The sun is set, the lights are dim, a loud ‘cheers’ and sparkling beer splashes off the brim.
As the night gets darker in Udaipur, the unquenchable thirst intensifies with every peg, raising the spirits in the mind and body, and of course, taking a heavy toll on the wallet. But it doesn’t seem to matter, at least by the look of it.
In the words of a drunk tourist whom we met at a local bar, “As the time passes by, alcohol replaces the blood in the brains relieving all the tension and arousing a carefree being from within”.
That is what they are here for, one of the biggest reasons of tourism in Udaipur – LIQUOR! A bartender, in one of the premium hotels in Udaipur, says, “Our business more than doubles in the tourist season. They (tourists) come to Udaipur to enjoy and they do. They drink a lot”.
So who are these tourists?
“Mostly Gujaratis; even at the bar they come with family, including kids. Kids love to have Masala Papad, Paneer Tikka et al chatpata snacks while their parents and friends drink”, says the Bartender who does not wish to be named.
Liquor is banned in some states in India, and one such state is the neighboring Gujarat. Gujarat had banned alcohol consumption since 1961 as homage to Mahatma Gandhi, but this could not stop every person living in Gujarat from consuming it.
Of course not all the Gujarati tourists are here to drink but a majority of them are. A bar owner in Udaipur revealed that alcohol is also available in Gujarat but at a price double than normal as it is illegally transported from neighboring states and sold in the Black Market.
Tourists, mostly from the Northern parts of Gujarat, come to Udaipur to quench their thirst while those from the Southern part of Gujarat quench their thirst in Daman.
“They have a huge capacity; we have seen young girls as customers too”, says the bar owner. He told us that women prefer Vodka, Tequila-shots or Cocktails and men usually go for harder drinks like Whisky or Rum. Wine lovers are rare and they are usually foreigners or those who know very well about Wines.
He remembers an incident about a girl very recently, “after two packs of vodka, when i asked her if she would like to stop, she replied, “bahut time se pyaase hai, aaj to jam ke pilao” (we have been thirsty for a long time, make us drink a lot today)”.
Tourist season starts usually from September and peaks during Dussehra. This is the time when all the tourist places liven up.
But what happens in the off season? “College students and professionals in Udaipur are our saviors”, says the Manager of a Hotel located in the walled city area of Udaipur. “Some students from colleges located in the outskirts of the city have tasted every single brand available here”, said another bartender pointing towards the bottles on display.
‘Saviors’ was a strong word to use because Rajasthan Government controls the wholesale price of liquor. The retail price is determined by the retailers themselves which varies from shop to shop and bar to bar. Looking at the menu of that hotel, we could safely say that they do not need any kind of savior.
Since the retailers, Bars, Hotels and private liquor shops, sell alcohol with their own price tags, if one is a regular customer and willing to make friends with bartender, he will be able to get huge discounts on his bill. Call it corruption or friendship; this is what the truth is.
Another interesting thing that we are told is that all the empty bottles of Whisky and Beer are reused, even their caps are reused. We cannot verify this as we do not know to whom these bottles are sent to and who reuses them.
Talking about tourism, a group of few men from Gujarat says that “the party starts as soon we enter Udaipur, we already had some rounds of drink while in the bus,” he exclaimed while holding Scotch Whisky in hand.
Many of them prefer to go to Mount Abu while others prefer to enjoy their time in Udaipur. It is good to know that United Breweries (UB) group, owned by Vijay Mallya, is the one of the five biggest producers of liquor in the world and United Spirits Limited, a part of UB group, has a Primary Distillation and blending/bottling plant in Udaipur. Udaipur is also their Grain Production Facility.
Availability of water and the climate of Udaipur is the probable reason of a liquor plant here for the preparation of rectified spirit, which is alcohol in its most concentrated form. It is then sent to other units for secondary distillation.
Tourism is one of the main industries and source of income of many Udaipurites, be it good or bad, liquor is one of the biggest reasons of huge tourist activity in Udaipur. We don’t care when drunkards call it ‘somras’, Jesus’ wine or Whisky, Rum et al. We just want tourists to have fun but be safe.