Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Gandhi Bot Beer, USA: why is Gandhiji's name dragged into many controversies?

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Gandhiji happened to be a simple, modest man against non-violence and alcoholic drinks. Never had he lost sight of honesty and integrity in political life and morality in social life. Unfortunately, he became a center of  controversies  that were thrust upon him. That he came out unscathed is a different story. During election times, his name is more often than not is linked to some topics that become subjects of discussion across the Indian states.  About  4 years ago in the USA, Gandhiji became a subject of serious  debate for altogether different reasons. Can you believe that a brewery on the US east coast created a  branded beer and named it after 'Gandhi'? Gandhiji was not new to controversies because he never created them.

In the political arena in India, almost every month or two Mahatma Gandhi's name is dragged by our politicians regarding matters related  to people's welfare  and governance and we have a fracas over them. During the recent  election campaign for the Parliament in May this year, party leader Kamal Hassan  (Makkal Needhi Mayyam)  and a Tamil matinee idol dragged the name of Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse and tagged him as the 'first Hindu terrorist'. This created a storm among  level-headed politicians across India as there was not a modicum of truth in it. Godse committed murder, then surrendered to the police and finally was put to death by the court. Godse  was neither  a human bomb nor had he  had  any criminal records to prove that he was a terrorist.   

When talking about creation of Pakistan, majority of people of the nation did not like it.  A large section of people put the blame on Gandhi  who was soft on Indian Muslims and the adamant leader Mohd. Ali Jinnah who became a puppet in the hands of the British and  created Pakistan. Gandhi supported and eventually got the whole country divided into two
Gandhiji created another storm when Pakistan  govt. under Jinnah demanded additional sum from the Indian Govt, led by Nehru.Jinnah wanted 50 thousand crore rupees (?) from India for Pakistan's development (I'm not sure about the exact figure).
Gandhiji strongly advised Nehru to provide additional sum to help Pakistan tide over the financial glitches in the initial stages. Gandhiji was not even a member of the cabinet.  

Gandhiji's  advice in this regard was not very much appreciated by many politicians as the British Govt. before  leaving India for good, looted every thing and kept the coffers almost empty. With crump in the treasury, the responsibility fell on the new Indian govt. to take care of weak economy, refugees problems from Pakistan and vast emaciated Indian population.  During partition of India, when  refugees from Pakistan were not allowed to stay in the Mosques in Delhi or elsewhere, again he became a controversial person as there was  no reaction coming from him. Perhaps he might have become  mute and tongued-tied  over the spate of violent political situations created by partition.
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Again, recently when the central govt. was talking about three language policy, mention was made by a large section of people that Gandhi wanted Hindi to be our national language because majority of Indians speak that language.  

The above references to Gandhiji remind me of  a funny, but serious subject related to him. There are countless names in this world  as there are stars in the sky and it is a strange thing that the Woodbridge (Connecticut, USA) based New England Brewing Company chose the name of Mohan Das Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi), the apostle of non-violence to name  its new variety of brew called Gandhi Beer. This highly hopped beer had been  on the market for roughly 5 years when  Gandhiji's image on the beer-can was noticed by some Indians.  

The company went ahead and came up with a different sales pitch for the new product  to get the attention of the beer-lovers. The company's website promoted it as  "fully vegetarian" and "an ideal aid for self-purification and the seeking of truth and love''. Website  further stated:  “Gandhi-Bot is an intensely hopped double India pale ale with a blend of three varieties of American.''  

Consequently, the small Hartford, CT brewing company saw their sale of beer going upwardly. It is nice to recall, in the early colonial rule in India in the early 19th century, the British Bobs had difficulty in getting beer from England to wet their dry mouth in a tropical place. Part of the reason was long sea journey from England and beer's poor shelf life. Then highly hopped beer India Pale Ale was introduced for the British India which quenched their heart an soul in the midst of hot summer days and monsoon rains. Later English Ale became popular across the globe.

It was only after a long time toward the end of 2014, when the Indians (from the subcontinent) saw the beer carrying the computerised image of Gandhiji, they were aghast and upset. Like Indo-American statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that 'peace icon Mahatma Gandhi abhorred drinking, many Indian protested against naming  the beer after him  and carrying his weird image. Several people from India and the US wrote to the brewing company to change the name as it it hurts the sentiments and legacy of a man who struggled hard in the Indian freedom movements and who was against drinking alcohol.  The Beer can shows Gandhi’s sketch with one hand raised as if he was blessing the drinker. He was assassinated in January 1948, months after India got the  independence  and was jailed on many occasions by the British India Govt.

Associating Gandhiji  with an alcoholic brew was trivializing his loft principles and philosophy in order to give wide publicity to a new variety of beer.  It  exposes the greed of competing companies to have an edge over the other brands.  The company, which is one among the 20 reputed breweries, is  a craft brewery that began operation  in 2003. Considered as the only second craft brewery on the entire East Coast to have its beer for sale in cans, and “bring passion for flavor”. The company's  founder/owner  was Rob Leonard and the  man who created  Gandhi-Bot beer was one  Matt Westfall, a  head brewer. They never thought that their popular vegetarian beer would face rough headwinds.  At last, the company withdrew the name and was contemplating to give a different, but appealing name.   The debate began with a  filed a petition in a court in Hyderabad (now in Telengana), alleging that carrying Gandhi's image on alcohol cans was "condemnable" and punishable under Indian laws.
The following famous people were fond of beer, how come the American brewery chose Gandhi's name over them ?  
For a quart of Ale is a dish for a king” ... ...William Shakespeare

 “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”...........Abraham Lincoln.

 “Most people hate the taste of beer—to begin with. It is, however, a prejudice.”..............................Winston Churchhill.

Perhaps Gandhi-bot beer might have touched  the heart and soul of the drinkers. 


https://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/NRI/2015-01-06/Gandhi-beer-upsets-Indo-Americans-in-Connecticut/124574
"https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-30677661