A few years ago we travelled as a family to Kerala, the spice garden of India, in the south of the country. It was a fascinating experience and although so many of our holidays include sunset dinners with a bottle of wine in the shadow of an ancient monument (no, I honestly mean the stone and mortar variety, not Outdoor Man), India was very different. We rode elephants, stayed on houseboats, were wary of monkeys in the trees above us and generally feasted out on a culture with sights, smells and customs very different to our own.
We were conscious that alcohol was available if you wanted it, but apart from an occasional bottle of beer, none of our party imbibed except, that is, for the guide who, even on our first night, returned to our dinner table smelling of spirits and somewhat more agitated and vocal than when he had left us.
That memory came back to me today when I read that Kerala attributes 69% of its crimes and 80% of its cases of divorce and domestic violence to alcohol. As a result it is looking to reduce alcohol consumption across the state by revoking licences for the sale of liquor and its aim is to be totally dry within a few years.
Alcohol is a contributory factor to many a divorce and violent episode here in the UK too. Surely there cannot be a divorce lawyer in the country who has not drafted a petition for divorce with those notorious words: “The Respondent drank to excess…”
There is a school of thought that suggests that alcohol exacerbates one’s natural temperament, emphasising the aggression in some and the soft and entertaining nature of others. So there are some who sing and dance on the table before falling asleep underneath it, and others who maliciously throw the table and chairs whilst trying to impose their will on those who are weaker than themselves. The person who is sweet and innocent when sober, can turn into a demon possessed when “under the influence”.
Before the UK would consider banning the sale of “booze”, however, it would inevitably consider other options. Indeed a minimum price tag seems to be the current political favourite. Might I, however, suggest an alternative, namely: the introduction of elephants in the streets and monkeys in the trees? Although it hasn’t worked in Kerala, were British drinkers to come face to face with an ape or woolly mammoth whilst binge drinking in the local town centre, they would surely think they had overindulged and it was time to make a quiet retreat to bed.