Okay. Let’s first come to terms with the fact that there are women in India who drink. Strange and shocking as this may sound to Pramod Muthalik, his cohorts in the Sri Ram Sene and many other self-styled upholders of Indian culture coming out of the sandalwoodwork, at least 802 women in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore admitted in this HT C-fore survey that they do consume alcoholic beverages and find nothing at all shocking about it. (Well, 1 per cent of the respondents did disapprove of other women drinking, an oddity that may well be explained by psychologists rather than sociologists.)
But have you noticed how it’s not women from the lower middle class (who indulge in the more affordable habit of smoking) or the ladies from the swish set (who know their 2005 Niagara Meritage from their nightclub shooters) who come under the fire and brimstone of foaming-in-the-mouth teetotallers? The reason is that these prophets howling against women having a good time with a few drinks and company are from the middle class raging about women from their own wide socio-economic and social spectrum. It’s never a rant against women at Mumbai’s Blue Frog or Delhi’s Elevate. It had to be an attack on girls at Mangalore’s Amnesia.
So what tidbits do we get about these ladies with their glasses?
For starters, 33 per cent of the respondents drink once a month, thus not the destroyers of sobriety as many ‘Indian traditionwallahs’ — Hindu, Muslim or from any other religious faith — will have them be.
Drinking out is not a gender-specific predilection. So not surprisingly, six out of ten of the women surveyed said that they preferred to drink at bars, pubs or restaurants. A sizeable 40 per cent, however, said that they prefer drinking in the privacy of their homes.
A large majority — 67 per cent — drink mostly with college friends or office colleagues, while 59 per cent do not tag alone or have male company when they go out drinking. This suggests, redefining what is meant by ‘Indian culture circa 2009’, that alcohol serves as a social lubricant, making the act of going out for a drink a social engagement where women can let one’s long or short, straight or curled hair down and enjoy oneself in the company of friends. Nothing sinister for anyone’s voyeuristic pleasures here.
The survey results back this up with the fact that 67 per cent of the respondents said that they drink because it ‘relaxes’ them. The ‘peer pressure’ explanation – you drink because others around you are drinking — make up for only 13 per cent of those questioned. To drink only for the purpose of making oneself more sociable — as opposed to drinking to relax and be more sociable as a consequence — comes a distant second at 20 per cent.
An overwhelming majority of women drinkers do not having their tipple on the sly — even if those assaulted in Mangalore last week may think twice about drinking in the open for a while. The families of 62 per cent of the surveyed women are fully aware that they drink.
While teetotalling puritans probably find the thought of women drinking frightful (and exciting?) and conjure up images of an immoral, lascivious population of ladies overrunning Bharat Mata, 61 per cent of the women themselves believe that drinking doesn’t make them sexually less inhibitive. Considering that the remaining 39 per cent of women are all legally adults, one would assume that it’s their business — and nobody else’s — what they do with their inhibitions being less obstructive.
An overwhelming 72 per cent of women drinkers interviewed across the four metros believe that drinking doesn’t make them more popular or attractive. This suggests that most women drinkers — unlike perhaps most men who drink — aren’t under the impression that they become more charming after a few rounds of drinks.
And here’s a genuine myth-buster: it turns out that the drinking ladies are most favourable towards spirits — vodka leading the brigade that includes whisky, rum and gin — which is followed by wine, pre-mixes and finally beer.
If all this upsets your notion of ‘Indian culture’, well, at least we hope that you’ll now sober up to the real world.