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Seeking the Tiger
By Monica Schrager
By all means we didn’t think we were being foolish. And the thing is, we really weren’t. But we were doing something illegal. We were seeking beer in a dry district in the southern agricultural plain of Nepal.
I hadn’t known ahead of time that it was a dry district, and not that we really needed alcohol, but the challenge of trying to find it was appealing. And when the American catholic priest we ran into told us where we could find it, well, how could we resist.
So we started off to town, searching for this "restaurant" that we had been directed to. We went the wrong way a couple times and finally stopped to ask directions, which led us in one direction, though for some reason we chose to go the opposite direction. And that’s when we found it. But it wasn’t exactly a restaurant; it was a "Lodge."
So, we went through to the back of the building where there was a small outdoor area with one table. Someone in our group inquired about "beer" and they gestured for us to go upstairs. Amid the confusion of us trying to tell them we’d like to sit outside while following them, they led us up a steep ladder of sorts, hopping a step into an upstairs room and into a bedroom with only about two feet on either side of four beds in a tight row.
"I think they think we want a room," someone said. Then more confusion followed, with one person in our group standing in the doorway (in case they tried to shut us in) and another person pulling out her rape whistle and Swiss army knife (just in case).
Personally, I was never concerned for our safety; in fact I was finding this whole experience rather entertaining. I look now at the pictures where the rape whistle and Swiss army knife make an appearance and laugh thinking about the chaos that was ensuing at that time.
So, ultimately we worked it all out. Apparently, because alcohol was illegal, they had led us to this private bedroom to drink and they’d sent someone out with a duffle bag to get us beer. They were trying to shut us in the room (two of the proprietors were in with us) simply because there was a small child on the other side trying to get in and they didn’t want her to witness the drinking.
At one point we believed they were trying to tell us men and women had to drink separately. Whether they were or weren’t, that was something we emphatically refused to do.
So then the beer arrived, and the two proprietors stayed with us as we drank. Once we cracked open our big bottles of Tiger Beer that cost us each 150 Rupees (approximately $2), we loosened up. We started laughing about the whistle and knife, which were still around someone’s neck and in someone's hand. We posed for some pictures as a group and even offered the proprietors some beer. They pleasantly, and somewhat nervously, declined as they remained standing in the corners of the room.
And as we laughed and enjoyed the Tiger I got a bit worried about what to tell the others. Were we doing something bad, were we being foolish, had we not realized the implications (whatever they may be) of our actions? Could being caught drinking beer when it was illegal to do so land us in a Nepali jail? After babbling on (and probably repetitively) about this for a few minutes, as the "Extra-Strong" Tiger beer started taking effect on my empty stomach, someone shut me up, thankfully, and we all just decided we’d be honest. Hey, a catholic priest had led us here.
The time came to be on our way. We had to meet the others for dinner, so we guzzled down the rest of our Tigers, said our farewells to the proprietors (in much higher spirits then when we came in), and bumbled down the streets of the town giggling and giddily reminiscing about the experience we had just had.
Over the next week I found myself passing the establishment on my journeys into town. Each time, the proprietors were out front and recognized me. We exchanged nods and smiles in recognition of what had transpired in that small room packed with beds, that had left all of us who had visited that evening smiling at the thought of what we’d come to describe as our "shady Nepali beer-drinking experience."
Copyright©2001 by Monica Schrager.
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