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A Rammy Tale

A long time ago, 1994 it was. I was in Arunachal Pradesh co-directing a documentary on eco-forestry along with a FTII classmate. It was our first independent professional assignment. The videographer too was a batchmate and the production manager was a college friend of mine. Our first shoot outside Itanagar, the state capital, was at the beautiful Namdhapa National Park. After a thrilling but punishing day of shooting as the evening fell we all were thirsty for a drink. Our producer told us Arunachal Pradesh being a dry state alcohol was not available over the counter. We were disappointed but decided to ask Ramchand our driver-cum-guide if he had some local info. He assured us that getting booze was easy but the joint was about 20 minutes drive away. Eureka! A couple of us jumped into our vehicle and drove off…

Our car stopped near a non-descript two-storied house. The door was ajar; Ramchand knocked softly and went inside; we followed and entered a small courtyard illuminated by a dim lamp. In the middle of the courtyard was a tulsimandap and in the light of a candle an old widow was engrossed in singing a Ram Bhajan. There was not a soul around… My friend and I looked quizzically at Ramchand … He pointed at the widow … We weren’t sure … Ramchand nodded emphatically …

I walked up to the old lady. My shadow fell on her face, she stopped singing, half-closed her song-book and looked up. I handed over two hundred rupees; she put the notes inside her blouse, bent forward, brought out a newspaper wrapped package from a little hole inside the tulsimandaap, gave it to me. I opened the package, inside was a large bottle of Old Monk Rum … I turned around; the old widow resumed her Ram Bhajans…

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