Alcohol has its issues worldwide, I always thought we had it bad in the West. Shows like Geordie Shore hardly encourage confidence.. Living in rural Tamil Nadu though, we’ve seen how bad alcoholism can really be.
In the UK alcohol is ingrained in our everyday lives; served in every restaurant, corner shop, and at every party way back into our childhoods. We watch our families chat over a glass of wine and turn up our noses when they let us take a sip. Two years later we’re sneaking around with a 3.5% proof alcopop thinking we’re the bomb.
Often things go horribly wrong and we all know somebody who drinks because they can’t find the will to stop. We watch as friends drown their break ups in vodka and cry outside the same retail store he works at, forcing all your other friends to leave the club before midnight. But we often ignore these things, reassuring ourselves that these occasions are rare and our warped ideas of ‘drinking in moderation’ will protect us – or at least someone else will.
Tamil Nadu isn’t like that. There are no bars or clubs around, really, and if you were to find one it would close before 11pm. The only access to alcohol is through seedy ‘wine shops’ (that don’t actually sell wine, just spirits and beers). When walking around with Indians they’ll often point out a wasteland or roadside where men go to drink.
Not only is drinking an awkward, dark thing here, as you would naturally expect there are resulting social problems. When speaking to local women in the village Battan Vattam, Alcoholism was the key issue. In one family the father earns a decent wage but spends all of it on alcohol, forcing the mother to do farming work and sustain her three children. Even then he steals from her. Alcohol carries a massive gender divide, less than 1% of women drink at all (ICMR, 2009).
“Some men will drink all day here.” – Local woman, Battan Vattam
More men drink in rural communities than urban Tamil Nadu (ICMR, 2009), suggesting serious issues amongst the 13% that drink 5-7 days a week (ICMR, 2009). But nothing’s about to change. The Wine Shop will continue selling to underage boys and the government will continue its subsidies, bringing up a new generation to keep the booze profits going. Alcohol contributes a huge 27% to Tamil Nadu’s State Revenue (Surendran, 2013). Who’s to turn good money down?
National Institute of Medical Statistics, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 2009,
IDSP Non-Communicable Disease Risk Factors Survey, Tamil Nadu, 2007-08. National Institute
of Medical Statistics and Division of Non-Communicable Diseases, Indian Council of Medical
Research, New Delhi, India.