By: Rafique Ali
I wanted to move on and write something pressing; supposedly, two articles on alcohol should have been enough. It turns out that Alcohol needs an ongoing conversation. Starting today, a series of articles related to alcohol will appear in Happy Hour; these will be casual and relaxed discussions including myths, stories, legends and the history of alcohol. Right wing nationalism around the world is stressful, so many scholars and academics are writing about it. We, especially Pakistanis need diversion, to chill, take a deep breath, relax and smile.
Wrath of Zia Groupies
Earlier articles about alcohol outraged the Zia generation. They were taught not to use the ‘A word’ (Alcohol) anytime, except when they were supposed to curse, threaten or demonize someone who consumed alcohol or wanting to talk about it. They despised anything representing western civilization, except the beautiful English language. They may want to imply or say a language doesn’t have proprietary rights; if that’s the case, then I invite them to think in the English language too. You can only take ownership of this language of you think in it; if you don’t, then you can’t be its torch bearer. Even if you think in English, which many second and third generation British Pakistanis do, it is viz Anjum Chaudhry type. You still cannot fully embrace it, if you keep refusing to respect the culture and evolution of the English language with humility; most likely, then, you don’t respect the English civilization. Then why would you care about language being spoken by them? Obviously, it is to score points and curse at anybody who doesn’t agree with your world view. In either case, it’s a moment of celebration for English men and women; descendents of Oxfordshire County now have a group of flag bearers of their language watching their backs. This group hates them, but they still care about their language. What a confusing state of mind!
Why Lift Prohibition
Sometime a single act changes the destiny of a nation. In my opinion, lifting prohibition would initiate a flurry of economic activity. One can argue that lifting prohibition has nothing to do with the economic boom. They may bring argument of CPEC, strategic location, end of Afghan conflict, reduction in terrorism and improve security is all we need. They may also say alcohol is available in Pakistan in parallel markets as police look the other way, once they get their cut.
There are two types of consumers; the domestic Muslim population and visitors (both Muslim and Non-Muslims). Let’s talk about visitors; they can have alcohol served in their hotel rooms and that is legal. Even Muslim visitors can have it, although they may have to pay premium prices. This is how I see it; asking for alcohol in a hotel room is annoying for the average visitor. Business and pleasure travelers do not want to feel like they are being treated as criminals, engaged in the disgusting practice which is frowned upon by the local population. They may say that they respect the local traditions, but then they would avoid coming back. They may also tell friends and family about their experience with prohibition. Fewer expats would be willing to come over for long term contracts. If you forbid any commodity in a country, it may impact a slice of foreign visitors; in the case of alcohol, it would be more than a slice. One example is the beef ban in India. Now some beef loving westerners will raise their eyebrows; especially if the assignment is long term. Visitors are the engine of economic activity. Look at Turkey and UAE; a huge part of their economy depends on tourism. Despite having alcohol in public spaces, they are still Muslim. Not everybody drinks, but they respect those who do. Thus, their economies benefit.
Lifting Prohibition Possible?
The forty year effort of pushing citizens of Pakistan like cattle is falling apart; the state of denial is tumbling, but at a snail’s pace. It doesn’t look like it’s happening, but undercurrents aren’t representative of the mainstream narrative; discussions, not possible a few years ago, are happening now. They couldn’t turn this country into a monotheistic society; we are, we were and we will remain a nation of diverse groups of people. Alcohol is part of the sub-culture; always was and always will be. It’s not IF Pakistan lifts prohibition, it’s WHEN Pakistan lifts prohibition. It looks so remote for now, but, in ten to fifteen years, you will see it happening. Conservative majority believe it’s out of question; they may want to go as far as burning the country down, rather than letting the state enact a regulated alcohol industry.
I recently read some Pakistani scholars quote that the sixth pillar of Islam is ROTI (Bread). The way Pakistan is going down in many of the statistics is staggering; check out the health, education, poverty, malnutrition, and high mortality rates. It’s not sustainable; forces of nature will change it. Eventually saner voices will get louder in 5, 10 or 15 years. The voices of hungry people will get desperate, and an ‘out of box’ solution will demand looking at this avenue to grease their economic engine. Then it will happen.
Yes, it is possible! Alcohol in public spaces in Pakistan! The writing is on the wall!
Idea of Happy Hour
Earlier it was mentioned that the idea of writing Happy Hour is to de-stress the environment. Additionally, another objective is to prepare manpower to cater to the needs of future visitors. This is only possible if we start the conversations; the population must understand the terminology, good customer service, and best practices of the hospitality industry. The people don’t have to start drinking; they just need to grasp all aspects pertaining to alcohol. I am not claiming to be a master bartender, by any means, but, I hope to spark your curiosity and encourage you to explore the subject further. I will introduce you to two terms today: Happy Hour and Last Call
Happy Hour – This is a window of time, usually lasting an hour or two, when bar serve drinks at special discounted prices. Happy hour usually starts at 4 or 5 pm. America’s country singer Alan Jackson’s song, ‘It’s 5 O’ Clock Somewhere’, eternalized the concept of happy hour.
Last Call – The bartender yells “Last call” in the wee hours of the night, about a half hour before the bar closes. Sometimes the bartender also rings an old fashioned bell or flashes the lights when the announcement is made, so that everyone is aware of the ‘Last call.’ This is an invitation for patrons to order their last drink, if they so desire, before the bar closes. Soon after the call, customers place their order and then they are allowed to stay another 30-45 minutes to finish the drink in hand or the new one just ordered.
And the conversation will continue….
Writer can be contacted or followed on twitter at @GoToMtns