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Good Girls Don't Drink?

I have been disturbed by the news coming out of my region – the northeast of India - where a teenage girl coming out of a bar at 9:30 pm was molested and beaten by a group of 20 men. The news has even found its way down under for the shocking nature of it. Tabloids and even TV have carried the news.

I have always prided myself in belonging to a region that is known for its high tolerance and where women are generally safe and independent. But I have always felt a bit squidgy about Guwahati unlike the rest of the seven sisters. The place is so like the rest of India in many ways, dirty and claustrophobic. That explains why bars are looked upon as sleazy places and women going there beaten up as with the recent case. Just 150 km away is Shillong, the place where I grew up. Night clubs thrive there and till date there has been no case of attacks against women.

Reading the news, I am appalled by some of the reactions. “But the girl was drinking,” or “only prostitutes visit that bar”.  Is this forward thinking India? India tom toms about its super power status and that it is going to overtake China as a global economy but the mindset of Indians is caught in time warp. Becoming a super power is only an illusion because material progress has to match with mental progress! The way people react to humiliation suffered by women shows India has such deep moral crisis and then tries to pride itself by calling it a bias free, cultured country of ancient civilization.

The attitude of Indians to women drinking is abhorrent, nothing less than that of the Taliban's. You will get the ‘girls from good families do not drink’ from 99 per cent of the population if a survey was conducted. I know of friends who never sipped beer in their lives but once married love any kind of alcohol because then they have the licence to do things illicit and the angst of finding a husband is no more there.

I could never walk into a shop and buy booze in Delhi. The reason being it is only men who frequent these shops and if a woman is seen there she is pushed and shoved and groped because the impression is that a whore has come to buy booze. But a woman gets groped all the time in that city, one would argue. True but ask any woman in Delhi what she felt walking into a booze shop, the answer will be ‘mental rape’.

It is only in recent times that the concept of drinking women has more or less gathered acceptance because of the call centres and other multinational companies setting shop in India. With it were introduced office parties and the concept of Friday night outs. Still, it is not an accepted thing that women must drink. India’s middle class pride itself in raising girls with virtues and alcohol a strict no no.

I am not condoning drinking; I am condoning the right to drink. Be it a girl or a boy, social drinking is acceptable and a way of life. Parents must teach children responsible drinking but in a repressed society the word drinking is enough to beat the shit out of the girl.

I too grew up in a family where alcohol was never part of any family tradition. Even the men drank on the sly but with time I have had the courage to sip a beer with the male family members. It is my way of telling them that the times they are a changing and that independence of women comes from showing - what is somebody’s right is equally yours too. 


Neeraj Bhushan said…
"independence of women comes from showing - what is somebody’s right is equally yours too." ... how very well summarised!!! whhhhaaat a conclusion! congrats for this BOLD write up.
Anonymous said…
Thankyou neeraj!
Shubhra said…
Lovely write up Indira!
In Delhi, I would insist on going into liquor shops to buy alcohol for either winter evening brandy or for parties and I could sense the disapproval etc.

we all have to work towards changing this...
Subhajit said…
Thought provoking.
Simply Curious said…
Good piece Indira but, it is inconclusive and somehow not what I expected to hear from someone as bold and as outspoken as you. I understand where you are coming from and I agree that buying alcohol WAS easier in Bombay compared to Delhi but, that is NOT the issue here. As you have correctly pointed out, our parents were tea-teetotalers and so no doubt even 15 - 20 years ago even boys drinking beer was frowned upon. It is the molestation and outraging of modesty that is the real issue. The groping that you talk about is not ONLY restricted to Delhi. I have encountered it in Bombay and Calcutta as well as in other cities that I have visited over the years. In UP it is abominably obvious... I'm not trying to defend Delhi, only saying that in most cities including Bombay, people are extremely wary of approaching the police and the courts with such cases. This is exactly the reason why such incidents were never reported from anywhere else but Delhi (somehow Delhi'ites are least bothered about walking into a police station and lodging a compliant). Actually, abuse happens everywhere and it is very rarely that the women or their families come up to complain. I have seen rape cases being fought in courts and also how women are 'counselled' at the Polices' Women's Cell. It has left me with no doubt as to why girls prefer to keep quiet rather than move law to seek justice. India and I'm sure elsewhere around the world as well, women along with children and the elderly are easy targets and their modesty is always at risk. Comatose patients in hospitals, young kids at family weddings being 'ill-treated' by elders, mad women on the roads being raped and left pregnant... The list is endless. It is time we get 'together' and start fighting back and also help rehabilitate and bring into the mainstream those who have been molested, abandoned, thrashed et al and make them feel like a valuable part of the society instead of treating them like pariahs. I wish all women would get together across the world and fight tyranny because I'm sure there is not a one among us whose modesty has not been outraged at some point...
Indira said…
thanks shoma for an insightful comment. totally agree that molestation in india is not restricted to delhi but that was the place i spent a major chunk of my life, hence the experiences.yes we need a concerted effort to ease the life of women but as you mentioned it has to start from individuals.however the system that we have do not encourage women to speak up or report!! cheers
Laurie B said…
This occurs specially in India because of the so called "attitudes" towards women in society, including the influence of the "family". As well as men who are in politics, or hold a position of power, a society where people are generally reluctant to change their opinions, and attitudes, then add in the Caste system, and many customs, cultural issues and the traditions of India.
As such it becomes are very difficult cycle to end, even with laws and education..

The problem of the treatment of women, cant always be solely blamed on one thing, be it religion, customs, traditions or cultural issues, but that most people now seem to have or show very little compassion and caring for others or the environment they live in, most do not want to, or are at least reluctant to accept change. Now as the world we live in evolves, grows, and develops, we should consider including a bit more caring and compassion in our lives towards our fellow woman
(and man.)
Shanti Thokchom said…
Damn good piece from a wonderful Manipuri sister...keep it up, my dear...!! we just love u as you are...

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