October 13, 2009

The w(h)ine culture

We had one of our pleasant soirées out last weekend at AI’s place. As is the culture here, everyone supplied the drinks and the host graciously provided the merry accompaniments. Not that we are a bunch of drunks, but we do enjoy the occasional evening out where all we do is wine and dine. It’s a French thing, I guess… only the French do it on a daily basis whilst we are reduced to the occasional wine here and beer there. As the drink flowed, so did the conversation. And suddenly it struck us how we, the culturally sound were now very convinced that social drinking did nothing to upset our cultural roots. And just because we enjoyed the wine didn’t make us any less conventional in many other things.

But we realized how our perceptions have changed ever since we left home in India. For instance, there wasn’t so much a concept of social drinking in India as there was of a drunken brawl. Add to that the liquor is sold in stores that resemble jail entrances, what with their grills and their plain appearances. Practically everyone standing in queue there belongs to the hard labor, blue-collar category unfortunately associated with the wife-beating, cacophony causing variety. Plus I highly doubt if the ‘good stuff’ is sold there in the first place. And then there is that whole taboo associated with the drinking of course. Even the decent crowd who enjoy the occasional drink are treated with cold stares and disapproving glances by people around, fully expecting something ‘bad’ is about to happen. And that’s taken out the ‘joy’ of drinking. And I can’t imagine the setting back home in India either unless one is in a huge metropolis like Mumbai or Bangalore and specifically living away from the ultra-traditional parents. The biggest misconception that most people seem to have is that one single drink, be it wine or whiskey is capable of addling one’s brains and resulting in embarrassing behavior. But nothing in moderation has been bad yet. In fact red wine has been touted for it’s heart-friendly properties and research has gone on far enough to indicate that a glass a day keeps the heart strong because of the antioxidants in it and blah.

While drinking daily might indicate a problem likely to bloom, the occasional party drink isn’t doing anything to one’s health or reputation. And that’s the way we do it. And it’s very interesting how we imbibe the culture of the country we live in slowly but steadily into ourselves. And it’s more than just being a Roman in Rome. It’s not for being inconspicuous or to appear to know what one is doing. It is because we are actually embracing a new culture within our own, all within acceptable limits. No whines about wine, now then, shall we? Cheers!


Balaji P G said...

I don't think it is essential to have a drink just because we are in a place where it is common. It is upto ur discretion whether u accept it or not. And ofcourse in India there are places where good brands are sold in amicable environment ( Having worked in Siemens and every week there used to be a party) and hey i worked in Coimbatore not the metros. Personally i haven't touched any drink till today. Some think it is rude not to drink wine during toast but hey even Sir C.V.Raman did not drink during Nobel prize ceremony !!!!

Madhumathi said...

totally agree with Balaji's view... If you look holistically, i dont find anything wrong if you get stared when you are having this so called "social drinking" concept.. we still live here in joint families (if not 20 members, still 5-6 members)..so what effect would this have on the younger ones in the family? Just tht you are in Paris, u drink & when u r in India, you brag abt this.. i frown on this :(
In some ways, your post demeans India, Indian culture, tradition.. Dint feel good reading your post!!

Jaya said...

Balaji, Madhumathi->

Of course it's upto our discretion... And I am not saying that everyone who goes to a place that something is popular for should experience it or something. Like just because you visit Amsterdam, doesn't mean you have to do pot. Like I said, it comes down to whether you've ever wanted to try something or not. And I don't think either of you understood the point of the post.. It was not to demean India or Indians who don't indulge in social drinking. It was just to point out that the alcohol in it's entirety is taboo in India. While that's not such a negative thing, i can't understand why the same taboo is not associated with cigarettes for example. I for one think smoking is much worse (not just to you but others as well) than drinking, let alone the detrimental health effects. And Madhumathi, I never brag about having a drink in India. I know what to say where and do not mean any disrespect to anyone. For instance, call it weird, when I visit an Indian restaurant in Paris, I cannot bring myself to order wine. It's always lassi. It's something to do with respecting our country. So there you go... no disrespect intended.

As for the other readers, if anyone misunderstood the object of the post as above, kindly read this comment for clarification.

Thanks for commenting. Cheers. :)

Jaya said...

Madhumathi-> Oops I forgot to address the 'young ones' concern thing in your comment. Well of course hopefully one should have the discretion as to what example to set for kids following on their footsteps. Come now, I would think you would know me better than to assume that I am advocating social drinking to the kids in the family. Come on!! We're all sensible and mature adults and hopefully know what to do where!! I hope I addressed your concerns. ;)

Madhumathi said...

Hey Jaya..thanks for clarifying... When i said you brag thing, it dint necessarily mean u, it was more generic..
Also, agree tht smoking is much more evil..just now i saved myself a team coffee break..which is usually coffee/tea along with a smoke on a local roadside shop.. Happy sipping coffee at my desk :)

sivakumar said...

Nice post Jaya..
In fact non-drinkers don't have anything to worry about as long as they socialize as good as the drinkers...the problem is when they make others uncomfortable by acting that they are having a good time with a glass of orange juice for 2 hours or more..

This is valid and reasonable for corporate social drinking where the bosses remember the guy who socializes more with others than the guy who is not. I am sure this is the case in Europe, Us etc and not in India... ;o)

Balaji P G said...

@ siva
Hey...socialising doesn't mean driniking...it means how much u r able to make an impact about ur personality... If u think u can have a good time with a glass of whiskey or beer in that case orange juice must also be good enough for spending the 2 hours...

Anyways nice to get the opinion of others....just have put forward my views..might be u don't agree with it.. its perfectly fine

Madhumathi said...

i was thinking about the post & comments & a thought came across with regard to the clothes. I have had many friends (girls) from Bangalore..who are comfortable wearing regular western wear here. But now tht they are abroad, they are kind of used to wearing revealing clothes (Indian standards)! When they send snaps of their party wear.. we are all like OMG ;)
& when they are back in India, back to regular wester wear!!

Jaya said...

Madhumathi-> Yes yes, smoking is evil. I'd much rather people drink away than smoke away. At least it doesn't affect/offend the non-indulging party. And yes, I completely agree on the clothes thing. The reason these friends of yours don't prefer to wear the "scandalous" clothes back in India is because the people in India are not used to everyday people wearing such things and end up gawking. And no one wants to appear that conspicuous. It's the same with the drinking thing. i don't think it's a very Indian culture thing for a girl to be 'drinking' at all. So yes, they are all entwined in some way or the other. thanks again for voicing up.

Siva-> Thank you. But maybe it is unfair to assume that they cannot enjoy the conversation while drinking the orange juice (well some people enjoy just the juice too). Because while with wine you have the possibility to distinguish the good and bad tastes, the OJ maintains itself while the conversation can still hold interest I guess. Similarly like we've all concurred, it's a culture thing in the end. Just like in India the unwritten work culture demands that you leave work after your boss does, in other countries it has to do with a social drink or late-night partying. thanks for expressing your views!

Balaji-> Of course different people have different opinions and like you've said no one need agree with anyone else. The post in itself was to express my views and I am glad that many of you have chosen to express your own whether you agree or not. That's perfectly fine as well. Thanks n keep visiting.

Musing Gal said...

Very true Jaya.. even I feel my views have changed a lot after staying away from home for all these years. There is some medical reason behind the wine culture. Looks like it does good to heart if we keep it to 1-2 ounces each day and keeps people in cold country, warm. Also most of these people eat red meat and wine enhances the taste. Did you know they are making Alcohol-free wine nowadays? The same taste but no alcohol. I tasted one of those and it was awesome, not sure if they do that in France :)
To others I am not really supporting alcohol and asking everyone to drink, but stating some fact I read. Oh and the clothes, interestingly in US people do not stare at skimpy cloths as long they are not vulgar.. for example sleeveless tops, shorts and tight t-shirts are NOT looked down but if something is really low neck that raises concerns :) Again it really does not define a person's character neither does drinking or smoking.. I would say it is more of the society they were brought up in, work culture, adaptability and their mindset. Each of us learn new things with everyday's experiences that mold our thinking, off late I think people can do their heart's will as long as it does not interfere with someone's else's boundaries. If some one does not like drinking or smoking either they can avoid politely an offer to party or go there and try to be as social as possible without "Judging" or making faces :).

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