The curious case of Priti Chandriani

Mumbai Mirror’s front page story on June 22 nearly upstaged the lead story about the fire in Mantralaya. While Priti Chandriani – the papers have misspelt her name as Preeti Chandrayani – a 53-year-old documentary filmmaker and resident of Worli, was on her way to the parlour, excise officials visited her home. They had been ‘tipped off’ that Chandriani was in possession of vast quantities of alcohol without a permit and that she made alcohol-infused chocolate. According to the Mirror report, chocolatiers who use alcohol in their sweets and those who buy liqueur chocolates require permits. Chandriani claimed that she makes chocolates as a hobby; she doesn’t sell them. But according to this report, menus with prices were found in her house. And a Google search reveals that she does actually sell chocolate.

Not only did the officials confiscate all the alcohol and chocolate, they took away all her recipe books. It’s alarming and deeply distressing to know that excise chaps can just swan into your house to inspect your booze cupboard and then detain you for possessing alcohol without a permit. But I’m incredulous of this story. It seems too wild to be taken at face value.

Why did the excise guys zero in on Chandriani? Who could have ‘tipped’ them off about this chocolatier/hobbyist? There’s obviously an underlying reason that’s either speculation or difficult to verify that has not been reported. Could the tip off be some sort of act of revenge? Why would anyone go to this length? Have her documentaries pissed someone off?

It’s not farfetched to imagine a dystopian scenario in which the excise department swoops down on unsuspecting people in their homes the way Dhoble does to clubs and restaurants. Selling permits is after all a major source of revenue for the department. But at the moment, if there’s any certainty at all in this strange strange story it is that the excise chaps had Chandriani’s chocolates for dessert.

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