Drinks-Adam’s ale and others


Last Thursday (Nov. 26), Minister Sajith Premadasa made his point with a visual aide so it sank into people’s minds. However, one wonders whether all the MPs present in Parliament at the time bothered to comprehend the message, and with honesty, agree with him. He held up two bottles: one a stoppered, labelled bottle given Parliamentarians when within its premises; the other with water from Tissamaharama. Even the not so clear television screen I watch, definitely showed the water from the Hambantota area to be turbid. "This is what 40,000 people in Tissamaharama drink," Premadasa intoned. He challenged members from the opposite side to take a sip from the Tissa water. No takers of course – their lives are too precious to risk even a minor stomach ache. He went on to elaborate that the previous regime built harbours, airports, cricket grounds at exorbitant prices but a water scheme was not constructed which would have cost a fraction of a single of the white elephants. It would have helped so many people to have access to a basic need: good drinking water. There was the warning that even in the deep South the shocking and totally distressing kidney disease is spreading, all due to lack of clean drinking water. And then he said he was able to get the necessary money from budget allocations to put in place a scheme to give the people of Tissamaharama this bare necessity. The previous day’s news showed this Minister laying the foundation of a scheme for supplying drinking water. Hambantota itself is drier than the Tissamaharama area and in this rain parched dry zone was laid out at immense cost a water guzzling botanical gardens and cricket grounds needing constant watering!

The importance of good drinking water has somewhat percolated the minds of those who are elected to Parliament to see to such matters. The earlier regime shot at those asking for uncontaminated drinking water - Rathupaswala. Organizations dedicated to serving the people and monks giving of their time and energy to cater to the material needs too of the disadvantaged have answered the call for drinking water in the North Central Province. The grip of the consequences of drinking contaminated water or not drinking enough through lack of good water is tight with many a young man succumbing to death dealing kidney disease. But at least with the good work done mostly by non-governmental organizations and people including religious leaders, children of those areas will be prevented from developing malfunctioning kidneys due to lack of pure water.

Good water straight from the ground in the pre-chemical fertilizer period

I well remember that in my grandmother’s home in Peradeniya, crystal clear water was collected in kalagedi from a small well on high ground dedicated to supplying drinking water. The bathing well was deeper and far away from the baby well. We tipped the clay pots ranged on one side of the medamidula when we were thirsty and after meals, and drank the water ‘neat’ meaning unboiled and unfiltered. Nowhere can we safely do this now. Colombo water is supposed to highly polluted and so extra boiling and twice filtering is a must.

Alcoholic drinks

Coming on to a lesser needed, ye, even derided drink, we remember that recently the President, with a wide smile (a mite unusual for him when addressing gatherings) said that if alcoholic drinks were banned, the government would be toppled in no time. I doubt this since the JVP firebrands will not call for prohibition, neither would the latest band of protesters – university students. Those opposed to a ban on alcoholic drinks, both men and women, would not deign to get on the streets but will curse and await their chance to use their vote to send prohibitionists, to them interferers with human rights, packing.

No to prohibition

Prohibition never works; so those saintly ones who guide our destinies by governing us, had better not think of banning alcoholic drinks. What they should ban are alcoholics. Every government does its job of indirect banning by raising the price of beer and arrack and such like, making irregular imbibers delete beer and stout from their shopping lists. Wine is only drooled over. The hard drinker of course will sell his mother-in-law (hardly a commodity enjoying demand) and definitely their souls for a drink that cheers. The worst is that illegal hooch, body organ destroying stuff, gains in demand and sale.

Prohibition, meaning the act of prohibiting the manufacture, storage, transportation and sale of alcohol and alcoholic beverages nationwide, came into force in the USA in 1920 – 33. The movement originated from rural protestant and social progressives of both the Democratic and Republican parties – the ‘dry crusaders’ - coordinated by an Anti-Saloon League, supported by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Prohibition was mandated by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution. This was to cure perceived societal problems generated by excessive imbibing and resultant crime The ‘wets’ strongly opposed the movement but it became law, only to fail miserably after nurturing carpetbaggers and smugglers of the likes of dashing Rhett Butler in ‘Gone with the Wind;’’ and earning general disapproval. But in America, one benefit was bringing in social reform in spite of the Great Depression that started in 1929.

Here in Sri Lanka/Ceylon, I believe, (open to correction) that the one attempt was by Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) to reform society and have people observe the Five Precepts, the last in particular (I shall refrain from taking intoxicants and mind aberrating drugs) which leads to breaking the other four. Not successful even though he was borne high on mass popularity. Buddhism is strict on this - nothing, not a drop of alcoholic stuff, not even supposedly healthy wine. People try to circumvent this total ban by using the word ‘madjima’ which they interpret as ‘medium’ ‘a little’. No, the monks say.

The President himself (sure teetotal) admitted that alcohol adds huge revenue to government coffers. What the government should do is not raise prices - the easiest and surest way of earning income - but keep prices steady if reduction is impossible so that the kassippu maker/killer is sent out of business. Also stricter domestic rules are called for to curb domestic violence resulting from alcoholism. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Mathata Thitha was a total failure –lacked sincerity and transparency. It was ban for the less privileged; the sky’s the limit for the favoured.

Soda too is evil

Mercifully we are not great guzzlers of soda and other aerated drinks and Coke is treated with caution. But "In 2012, companies produced enough regular soda to supply every single person in the United States of America with nearly thirty gallons. 5% of young children, 16% adolescents, and 20% young adults consume more than five hundred calories a day from soda. Most of those calories are sugars." We see in Colombo the fashion fad of carrying a large paper carton in hand, with sure a sweetened artificial drink in it. We oldies had only pure water, tambili and orange juice to quench our thirst with, and we are so much the better for it. Let’s get back to drinking more Adam’s ale and thank you to politicians like Sajith Premadasa for providing more people with this essential of life.


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