Alcohol culture is thriving since the earliest time in our nation. We all know that India is a huge sub-continent and therefore, drinking habits are common in all segments. However it has always been an outside sport and is widely considered as a taboo. People who drink are usually frowned upon by the ones who don’t. A few days ago I was on a call with two of my friends and this topic came up. It was after talking to them that I decided to share my perspective on it.

According to the famous 80–20 principle 80% of the world’s wealth is concentrated in just 20% of the population. It’s just an interesting corollary of what in statistics we call normal distribution. Applying the understanding of a normal curve to the income disparity in the world we see that there are very few people on either side of the curve (Either earning too low or earning too high). Most of the population lies in between these two extremes. I was born and brought up by my family in a relatively smaller town and like to believe that we were a part of this majority. While the drinking habit is common in all segments the people on the left are much likely to develop an addiction to it because the rich are focused on a certain life goals and anything which gets in the way of these goals would be considered a setback.

Growing up in a middle class society there were plenty of stories about how alcohol addiction resulted in downfall of many families. We were told how poor people spend all their savings just to buy a pint of beer. How people were ready to sell their house for it. Cinematic gems like ‘Namak Haram’ showed factory workers drowning their sorrows in rum. One of my distant relatives also had a drinking problem and as far as I know no one has really seen him in a long time. The gist of it is that people in the lower middle part of the curve have seen many lives lost due to alcohol and firmly believe that it is pure evil which hollows you from within while feeding on the happiness of all around you. Naturally, this shared belief of all those around me became my received wisdom. Much of my teen years were spent thinking I need to steer clear of this thing which clearly is a disaster. However as I moved out of my hometown to the capital city, I shifted a bit towards right on the curve.

I met many new people and started developing a liking for a lot of them. I had the opportunity to work in a few startups with young entrepreneurs who were trying to make it big in the tech world. I saw independent girls who didn’t need to be taken care of. I met people who could address an auditorium full of people like it was a dinner table. My college was full of people who were programmed to help everyone live up to their fullest potential and effectively thrive as a community. While I was busy absorbing all that was new around me it took me some time to realize that apart from a diverse skill-set there was something peculiar about these people. Many of them used to drink. Some more frequent than others but the point is they didn’t shy away from accepting it. Now every bit of my conservative upbringing expected me to hate them, maintain a distance from them but I was unable to do so because I already saw them for who they were and I happened to admire them. Most of them were individuals with high intellect with an agenda in life and who were fun to interact with. Also none of these people had a drinking problem. My team at work is undoubtedly the most smart, humble and respectful bunch of people I’ve ever seen. To just say that I found myself inspired and amazed by them at some level would be an understatement. Many of these people could argue for hours how drinking beer with friends is a culture to be cherished rather than a taboo to be ashamed of. They would go to such greater lengths to convince you that drinking beer in controlled amount helps in curing kidney stone etc. I however am willing to settle for a lot less.

Whether you like to drink or not it is and should be entirely up to you. However, if you choose not to drink yourself please don’t be so quick in judging the ones who have chosen otherwise. It is said that a person is a sum total of all their choices and qualities and hence it isn’t fair to give unnecessary weightage to a particular choice and in doing so discarding all their other qualities. Alcohol is a commodity just like anything else and there are going to be people around you who consume it. Every coin has a flip side. Just like a person who has been drinking milk all his life might very well be a shithead, you would never know if the random guy you typecasted as a drunkard turns out to be the founder of the biggest social media giant (He drinks. I checked.) To conclude Alcohol is only a show-stopper if you allow it to get to that point and in my experience there’s a lot more to a person than just the choice of his/her drinks !

Software engineer