Hi there!Mark Whitworth I am Mark Whitworth -
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Horizons: India - Kerala 2007

markTeetotal - Incredible India!

Dropping down into Thiruvananthapuram airport is enough to drive one to drink simply attempting to pronounce it; fortunately it has a contraction, Trivandrum, which trips off the tongue readily in comparison.

Trivandrum is in Kerala, the south-western state of India, and is home to a complex mix of cultures and history, resulting in a melange of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, spiced up with a large Jewish community in some areas. Add to this the occupation, or governance, by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, after which, for most of the last sixty years, Kerala has been run by the Communist Party of India, you might expect a complete basket case, but not so; Kerala is the wealthiest of Indian states and has the highest literacy rates. However, such a complex mix is bound to result in some odd quirks, or seven, and the official attitude towards alcohol is one area where the strains are apparent.

Apart from hotel bars, and then only the more upmarket hotel bars, the only vendors of beers, wines and spirits are grotty, darkened shops, hidden away in the worst areas of town, with caged windows and inadequate lighting encouraging the nervous tourist to leave it for another day. Although the supply is limited to certain outlets, there is a large demand for booze and this is evidenced by the long queues that snake away from the entrances of these drab establishments. Nearly everyone in the queues appear to be from the suffering poor minority of Kerala, however this is not necessarily an indication of the real consumers, as all wealthier Indians will have sent someone down to pick up their daily supplies.