Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bangalore and Booze

Caravan a literary magazine I read has carried an interesting cover story on how Bangalore became an alcohol city, The Liquid City: How Alcohol made Bangalore by Raghu Karnad. Long before Bangalore came to be known as the IT capital of India, it was known as a city of pubs.

Bangalore was chosen as a summer capital by Brits, Scots and Irish soldiers because its weather was similar to England’s . The soldiers set up their houses in north Bangalore and there rose a sharp social divide between the northern part of Bangalore (known as Cant, short form of cantonment) and the part of the city inhabited by natives. The divide was not just social but also one of drinking preference. The Cant residents drank whiskey and the poison of the natives was arrack. After some years, beer replaced whiskey as a more handy beverage for the white soldiers.

With the independence of the country the social divide between the whiskey drinking and arrack drinking population of Bangalore decreased and the two types of drinks found their own torch bearers and political patrons in political parties and governments. Karnata lost three chief ministers to the liquor lobby. In 1948, Vittal Mallya bought United Beverage and with time it grew while arrack grew under the ownership/leadership of KN Guruswami, who, to steer Bangalore clear of prohibition under Murarji Desai, launched two newspapers (Deccan Herald is one of them) to influence government policy against prohibition of liquor. KN Guruswami was also the first person to set up a pub to serve draught beer and a few years later, following the example of KN Guruswamy, Vijay Mallya set up a pub which became a huge success leading Mallya to open more. It was the 80s.

But, in later years, where Guruswami and his likes restricted themselves to manipulating the system to ensure their survival and advancement, Vijay Mallya understood the importance of branding and chose sports, among other platforms, to promote Kingfisher.

When I first saw the cover story on alcohol in Caravan, I thought whether a cover story on alcohol is a serious enough topic especially given that Caravan’s cover stories tend to be quite long and they deal with serious topics. After reading it, I know that my hunch was wrong. It was worth making and reading the story.


Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Interesting post. I didn't know of these facts before.

indrablog said...

Hi Swapna,
Ya, these facts many don't know. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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