Delhi is stretching its waking hours. Thanks to new pubs coming up every now and then, the city now has a pulsating nightlife. And when you talk about pubs can booze be far behind? Celebration, depression, promotion, agitation — whatever the reason, the youngsters in these pubs and discotheques are raising a toast or gulping down their sorrows with a glass of rum or beer.
But the question is: are they old enough to hold a drink? How do you encourage responsible drinking while accepting it as part of social life? Generations have agitated over drawing the line, only for the youth to flout them with impunity. Enter any pub in the city and you'll find young girls and boys barely out of college chatting over a mug of beer.
The law in the Capital says it is illegal to serve liquor to anyone below the age of 25. But that's only on the papers. If you are smartly dressed, look confident and have a good height chances are you will not be stopped. "I've never been asked for identification anywhere. I think entering a club or pub is more about how old you look," says Varun Mahajan, a student of IIT. That's the thing about being young. You are confident — and reckless.
And if pubs burn a hole in their pockets, teenagers have no qualms about having a Bring Your Own Booze Party, where each person contributes whatever alcohol he can manage. After all, where there's a will, there's a way.
But before you start sermonising listen to them. "If a person is mature enough to vote at 18, he can surely know whether he wants to drink or not. It's more of a personal choice," says Shelly Attrishi, who has just completed graduation from Delhi University. "Laws in our country need to be more flexible." Agrees Nikunj Garg, a 21-year-old MBA aspirant. "If a person can marry at 21, why can't he drink? At 21, a person is usually a graduate. He is sensible and responsible and can decide for himself," he says.
But there are those who differ. Priyanka Ahluwalia of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce thinks the legal age of 25 for drinking is perfect. "I believe that more boys are into drinking than girls. At 21, boys are not mature enough to handle themselves. If the legal age is reduced, there will be chaos in society as well as on the roads," she says.
The cool factor
Maybe she has a point. After all many drink not to lighten the mood but to look cool, hip and happening. More under peer pressure than out of choice.
For many youngsters, drinking is a way of being accepted. "I started drinking because all my friends were doing it and now I'm into occasional drinking," says a Class XII student who also confesses that most of his get-togethers are held in pubs and nobody has ever asked him or his friends for identification. Having a few good drinks with friends at pubs has become a norm for the youth of today.
If youngsters overlook the not-so-stringent law, will it change their attitude towards other laws as well? "It's not just children. Any individual can have law-breaking tendencies. It's important to link the problem of alcoholism with real-life issues to make the youth aware," says Vitika Rahul, students' counsellor at Birla Vidya Niketan. Kanchan Chaddha, a teacher at Gyan Bharati School, is of the opinion that children are too busy aping the West.
Maybe the key is moderation. If you know your limit what's the harm in lifting your spirit?
Email Ashima Bajpai: abajpai @hindustantimes.com