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Social drinking is catching on, athough slowly!

August 2, 2007

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.
Ireland: 14.5
France: 13.5
Germany: 12.9
India: 0.8

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)

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2007 11:27 am

    It is important to note that the “western” influence is in increasing “legal”, “measurable” sales of alcohol in urban areas. Alcohol consumption is widespread in rural India even without any western influences.

    I felt it was necessary to highlight this fact because our misguided right-wing activists often blame every “evil” in our society on western influences. Hence their passionate drives to shut-down urban pubs and get newspaper headlines while the villagers revel in unhealthy country brews and waste their hardearned money.

  2. August 2, 2007 11:43 am

    very nice post…liked it… yes i believe social drinking is not a problem in itself. However, it could lead to problems if there is no proper education from home. I say home because as you have pointed out we do not have strict laws for underage drinking. So I say, you need to know your son/daughter is bound to drink with friends (if you dont assume so you will probably never know that she/he is a secret drinker) and so start educating your kid.


  3. August 2, 2007 11:44 am

    Mahendra, actually right in first few sentences I have said that “Drinking alcohol as such maybe common to all cultures of the world…but attitudes towards drinking differ…’
    But when you say:
    //It is important to note that the “western” influence is in increasing “legal”, “measurable” sales of alcohol in urban areas. Alcohol consumption is widespread in rural India even without any western influences//
    I would rather put it another way. I would say that the western influence is in terms of greater acceptibility of social drinking, which is what my post is about. No where have I said that drinking as such is due to western influences. In fact I have pointed out the huge sales of illicit liquor which as everyone knows goes on mostly in the rural areas and semi urban areas.
    What the right wing activists are actually doing (probably without knowing it) is trying to stop social drinking. As long as drinking is taboo they feel its alright.
    But ofcourse no one can actually stop the drinking. That is a given.
    The main point of my post was to make a distinction between social drinking and binge drinking which the moralists refuse to see.
    P.S Also the title of the post makes my point very clear.

  4. B Chopra permalink
    August 2, 2007 12:43 pm

    There are few benefits of consuming Alcohol and it’s agreed that it’s almost impossible to stop Alcohol consumption or Smoking. But when you consume alcohol or do smoking in whatever way “social or Binge or session or gaming” and your youngster get to know directly or indirectly.. they get highest tendency and end up with a START casually.. or let’s say experimenting and I am sure we donno where they gonna end up.

    I strongly donot suppot consuming alcohol by seeing it’s bad affect.. yeah may be sometimes:

    Alcohol affects your brain. Drinking alcohol leads to a loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses, and even blackouts.

    Alcohol affects your body. Alcohol can damage every organ in your body. It is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and can increase your risk for a variety of life-threatening diseases, including cancer.

    Alcohol affects your self-control. Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, lowers your inhibitions, and impairs your judgment. Drinking can lead to risky behaviors, including having unprotected sex. This may expose you to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases or cause unwanted pregnancy.

    Alcohol can kill you. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to coma or even death. Also most traffic deaths are alcohol-related.

    Alcohol can hurt you–even if you’re not the one drinking.


  5. padmini permalink
    August 2, 2007 2:54 pm

    Binge drinking by college students is something all parents dread. The case of college students in Duke University who drank and assaulted a dancer and supposedly “gang-raped” her is a perfect example, although they were acquitted . The very idea of what young tender minds can become because of drinking is appalling. The stigma associated with such incidents will remain all their lives with them. I would wish for stricter laws to at least put some breaks in the process, even if it cannot be prevented.

  6. August 2, 2007 4:20 pm

    There has been an increasing concern about the effect on the youngsters….. But they arent the ones to be blamed. Lets consider the movie Rang De Basanti….. Certainly, one of the contenders to be the Youth Icon…….. In that movie, Drinking was shown to be cool…… Wether it be Beer itself……. I know the way Amir drinks it on the edge does look really cool……… Many might even be tempted to try it out….. It seems as if Beer and youth go together, Coz we see it in many movies…. I know u might say Beer doesnt really harm as much as other forms of alcohol. But beleive be that is the starting point. This then leads to other forms of Alcohol….. I personally feel social drinking is on a rise these days….

  7. August 2, 2007 4:57 pm

    Anil, If you remember we had alcohol being served on our flights here and this resulted in people drinking too much and misbehaving. they had to withdraw it. the problem is that many people simply do not know when to stop.
    as for beer being the starting point, let me assure yu that for many youngsters today, its not just beer, just see whats happening in colleges. People want to binge, thats the problem and they are likely to binge when they are younger as they think their body can take it. also they are likely to binge when that is all they have seen…

  8. August 2, 2007 6:32 pm

    My apologies. I never thought for a moment that you subscribed to the ‘western influence’ theory, and I even observed the specific title and differentiation you made in the post.

    But when those moralists read your post, they’ll (sub)-consciously ignore the ‘social’ and register the ‘western’. 🙂

    That’s why I felt like highlighting the difference. Yes, your way of putting it is perfectly correct.

  9. Gordi permalink
    August 3, 2007 5:03 pm

    This is binge drinking:

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