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'Love potion' gives Mizos heartache

Monday, May 2, 2011

/ Published by VIRTHLI
AIZAWL: Mizoram's decision to partially recall the banished spirit last year-end has given it an unexpected and rather amusing hangover.

Mizos thirsting for alcohol for nearly 14 years — since total prohibition came into effect in the state in February 1987 — went into celebratory mode when the state government decreed red wine could be manufactured and sold from mid-November, 2010. Used to drinking on the sly bootlegged IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) sold at least four times the price in neighbouring Assam, Mizos took to the wine, made in two wineries at Hnalan village andChamphai town near the Myanmar border, with gusto.

But the 'love potion'— literal translation of 'Zawlaidi', the brand name of the red wine made from grapes—soon started causing many aches. While doctors generally recommend two glasses, or about 148 ml, of wine a day, the 'spirited' Mizos started guzzling bottles of the wine. "People took to drinking up to three, or even more, bottles," state excise commissioner Lalbiakmawia Khiangte told TOI. The 'kick' Zawlaidi gave them wasn't a pleasant one. Hundreds started complaining of terrible headaches, stomach aches, acidity and aching limbs due to their over-indulgence.

"I got at least two hundred such patients over three months since November. Some even got peptic ulcers and high blood pressure," said D Thangliana, a GP. The civil hospital also received a few hundred similar patients. "We asked them to stop drinking red wine immediately," said Zairemthangi, a doctor at the hospital.

Church groups in this overwhelmingly Christian state, who had forced the state to ban liquor in 1987, intensified their campaign against the wine, especially one with a "wicked" name like Zawlaidi. It led Mizos to scale down their binges. Sale of the red wine, with 14% alcohol content and priced at `170 a bottle, decreased.

Sangkhumi, who runs a small wine store in 'Millennium Tower', Aizawl's chic shopping mall, told TOI sales had come down from 2000 bottles a day in November-December to a couple of hundred now. But there are many who still swear by the drink.

Clearly, Zawlaidi has ignited passions, though not the kind it is famed to.


~Jaideep Mazumdar, TNN
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