bother, 2 people sat with the driver in the front and all the rest somehow fit on the back all on top of each other. The ride was anyway brief, because we would meet close by another guy, Indian, who had a car. Once there, the girls went to the car and the boys stayed with the rickshaw.

Obviously the rickshaw driver got lost, because clubs in Chennai, as alcohol shops, are hidden away from the public eyes. Only sinners and crazy people (foreigners?) go to clubs. Obviously having the street address didn't occur to anyone, but even if we had, it would not mean anything, because no streets have name tags around here and some streets have more than one name, depending on who calls it. Ah, Indian organization.

Eventually we came to the place. The girls had arrived before and were already in. The problem being that in this place, as in any other Chennai club, you can only enter if you are a girl or if you are in a couple. So we were there, 4 ot 5 boys waiting outside and nowhere to go.

We tried to negotiate with the doormen, but they kind of threw us away. After around 1h waiting for the people inside to solve the situation, we started going away, but then one of our man inside, Edward, managed to convince that each of us would pay 200 rupees to enter and that would be alright. So we entered.

Beer there was around 500 rupees for a 2 or 3 liters jar. Me, Tom, Juan and Vlad shared the rounds. Life was good, the club looked pretty western and nice. Music was the typical Tors Hammer style and the people there were not so different. There were very very few Indians, but even those were dressed as any normal western place. It was a good break from the chaos.

But the break didn't last. Around 12h the music stopped and the bar didn't serve drinks anymore. The lights went on, it was the cue for us to leave. Since we were in a big group (20 people, I guess) we didn't leave and started singing. This went on for about 30 minutes, when suddenly everyone decided to leave in a rush. I didn't get what was going on, but I left too. Outside, we met the police.

Now if you come from a civilized country where human rights are important, you usually don't have to worry so much about the police. If you come from India (or Brazil), the police is not really your friend and you try to avoid any dealings with it. The police here in Chennai is really worth avoiding. Imagine these (real) scenes:

What is happening: Bunch of people, slightly or beyond slightly drunk, getting out of the club.
What the people having fun see: Yeeeei, uuuuh, fuuuuun.
What the police sees: bunch of degenerate sinners dressed as whores from hell.

What is happening: People are leaving slowly amongst laughter and complaints that the club is closing too early.
What the people having fun see: Yeeeei, uuuuh, fuuuuun. Let's go to someone's place and continue the party! But where? Where? - Considerations start to be made, someone says that they have a free flat and directions start being given.
What the police sees: bunch of degenerate sinners dressed as whores from hell are not cooperating. Let's use force.

And then the policemen, around 20 of them, suddenly started waving their meter long sticks towards people and hitting some. An Indian guy is immobilized and looks like he is going to be arrested. We run away and quickly get in a rickshaw. Apparently someone already knew the address we were going for the after party and we went to this poor Indian fellow parents' place (which were travelling in the US, apparently the most common place for Indian upper class to go).

And that was it for the weekend. On Monday I would go for my first day at TCS and also fix the most incredible amount of bureaucracy ever imagined. But that is another story....

1 comment:

  1. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Lungis-become-trendy-summer-dresses-in-Europe/articleshow/9169427.cms


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