An Indian state has banned alcohol. Drinking has moved to neighboring Nepal.

AT THE NEPAL-INDIA BORDER – As the afternoon heat gives way to a pleasant evening breeze, a palpable change begins to occur in the composition of the crowd flowing from India to Nepal across an open border.

At first there are Nepalese, a large number of them women, returning home after a quick shopping trip for cheaper goods and groceries on the Indian side. Two women in colorful saris share the load of a heavy bag, each holding a handle. A man carries a fan on the back of a bicycle rickshaw, the blades of which spin in the wind; another rides a bicycle with a single watermelon attached to his back.

But when it gets dark, much of the crowd crossing the border is made up of men who arrive mostly empty-handed. Men with government posts, tucked up shirts and polished shoes in the morning, who are dropped off at the border with their vehicles. And men pedaling bicycles with heavy legs and heavy thoughts, the tools of their daily trade dangling in a handbag.

These are Indian men who enter Nepal for a drink or two, or as many as they manage to squeeze in before the police whistle and the street bars close around 9pm.

The border between India and Nepal, safe moments of political tension, was an example of how open policy helps frontier people to enjoy wider economic choices. Take for example the needs of the motorcycle, a preferred means of transport here: spare parts are cheaper in India; Fuel is cheaper in Nepal.

This openness has been particularly popular with local drinkers since the Indian state of Bihar, which has over 100 million people and shares a border with Nepal that is more than 400 miles long, banned alcohol in 2016. A small bar and restaurant industry has sprung up just across the border, on the Nepalese side, and caters to Indians of all classes looking to quench their thirst.

The ban in Bihar, supported by local women, aimed to address the rampant problems of alcoholism, domestic violence and wasted income. The penalties for getting caught with alcohol were severe. A first-time offender must pay hundreds of dollars in fines or spend a month in jail; repeated offenses are sentenced to one year.

The government of the state’s prime minister, Nitish Kumar, said the ban helped reduce violence and crime, although the proximity of the border and ease of crossing it reduced the effect of the law.

The ban has also raised challenges. The judiciary is clogged with cases of alcoholism. The state is losing hundreds of millions of dollars each year in alcohol taxes. And the liquor is still available, smuggled and sold for double or triple the price.

An Indian farmer, astride a bench at one of the roadside cafes in Nepal with two bottles of cheap grain brandy in front of him, said the prime minister wins the election because women vote for him as a sign of appreciation for the ban on alcohol.

But the farmer, Mr Gupta, who only shared his last name because he intended to break the law by taking alcohol with him across the border, said the policy had simply raised the price of the alcohol, as it was still available but a two or three times the price.

While still on the Nepal side of the border, he bought a third bottle to go, wrapping it in his shawl and tying it to the back of his bicycle. As he staggered away to Bihar, he assured everyone who could hear him that he was not drunk.

The open border area is vast, as is the diversity of the evening booze scene that has grown throughout Nepal.

The affluent from India drive to the city of Janakpur, or the coveted hill areas, where the bars are air-conditioned, the alcohol imported, the turbulent and sometimes hateful scenes.

In a hotel bar in Janakpur, as the men became tipsy around the table, shouts of “bottom up!” addressing the waiters with derogatory names as they ordered the next shift. In another hotel, the discomfort of being seen drinking in Bihar still seemed to haunt two men who had come for lunch: they poured their beers into mugs tucked discreetly under the table.

Umesh Yadav, a Nepalese university lecturer in the border town of Jaleshwar, said that the economic opportunity of an open border is much greater than the small problems that come with the increase in drunk customers.

“When they drink, obviously sometimes there are problems,” he said. “But the police are always there.”

In the border stretch of Maruwahi, much of the alcohol consumption takes place in the mango orchards that hug the dividing line, at picnics that involve only what’s in the bottle, not a basket of food.

Men in small groups joke and laugh as they swallow from plastic bottles, their bicycles parked nearby. Others crouch under the trees as they receive bottles from vendors who do their rounds – bartenders on the go. Some drink in the quiet company of a friend or in the company of their own thoughts, staring at the fading sun behind a group of Indian border guards in the distance.

In a village about a mile from the orchards, a cafe owner said he recently installed CCTV cameras for security, but had to remove them after a few days when his customers went missing, worried they were being filmed.

The Mahottari border point is something of a draw. All kinds of crowds mingle with the dozens of simple shacks that serve as bars.

“We used to sell education, now we sell alcohol,” said with a smile Kundan Mehta, who ran a book and stationery store in Bihar before opening the Navrang Hotel on the Nepalese side about five years ago. “I tell them, ‘Stop studying, son, have a drink now.’”

Inside, a small television tied to a bamboo pole was showing a live cricket match. The walls were decorated with posters of a Bollywood actress, a Hindu spiritual leader, and loaded the horses with inspirational quotes on how to pursue what you want.

One customer, Ravi Kumar, wanted a drink of Golden Oak, a cheap local grain spirit.

“You know you can’t have a drink there,” said Mr. Kumar, a farmer, pointing to India.

He crosses the border about twice a week to drink, more often than not it wouldn’t be convenient, he said.

“If you do too much” – he raised his fist with his thumb out to his mouth, sign language for drinking in this part of the world – “then you need” – he rubbed the fingers of his right hand into the sign for money.

Ankit, 22, who works for a local bank about an hour from the border, endured a long week working the deadline to complete hundreds of loan collections. He had taken a border bus straight from work to eat the local delicacy of fried fish. Ankit, who spoke on the condition that his surname was not used because he was about to smuggle alcohol into India, mixed beer with a bottle of local liquor.

“It helps me release some of the stress,” she said.

While Ankit settled the bill, he bought two bottles to take away. A Nepali woman in an orange sari waited at the counter, ready to earn a small fee for her upcoming smuggling mission.

“Let’s go,” Ankit said. “I’m running late, I want to miss the bus.”

“Roji-roti,” the Nepalese woman replied and smiled. Local slang, literally means “daily bread” and carries the connotation of a person’s sustenance.

She slipped the bottles into the waist of her sari and led the way.

Birkha Shahi, the commander of the nearby Nepalese border outpost, was sympathetic. He said his forces don’t really repress a smuggled bottle or two, but focus on large-scale smuggling.

“We get tired of taking them, but they don’t get tired of trying,” he said. “Roji Roti.”