New Year’s Eve looms, the ungodly are preparing to make whoopee and as always, Gujarati ‘Asmita’ fears the worst. That is what the Vadodara police believe, on the basis of empirical evidence, and are determined that Asmita shall not be scandalised this year. They are brutally candid, too. They know that Gujarat, a dry state, is fairly swimming in the stuff, and they have banned the “consumption of intoxicating drinks”, along with the behavioural effects that they produce in the movies: “Indecent behaviour, rash driving.” This is all in the interest of children and “susanskari” (accultured) society.
The police commissioner has noted that funny business goes on “under the pretext of celebrations for December 31.” Paradoxically, the “pretext” has real consequences — “anti-social” parties featuring much libating and imbibing, and “indulging in indecent behaviour or posture.” This is a pathbreaking step with a heavy tread. Never before has posture been criminalised. Even Asmita would not stand for something that is so patently wrong. Incidentally, Asmita has also been warned against wearing “small clothes”. This is initially puzzling, since it is a common euphemism in the other Indian languages for unmentionables. However, it is clarified in the notification, which explains that showing skin will not be tolerated. How much may be shown, and how much intolerance will meet transgressions, is not quantified.
But never mind the details, for we finally have proof that Gujarat — or the city of Vadodara, at least — is not as dry as is advertised. It is also nice to know that it has a police force firmly grounded in realism which, by dint of personal experience, refuses to be taken in by the political mythology of prohibition. If only administrators in the other allegedly dry states were as candid about the world, we would have a much more reasonable polity.