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Book review: Goa and alcohol(ism), it's complicated

Goa and alcohol have a complex equation, but there could be a lot of misunderstanding over this, a new book published on the subject suggests.

books Updated: Mar 02, 2015 16:02 IST
IANS
One For The Road

The-cover-of-One-For-The-Road-by-Biula-V-Cruz-e-Pereira

Book: One For The Road
Author: Biula V Cruz e Pereira
Publisher: Goa 1556
Pages: 320
Price: Rs 350

Goa and alcohol have a complex equation, but there could be a lot of misunderstanding over this, a new book published on the subject suggests.

In Goa, alcohol plays a significant role as a "social lubricant" and is considered essential for hospitality, says the book, "One For The Road" (Goa 1556, pp 320, Rs.350), authored by Biula V Cruz e Pereira, associate professor of sociology Fr Agnel's College in Pilar, some 10 km from here.

She asks in her book: Why is alcohol consumption at bars frowned upon even though it is permitted at occasions and parties? Why do only men visit Goan bars? How did the labelling of deviants and addicts - the term used in the local Konkani language is 'bebde' - come about?

Rituals and beliefs are associated with distillation. In Goa, alcohol, interestingly enough, is used in medicine and antiseptics, in deliveries and childcare, as an appetizer, an antiflatulent, for deworming, to treat colds and fevers - and as an analgesic.

Alcohol goes into food as an ingredient here. Feni, the traditional brew, and vinegar, made here from coconut toddy to add the sourish taste to food, goes into meat preparations, as a preservative, in Goan sausages and fish preparations. Wine is used in cakes, while 'sur' (toddy) goes into leavening.

In Goa, feni gets used to ward off "evil eye", and to mark the 'xim' (a boundary marked at the time of marriages). Alcohol or sur offerings also play other roles in religion, both Catholic and Hindu. Feni is used at the crematorium at times, or even for exorcism.

Goan Catholics, says the book, have assimilated the use of alcohol in their daily life and celebrations. Goan Hindus, whose attitudes are similar to those in the rest of the country, however do not condemn alcohol consumption by others. A growing number of Hindus, particularly younger, consume alcohol in individual settings or as part of socialisation.

She says it is clear that alcohol existed in Goa before the Portuguese arrived here, though the alcohol industry "flourished in Goa during Portuguese rule".

'Situational drinking' is another area needing understanding, while the social norms of - and attitudes to - alcohol consumption are also explained.

"Public opinion plays an important role in labelling a person an alcoholic... In Goan society, a bebdo is a person addicted to alcohol of any kind, who drinks excessively till he loses motor control and cannot retain a regular job," Pereira notes.

She discusses accepted norms on drinking to socialise, the acceptable age for drinking and the timing of drinking. Modes for serving alcohol, group formation, and who serves the drinks are also focussed on.

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