G Sampath | Saturday, January 7, 2012
I’m not very adventurous in my drinking habits. I generally stick to wine. And while I’ve had whiskey, brandy, feni, cognac, chang, gin and arrack, besides several other region and country-specific spirits and sub-spirits whose names I don’t remember now, I’d never tasted pesticide.
So when I was invited by Pesti Cola, a leading MNC pesticide manufacturer, to attend a pesticide-tasting workshop, I accepted immediately.
The venue of the workshop was a luxurious resort in the heart of Vidarbha. As you would know, pesticide is a really popular drink in these parts, and people run up huge debts to indulge their weakness for this beverage. The resort was situated in the middle of a cotton farm, where the very air was redolent with the rich aroma of freshly brewed pesticide.
I found myself at a table with five different glasses of vintage pesticides. Also present were Mr Arsenic, the COO of Pesti Cola, Mr BT Gene, COO of the agri-business giant Consanto, Mr Terminator, COO of the seed company Maha-Seedy, and Mr Squeeze, COO of Vile-Mart.
Mr Arsenic handed me a glass to taste. The label said, ‘2006 Coudoulet de Vidarbh Nitrobenzene’. It was a bright, juicy and delicious pesticide with a cyanide flavor that leaves you with a subtle aftertaste of death even after you spit it out, as I did.
“Try the 2007 Domaine de la Yavatmal Heptachlore. It’s my favourite,” said Mr Terminator, offering me the glass. “It is a well-balanced pesticide that pairs well with small loans at usurious interest rates. Farmers who don’t get a decent price for their produce love this pesticide, as it has the power to transport you to another world altogether, far away from debts and terminator seeds.”
“But you have to check out the 2008 Chateau de la Wardha Mercury Chloride,” said Mr BT Gene, handing me another glass. “From the great Chateau de la Wardha, it is a sexy, full-bodied pesticide that turns you into a body in nine seconds flat. Consanto offers a 250 ml can of this drink free with every 500 seeds of Bt Cotton.”
The COOs exchanged glances as I picked up a glass that said ‘2003 Domaine de Amaravati Nickel Chloride Vieilles.’ They looked at me expectantly as I took a sip. “This polished, mineral-driven, understated pesticide will develop even greater complexity as you gargle your mouth with it,” I said, spitting it out. “While it is not as strong as Cabernet Endosulfan Bhuldana, it is better endowed than Pinot Noire Washim Ethyl Parathion.”
But the vintage drink I really liked was the 2001 Yavatmal Chardonnay Sodium Methane Arsonate. Ripe, lush and incredibly concentrated, this limited-production pesticide, which can be consumed even if you are not a farmer, is definitely one of the best Arsenic-based drinks ever.
I asked the COO of Pesti Cola about the pesticide market in India. “Well, India is the fastest growing market,” he said. “There are 650 million farmers in India, of which only 250,000 have committed suicide till date. And of these, only 179,000 had consumed pesticide. Just imagine how many million gallons of pesticides we’d sell if we can persuade all of India’s surviving farmers to commit suicide! Obviously, we have a huge market to tap!”
“Right,” I said, spitting out a mouthful of the well-balanced and curvaceous Cabernet Kelzara Nitrofen Blanc. “But how do you ensure that the demand keeps growing?”
“What do you mean?” said Mr BT Gene. “What makes you think the demand for pesticides won’t grow?”
“Well, you know, with so many people switching to organic farming and all that — do pesticides have a future, really?”
All the COOs burst out laughing. “Are you really this naive or are you joking?” and they laughed some more when they realised I was serious. “Nobody makes pesticides for crops anymore,” explained Mr Arsenic. “It’s an open secret that they are hardly effective. Our real target is the farmer — they are the real pests, after all, don’t you agree?”
“That’s self-evident,” said Mr Squeeze, the Vile-Mart COO, who had been sitting quietly in a corner all this while. “Farmers are unnecessary middlemen between the food and the consumer. If we eliminate them, we will be able to reach the food to the consumer at a much cheaper price — that’s how Vile-Mart became the world’s largest retailer.”
“In fact, I was just telling Mr Arsenic,” said Mr Terminator, “They should launch an ad campaign, selling the concept of how pesticide IS the coolest drink for the Indian farmer. You have Coke and Pepsi for urban India, and Pesti for rural India — that should be the brand positioning.”
“We’re working on it,” said Mr Arsenic. “We want to raise awareness on this issue. People wrongly assume that you have to be a farmer to commit suicide by drinking pesticide. We want to make pesticide the top-of-mind option for anyone contemplating suicide. Hopefully, in the years to come, even bureaucrats, politicians and CEOs will want to commit suicide by drinking pesticide. But for now, we’re happy to focus on farmers.”
The COOs decided to raise a toast. “To the great Indian farmer,” we said, clinking our glasses.