Why Tharus drink daru
Ponder over the alliteration – Tharu and daru (alcohol). Don’t they resemble? Of course, Devanagari, the script imposed on the Tharus has juxtaposed the two letters “थ (tha)” and “द (da)”. So, if you go by the script, Tharu is followed by daru. With the passing time, daru has preceded Tharu. Now, wherever daru goes, Tharu follows its footsteps. The gurus (Madhesi Brahmins and Kayasthas) Tharus kept in their homes as tutors etched this as a universal truth in their hearts. They advised, “Reading and writing is not your forte, do what your heart tells.” And you know Tharus treat their elders as their Gods. So, how can they disobey the teachings? Thus, began Tharus’ love affair with daru.
To make the matter worse, the civil code Muluki Ain attested that Tharus are drinkers. It categorised them as Masinya Matwali (enslavable alcohol drinkers). As if Tharus at that time were not humans and were mere bodies of flesh and bones. So, the once landlords and kings of Terai started considering themselves as slaves and drinkers. This not only lowered their morale, it depressed them and accelerated the consumption of daru. Tharus at that time ran after the crow without checking whether their ears were intact (A popular Nepali adage advises not to run after a crow if somebody tells you that it is flying with your ears). Had Jung Bahadur Rana placed them in such category this day, Tharus would have shut down the Terai, marched to Kathmandu and submerged the Singha Durbar (The administrative helm of Nepal) in daru.
Flashback: Now let me take you to the ancient times. Tharus brewed daru in their homes and drank during festivals and special occasions. These days every day is special. Haven’t you heard? Some wise person rightly said, “Treat each day as if it were your last.” If every day needs to be treated as Armageddon, then why not drink daru? And yes, if you buy from others, you propel the local economy. Thinking this, Tharus stopped brewing at their homes, instead started thinking big – spending their forefathers’ hard-earned money – to make others rich and alleviate poverty of the migrant settlers (hill dwellers who flocked to Terai after the malaria eradication).
Now zoom back to the present times. The unemployment is rampant in the country and in case of Tharus it’s more serious. Neither they have enough qualification (though some are at par with their so-called high caste friends), nor they have somebody up in the echelons to pull the strings. They just remain puppets in the hands of central administration run by some so-called superiors. And to remain true to their forefathers who advised to be happy all the time, they drink daru. At least the grief flies away till the stupor prevails.
To add to the woes (let me call it happiness), the multinationals (and nationals) have launched so many brands in Nepal that even if you go on drinking a different brand every day, you won’t be able to guzzle all. With so many choices – beer, whiskey, vodka, gin, brandy, wine, champagne, jand (local rice beer), khoya birke (local whiskey) and the list goes on – Tharus are enthralled. In earlier days, they used to hang a clay pot to a palm tree and collect tari (palm wine). They chopped down the trees, converted the plots into arable land, and gifted it to their friends from hills – as a token of true friendship. Some sold their land at the price of a cowry shell, some exchanged it for a glass of alcohol and some surrendered to the admonition and threats. Now they are more than happy. They don’t need to drink the crude alcohol any more. Thanks god, they have international brands within arm’s reach.
Another brick in the wall is lack of decent education. While their Madhesi (people living in plains – Terai/Madhes) and Pahadi (people living in hills) colleagues are busy studying, they are busy playing and loitering around. And as you know, you need fuel to toss a football. The fuel is none other than the favourite daru. After their neighbours complete their Masters, they join high paying jobs and start earning. If you observe the case of Tharus, they are bright as halogen lamps in the school but end up into flickering candles by the time they join college. With no degrees in hand they end up tilling land, labouring for daily wages and even working for their once-friends. To lessen the envy, they drink daru.
Last but not the least reason is the lax rule of law. The police are hand in glove with the bhattiwallahs and bhattiwalis (the bar owners). While they pay bribes, serve food and beverage to the rule-keepers, they fleece the customers to earn profit. And who else is more fleece-able than a Tharu? Of course, you feel like a prince when you are drunk. Tharus start considering themselves as kings after few sips. Tharus start paying for the drunkards at the surrounding tables, if they praise them [Tharus]. The jamindari (system of keeping huge plots of land) of yesteryears floods back to them and even though they have only few katthas (1 Kattha = 338.57 square metres) of land remaining, they try to be a Babu (respected title). Once you become a Babu, you pay for the daru, let alone the zero earning. As he pays for the daru, he again visits the bhatti (bar) next day thinking that others (who drank daru paid by him) would pay for him. But he again ends up paying for others. The cycle continues and he gets entangled in the vicious circle. And daru becomes the only saviour. Till insolvency.
(My request to Tharus: Don’t drink daru.)