By Nishita Gupta:
Yesterday, I wentÂ out with my sister to celebrate her birthday. We had heard of a new place with a very interesting concept of pricing, sort of like the sensex, and wanted to try it out. When we reached, the place was as empty as a graveyard is at night, with the waiters acting like the keepers asking the naughty children not to sneak in to smoke (stuff) in the premises, because terrible things could happen to them. Well, smoking (stuff) in graveyards might just land you in supposed supernatural occurrings, real fines for smoking are worse. We looked at each others’ face for a few seconds, trying to decide whether to stay or leave, and then my eyes landed on the screen displaying the charges of the drinks. Hoegaarden was for Rs. 110. Was this God’s way of making up for the no-smoking regime his keepers made us civilians follow? Well, maybe. We didn’t want to miss a chance to imbibe heaven’s gift, so we decided to not light our ‘torch of freedom’. Jeeeez, and then Lucifer, stepped in and asked us how old we were. But Satan is Satan after all. We were served as many pints we ordered without any complaints.
Anyway, while checking the place out, my eyes fell on one of the boards that had been put on the wall which read out in bold letters: ‘CAUTION: WOMEN DRINKING’. When the manager came to ask us how we liked the food, I asked him what exactly the board meant. All I got as a reply was an awkward laugh, followed by a two teeth missing from a million dollar smile. I was shocked for a split-second, for I didn’t know how to react. I was angry, but I also wanted to laugh at his confusion.
I am 21 years old. I wrote my final year papers this year and plan to shift to Mumbai for my PG. I casted my first vote last year in the Delhi assembly elections. My sister, who is 24 years old, got married to her school-time lover last year, and they had a healthy baby recently. She didn’t take maternity leaves, she just opted to work from home. Our parents think we are mature. And parents are harder to please than any Government!
By the age of 21, I am allowed to vote, procure a driver’s license, get married, start a family, earn, pay taxes and get returns. But I can’t drink and stand for elections. Latter, I don’t want to. Former, everyone knows how that goes around. Whenever there’s checking by the excise department, all the bars and restaurants of the area refuse to play a part in ‘illegal underage drinking’, even if you regularly go to the place and waiters know you, because the license for an year is worth 8-9 lakh Rs. and its renewal means a lot more to them than the regular customers. The point is, they do not really care about us “underage” kids. What they care about is the money involved. 9 lakhs is a big amount, so, no beer for under-25s while India elects the Prime Minister.
I can take as big a decision as changing cities and living alone, or choosing who is going to decide how well I earn, or how much I spend for the next 5 years; but I cannot drink legally. My sister, who, at the age of 24, is a mother and is doing wonders at her workplace, can also legally not be a consumer of alcoholic drinks. I am sure decisions of my career and my voting right, and my sister’s family planning are much more important than the glass of whiskey in my hand. Is the government then suggesting that I can do everything except drink? ‘You kids cannot handle drinks. Handle your children!’
On top of all this, the society thinks that women, especially, cannot handle drinks. Caution: Women drinking! Why do I have to see such boards? Is it to make the men laugh and pass sexist jokes about drunken women? Is this board to remind me that ‘I am a woman and I am drinking, OMG?’ Hypocrisy is etched so deeply in the society that it makes me sick! The manager slyly giggled and walked away after our little confrontation over the board message, but never did he stop the waiter from taking my order. I mean why serve me at all if I am such a danger to you and your sexism? And the social stigma that follows!
They say women who drink are the opposite of everything virtuous and can’t be good at anything. My occasional drinks don’t make me an alcoholic, then how in seven hells would it affect my life? Yes, it’s true people end up making stupid mistakes when drunk sometimes, but gender has no role in it! Who are we kidding, haven’t you sent drunk texts to people? And as far as I know, a few pints of beer would give me the same buzz as they would to a man. Then how does my lack of a penis make me prone to drunken mistakes more than my friend lacking a uterus?
Over and above that, the age limit on drinking is not uniform in India. A person who is 18 years of age has to wait for another 7 years to drink legally in New Delhi, but if visiting Goa, can enjoy as much alcohol as they like. What does the land and air of Goa has that the capital is deprived of? What sorcery is this? I think Delhi lacks liberal minds!
I really do not know how many of you can handle your drinks and how many of you even think about the age limit arguments. The point is, if you believe 21 should be the legal age of drinking, then liquor should not be sold to underage kids illegally at all. The industry does not care about you, they care about the money in your pockets. If you believe that 25 should not be the legal age, then please say something to the government about it.
And, lastly, why should you be cautioned that a woman is drinking? Think and comment. I want to know.