Michael Ferreira Column: Let us not get high on politics

Why impose a liquor ban for one day, and not on all holy days or, indeed, the entire year?

Christmas! The very word evokes images of holiday cheer, of mistletoe and holly, of Santa Claus and sleigh bells, of carols and cake — however much these images grate on the lunatic fringe, the numbers of which, alas, seem to be growing exponentially. Christmas being the universally loved feast that it is, it is incredible that some misguided folks in India put a crimp on the feeling of peace and goodwill that is the essence of Christmas. Last year, we had to suffer the diktat of that too-clever-by-half Union HRD Minister (how on Earth that inadequately educated lady ever managed to snaffle that critically important position shall remain one of the enduring mysteries of the Modi Government) that Christmas Day should be known as Good Governance Day and that school kids should write essays instead of frolicking around with their friends and family enjoying the loveliest season of the year.

On Christmas Eve, fun and frolic tend to reach a crescendo before the explosion on Christmas Day. Representation pic/AFP
On Christmas Eve, fun and frolic tend to reach a crescendo before the explosion on Christmas Day. Representation pic/AFP

This year, the rather unusual combination of the Congress and the AIMIM have raised a demand that Eid-e-Milad, that this year happens to be the 24th December, should be a day of prohibition, because alcohol is haraam for Muslims. These worthies realised that the 24th also happens to be Christmas Eve, when fun and frolic tend to reach a crescendo before the explosion on Christmas Day. They generously allowed that Christmas cheer for Christians, in particular, would not be greatly affected as they could start their revelry from the time that midnight mass commenced. The fact that midnight mass is a holy obligation in which alcohol plays no part, or that midnight mass is, thanks to the ban on loudspeakers after 10 pm, “midnight” only in name (it starts in fact at 10.30 pm) seems to have been completely overlooked.

Be that as it may, and despite coming to terms with wide-spectrum banning of various kinds, which is so fashionable nowadays — where on Earth did this latest idiocy spring from? Prohibition per se, wherever and whenever it has been implemented, has been an abject failure. And please, don’t point to NaMo’s home state — I have never seen such individual drunkenness or easy availability of liquor as in Gujarat. Why suddenly impose a silly restriction on the public? If alcohol is haraam for Muslims, isn’t it haraam for them the year round? So why not extend the suffering by imposing prohibition on Bakri Eid or before Ramzan starts or, the hell with it, for the whole year?

I wonder if these guys have forgotten Omar Khayyam’s "A book of verses underneath the bough, a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou, beside me singing in the wilderness, O wilderness were paradise enow”? The jug of wine was an important part of the equation, was it not? But seriously, I refuse to believe that any sensible Muslim — and I have many as good friends — would support this foolishness. I cannot help but recite a sher (whether apposite or not to the point at issue, is for you to judge) that a devout Muslim friend taught me: “Zahid, sharaab peene de masjid mein baith kar, ya woh jagah bata de jahaan par Khuda na ho”.

God — Jesus, Allah or Ram — is indeed everywhere. Let us glory in that verity this Christmas season and cease frittering away our time on uselessly playing to the political gallery.

Michael Ferreira is a former world billiards champion

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