An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Being Sober on a High?!

drinking.jpg“Mujhe chadi nahin hai, abhi bhi poora hosh hai! Main iski tarah nahin jisse dhakan soong kar chad jaati hai.” (No, I am not on a high, I am completely sober! I am not like him who gets a high just by smelling the cap of a liquor bottle).

I am sure many of us in India have heard these two statements in different variations many times. The bragging of the drunkard that he is sober and the mockery of a person who actually gets a high on drinking.

To me these two statements have never made any sense. If you are drinking an intoxicant – and it doesn’t come easy, for you pay with your health at some level – then why do you drink it to remain “sober”? If the idea was to remain sober, then you were fine to begin with!

And if the idea of having an intoxicant was (as the name suggests) to get intoxicated, then why not enjoy that state?! I find the guy who gets a high just by smelling the bottle cap as the smart one. He gets his cake and eats it too!

Its like saying, I want to sit in a large jet but don’t want to fly! And if someone flies around in a two seater, then that is an evidence of his lack of manliness.

In India, liquor is not just an entertainment value, it is a public statement. That you drink, is a statement. That you drink a lot is a statement. That you drink a harder liquor is also a statement. And now, that you are a woman and drink is a statement.

And if by any chance there is a party where the host gives out free liquor, you can be rest assured that people would be willing to fight to get the most of the quota. It is as if one is deprived of a life-giving nectar and somehow s/he will do anything to get the most of it.

It is not that I am against drinking or consider it a “morality” issue. Surely, it can be a great bonding exercise irrespective of the price one may pay for it. It can also relieve stress of some people. At least, temporarily.

But the way it is perceived and abused these days (in the Indian milieu specifically) is not an intelligent way to go. The most telling of all the examples was when last year, Muthalik and his men, in a rather stupid way, were stopping the girls from going to the pubs in Mangalore. The local enthusiastic feminists were up in arms. How come someone even tries that? So, as a mark of protest, along with the many pink panties (courtesy the “Pink Chaddi” campaign) they sent to this joker, the girls (many teenagers) decided they will hit the pubs in Pune, Bangalore, Mangalore and many other cities.

Now, Muthalik is not a very smart fella, but I can only have sympathy for the utter foolishness of those girls and their parents. It was a classic case of someone abusing another person and asking him to stay away from a cliff, and this other guy, in a fit to prove his independence, takes the jump! It was astonishing to see how the youth hurt themselves in protest!

Not all, but many of those who hit the pub in protest, created a possibility for themselves to be indulging in binges and maybe even becoming alcoholics. Even if you do not become a hapless alcoholic who loses the career and family for the bottle, just hitting the bottle regularly enough can take you away earlier and certainly hurt your health.

The damage to the physical health is obvious, but what is not obvious is the hit on the psychological and mental health. By pumping in chemical that has mind-changing properties at a certain regularity can affect the functioning of the minds even in the regular flow. That is why, for an alcoholic, the hit on the health is not as bad as the hit on his/her mental and emotional health.

The bursting out of the “traditional” gates and rushing to the bottle for Indian middle class was an indicator of how artificial controls is counter-productive and how mindless was the definition of “Modernity” for so many in India. Alcohol and liquor had nothing to do with tradition, and it has very little to do with modernity. Traditions generally start off as smart and logical controls which degenerate into ritualistic dogmas and moral issues, in order to reinforce those controls. That’s about all there is to weakness of the traditions.

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