How Can Women Have Happy Relationship With Alcohol In India?

I had never really thought about my relationship with alcohol before.

Beginning with the little secret bit of liquor at job-well-done parties after high school festivals, I have developed the drinking skills and acknowledged my own best amount of alcohol through trials & errors.
For a bad talker and introvert like me, alcohol is a friend who helps talk openly and reduces fear of… what, getting less liked? And a cold beer after achieving some goal is a heavenly treat irreplaceable with anything.
For me, alcohol is something which makes life rich and fun. It’s like masala for Indian cuisine.

For us Japanese, drinking alcohol is nothing bad or shady, just it needs some cautions to handle, like driving cars. We drink at home, drink with parents, drink at weddings, and drink after the funerals sharing memories of the deceased. We even offer Sake when we visit the grave of grandfather who was fond of alcohol.

Novel Izakaya GirlThis is the cover for the novel “Izakaya Girl” in which 3 women in an Izakaya, or Japanese-style pub, sharing stories along with great liquors and dishes, it seems.

My relationship with alcohol continued quite normally after shifting to India.
In my company flat, I always had beer ready in my fridge, and drank in my relaxing time in the evening. Sometimes I drank at home parties with colleagues, or at nearby bars with my guy or friends. The company I worked at frequently held lavish events with liquors, and we all drank and danced.

Gradually I got to know the situation around alcohol in India outside the highly-Westernised company.
In India, though there should be some regions and communities without any taboos against alcohol, in the major part of society, alcohol is labeled as a villain. In some states, alcohol is totally banned.

The first time I realised about Indian taboo against alcohol was when I got to know that drinking at beaches (except for some regions) is prohibited. Isn’t beach supposed to be the best place to drink??
Sometimes you feel like drinking and talking with friends in the salty breeze in the evening. Then you’d pour some liquor in an empty bottle of soft drink and sit on the sand like innocent kids. Still, the police approach you. You’d beg them, make an emotional speech, imply bribes, ask them to leave peacefully. From what I heard.
Buying and selling alcohol is legal in Bombay, but you’re expected to carry them without “showing in public”. I heard that metro stations would seize alcohol at the security check.

army at a beach[FAKE news] The citizens chased by the police due to the consumption of alcohol at the beach

As far as I researched on the internet, it seemed to me that the taboo in modern India against alcohol is the result of the temperance movement driven by Mahatma Gandhi. (Many of you must know a lot better, please kindly enlighten me in Comment below)
Gods and the people in ancient India seem to have had a good relationship with various liquors. And it seems that liquor consumption in India never ceased during the Islamic dynasties’ eras. Also unique local liquors have been made in various regions.
As for the taboo against alcohol, like many other things, the common saying “because Indian tradition is against it!” is based on the “information” from certain people and too rough, I feel.

Hindu deity drinking SomaHindu deity drinking Soma


In many low-income families, men spend too much money on alcohol damaging other higher priorities, and conduct violence on their wife and kids while they’re drunk. Therefore many women are demanding their local governments to ban the sale of alcohol.

For the women who are beaten up and taken away every paisa at this very moment, cutting off the supply of alcohol must be an urgent countermeasure. If men can’t buy alcohol, the frequency and/or the level of their violence would probably reduce more or less. Some of the low-income men would go for the underground hooch and lose their eyesight or life. Rich ones would drive to another state or buy the smuggled liquors. But nonetheless, I read the stories like village women regained normal life after the alcohol ban and opened a bank account.

So I agree, banning alcohol does have advantages.
But… alcohol itself is enjoyed without harming health or social life, in many countries (mind you, alcoholic issue exist in Japan and everywhere. Like in this Japanese movie portraying a family with an alcoholic father).
And it’s a culture which has been inherited and refined in the way of making and drinking various liquors.
It’s different from hard drugs or cigarettes which are nothing but harm. Why does the situation get so bad in India, like many men don't stop drinking till they destroy their family and life, so much so that alcohol should be banned? I don’t have enough materials nor experience of talking to the concerned people to somehow conclude.

The violence itself is from the misogyny and toxic masculinity within the men. Alcohol is a trigger. Is there no violence by men in the dry states? There is, of course.
I think sharing knowledge about alcohol consumption and alcoholism, and creating rehab groups & facilities for alcoholic patients are required a lot more, at least. And of course, destroying misogyny and toxic masculinity - the construct of “stressed-out men commit violence to weaker genders”, is the long-term goal.

The women in the march for alcohol ban in KarnatakaThe women in the march for alcohol ban in Karnataka


Men drinking is a burden for women. Women drinking is also a burden for women.
In India, men who drink are just “men who drink”, but women who drink are “shameless un-Sanskari whom you don’t need to respect (hence you can do anything to them)”. Remember the movie “Pink”?
Indian women who drink experience horrible things, from small to big, pretty often.
At the beginning of Unlock, when liquor shops opened again, people found it so amusing to see women in the queues. They took all the trouble to take photos & videos, shared on social media, and added sexist comments. There seems to be too many people who can’t accept the fact that women too enjoy alcohol with all the rights.

Stupid tweet by Ram Gopal Varma on the women in the queues for liguor shops

 

It was after marriage that India’s taboo against alcohol finally started invading my life.
My guy, who’s in his mid-30s, hides all his habits of drinking, smoking, and eating non-veg from his old mum (and relatives). Even the trace of it. And that’s not all. He even forces me to hide them, too, me who's a separate independent adult older than him! He even hides the cooking liquor which I use for Japanese dishes and pasta. Again I tell you, an adult who’s in his mid-30s. He says he would never disclose even in his 40s or 50s.

Furthermore, men and women are not equal in this sense. 
My guy had a super noisy party with his male friends upstairs (in his parents' place) around our marriage, leaving me with the rest of his family.
He told me afterwards that alcohol and cigarettes were involved in the party, but "families pretend they don't notice in such occasions. But it's only for men. For women, it's never ever be OK in any circumstances!".

When we visited his parents’ place, I reluctantly cooperated with his cover-up because it was only for a short period and was in their homeground. But if he brings his mum to Bombay and lets her join in our household, I wouldn’t disguise myself. In my homeground Bombay, in my own and only habitat? No chance. He can continue hiding his part if he wants, though.
We’ve fought many times about this, and it’s still remaining as far apart as ever.

woman hiding a liquor bottle at the back and failing itNo. You can't hide it!


In the fancy over-priced restaurant-bars in India, women are drinking happily. If you look at only that, you’d feel that today’s India “allows” women to openly drink alcohol. But it seems that even many of those women in the restaurant-bars strictly hide their drinking habit from their parents.

In India, along with many other things, alcohol is a feminism issue (unnecessarily!). What men enjoy (behind mummy's back) cause more troubles to women. Women are the punching bag when men drink in a very unskilled way. 

What about you? For your life, what does alcohol mean? How’s your relationship with alcohol going, is it public or closeted, suffered from someone’s drinking, bothered by someone just because you drink?

 

Bonus Video
Izakaya is Japanese-style pub. You can enjoy great dishes and great liquors with reasonable prices.
Due to COVID situation, traveling has become such a big dream. I invite you to one of the Izakayas with this video.

The customer service looks pretty good in this Izakaya. But mind you, not all Izakayas entertain you with magic ;)
OK enjoy, cheers!!

 


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