Liquor Ruins Country, Family, and Life

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Other than water, Indians do not typically drink while they eat. If anything besides water, it’s a soft drink. There are many fresh-squeezed fruit juices, fresh lime sodas (seltzer + fresh lime juice + sugar), and yogurt lassis available from street vendors, but these are taken as refreshments or with a snack. For the vast majority of Indians, alcohol never accompanies a meal.


Drinking has a complicated place in this
country. While it’s forbidden under Islamic law, it’s not for Hindus or Christians. Still, even for those who are not restricted by their faith, drinking is not an integrated or communal activity — the British brought their gin and tonics to India, so it’s still seen, in some ways, as a loose and immoral habit of the colonizers.

Pick up a bottle of Kingfisher beer in the state of Tamil Nadu, and you’ll see LIQUOR RUINS COUNTRY, FAMILY, AND LIFE written in capital letters on the back label. Clearly, those Indians who still choose to drink and ignore such a menacing warning are judged negatively for it.

In the north bars are mostly restricted to the high-end, western-style hotels, but in southern Indian states like Tamil Nadu public bars are common. These are mostly run-down kind of places, all grimy and dark inside. They seem designed to reflect the fact that drinking is frowned upon.

Bars all have the same hours, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and safe to say are never patronized by Indian women. Men will sit for hours over a whisky or “strong” beer; these have names like “The Godfather” and “6000” and promise a higher alcohol content than regular lagers. The bars don’t serve food other than a few snack items.

Liquor stores do not open until the mid-afternoon but stay open well past midnight, and men, only men, crowd around them in the evenings. Vendors sell from behind iron bars, and the ground nearby is covered with trash and scattered bottles. Needless to say, the scene is not exactly welcoming.

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