The mini-market has one vegetable shop, one grocer who also does milk deliveries early in the morning, one defunct barber shop, a medical shop and the Jubilee Wine Spot. The ‘market’ stands at the corner of one main road and a lane leading off to a quiet residential area. This used to be a lazy kind of market once, but not any more. Ever since the liquor shop moved here, there is a bustle at the beginning of every month. The first Sunday sees crates of beer being delivered. By mid-morning, there’s an informal party of men crowded around the shop, which has large supplies of namkeen, plastic disposable glasses, plastic pouches of water and small change.
Drinking is a serious business here. The men talk among themselves but they are rarely raucous. One or two plug a bottle of beer to their lips and detach themselves from the bottle only when there’s nothing left in it. By late afternoon, the crowd disappears. If they have any money left, it has been consumed or invested in more alcohol for later.
Parked just outside the wine shop at around four in the afternoon, waiting for others to finish what they have to, I have a good view of two men on the pavement, right next to the large blue MCH rubbish bin. They are both ragged, both bleary-eyed and very, very drunk. On the pavement beside them is an empty bottle of cheap rum: only an optimist would consider tipping the bottle for a few fugitive drops of liquor. As I watch, a remarkable altercation is in progress.