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Issue 66 - Sparring and surviving

Whisky Magazine Issue 66
September 2007


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Sparring and surviving

In his final column before his death,Michael looks back at his time in India and the rise of a nation of whisky drinkers

Loyal to his saffron shorts, our globe-trotting columnist issues a challenge to the Boy from Bangalore. My onetime sparring partner Vijay Mallya. How better to toast half a century of independent India than with a whisky of a similar vintage, and where better to find one than W and M? I reached deep into my cellar for a bottle of fruity, oaky, Dalmore 50-year-old and celebrated India's survival - and mine. On my first visit to the sub-continent, India's future was in question and, shortly after I arrived, so was mine.

Perhaps I had overdone the tinctures on the plane. I had been ordering doubles. Fair do's: a single is so small as to be almost invisible. Now I was seeing double. The cab at the front of the line had two drivers. Then I realised that they all did. I suppose it was a case of a driver and an assistant.

I was glad of that, and even more pleased, when my turn came, that the crew of my cab sported turbans, albeit at a jaunty, “boy racer” angle. The meant that they were Sikhs: the tough guys of the sub-continent. With them in the driving seat(s?), I felt safer. In theory.

The worst violence after partition had long subsided, but a new fault had opened, between the two huge pieces of the sub-continental jigsaw, puzzle, about 1,500 miles apart, that comprised the original Pakistan. The government, in Islamabad had failed to provide adequate assistance to its eastern offshoot during catastrophic floods. The people of East Pakistan were Bengalis. Their country wou...

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