Social drinking is catching on, athough slowly!
Globalisation has brought with it not just increasing prosperity, but a different drinking culture. Drinking alcohol as such maybe common to all cultures of the world…but attitudes towards drinking differ…
Drinking alcohol more often than not has negative connotations in India. Drunkards, not drinkers…thats how people here tend to see drinkers. And indeed, drinking to get drunk is often a strong motive for drinkers here. It is only during festivals like Holi that drinking is looked upon with tolerance…it’s almost a time to let your hair down! However the conservative attitudes towards drinking have started to change…a new trend within certain sections of our urban population, a tendency not to club all drinkers as drunkards.
Doing a little research on the Wiki I came up with several types of drinking:
1. Social Drinking which is basically done with “without the intent to get drunk…the physical act of going to a comfortable setting with friends is a large part of sharing a drink…”
2. Binge Drinking means drinking alcohol “for the purpose of intoxication, although it is quite common for binge drinking to apply to a social situation, creating some overlap in social and binge drinking…it could last for a period of two days during which time the binger neglects life activities…”
3. Session Drinking is “drinking in large quantities over a single period of time, or session, without the intention of getting heavily intoxicated… the focus is on the social aspects of the occasion…usually the alcohol is a beer that has a moderate or low alcohol content…”
In India drinking is associated mainly with binge drinking. If anyone does talk of drinking in moderate quantities or drinking not to get drunk, listeners are skeptical, believing in their hearts that this co-called ‘social drinking’ would very likely deteriorate into binge drinking which in turn could lead to alcoholism. Maybe they would be right…not everyone can handle alcohol and the negative consequences of too much alcohol are well known. Besides, studies have shown that the young get addicted far more easier than adults.
Does increasing acceptance of social drinking harm a society?
Certainly our forefathers believed it did, because the disapproval of drinking is enshrined in the directive principles of our constitution. Mahatma Gandhi supported prohibition and in fact it has been tried in various states like that of Haryana and Andhra Pradesh, with little success. It was found that people simply turned to illicit liquor and this caused more harm than good. However Gujarat (Mahatma Gandhi’s state), Mizoram, Nagaland and Lakshwadeep still practice prohibition…
Today, whether we like it or not, sales of alcohol are growing at about a 10-12 per cent per year, and beer and wine are important factors in this growth. These figures do not include the sale of illegal alcohol (still a thriving industry in India as this type of alcohol is locally brewed and cheap) and therefore this growth actually reflects the trend amongst the well-heeled.
In fact if any group can be harmed with the increasing acceptance of social drinking it is the young. That is probably why western societies have such strong laws in place for underage drinking. In India we are not strict about this, but if social drinking is going to become a part and parcel of Indian society in the years to come, then the law needs to come down hard on underage drinkers.
Indians are poor drinkers?
Those who are against drinking could perhaps take comfort in the fact that compared to the world (again not taking into account sale of illegal alcohol, which at 5.8 million cases is considered a grossly underestimated figure by the Indian liquor industry) we Indians are poor drinkers. This report talks of India being ranked as low as 150th among 184 countries in WHO’s Global Status Report on Alcohol. As the news report explains, India cannot really be compared to the global scenario because while other countries were ranked according to their consumption of pure alcohol, India was measured according to its consumption of IMFL (Indian made foreign liquor) and CL (country liquor). Beer, wine and illegal liquor was not taken into account. Here are the figures for some of the higher consumption countries (of pure alcohol) in the world – figures are per capita.
Uganda: 19 litres.
Russia: more than 10 litres.
So while these figures do not give us a complete picture of where India stands as compared to the rest of the world where drinking is concerned, the increasing sales of alcohol products like beer and wine do tell us something. That urban Indians are slowly but surely shedding their drinking taboos…and social drinking is becoming acceptable. This will surely be a huge relief to those who have to constantly shake off the drunkard tag inspite of being moderate and/or social drinkers.
(photos are copyrighted to me)