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Updated: September 29, 2013 00:34 IST

Throw the bottle out

Satya Sudhir
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Alcohol kills. In fact, it is the mother of all killer vices. It kills slowly, silently, in decaying evolution everyday, not only the alcoholic but also those around him

Born into a poor family of 8, studied up to the third grade in a government school, discontinued studies after attaining puberty at 13, married to a daily wage labourer at 14, first child at 15, second child at 16, third child at 17, husband turns into an alcoholic, gets thrashed regularly by husband, has more stitches in the head and face than bones in her body at 18, widowed at 19 as husband dies of alcoholic cirrhosis, turns into a domestic help at 20, still working from dawn to dusk everyday in multiple houses, earning a meagre income and looking after her children at 21 ...

This probably is the story in a nutshell of your domestic help or maid. This is the story of all housemaids I have had in three different States. A few months ago, we moved to a new place and as we were settling down, a woman came to our doorstep, asking if we needed a housemaid. I was rather stricken at her appearance. Frail and miserable looking, thin as a stick with just a layer of skin around her skeletal frame, she did not seem the kind who was capable of any work.

I hired her, however, and she has been helping me with domestic chores. She is a widow in eternal doubt. Seven years ago, her husband, after turning into an alcoholic, abandoned her one fine day. Since then, she has been juggling jobs at four houses everyday, looking after her kids and, the worst of it all, living in a pathetic uncertainity as to the fate of her husband. For there can never be closure unless he is found, dead or alive!

She has absolutely no background, no degree, no wealth, no house of her own, no job security, no vacation, nothing! She has never seen the Statue of Liberty… never even heard of it, never read an Enid Blyton, never ridden in a car and never stepped into a 5-star hotel ... all luxuries we take for granted as part of every day life. She is a fine example of “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” From the very first day I have found her to be a remarkably honest human being and a woman of great integrity and character, besides being extremely smart and knowledgeable about household matters.

Housemaid par excellence

For one, she is on the dot everyday. And once she is in the house, she gets on with her work with all sincerity and does a thorough job, whether I am watching or not. Her children are growing up and their needs are more, so last month she asked me if I could give her more work. I told her I had no problem giving her a raise and was rather stunned by her reply. She said she did not want a raise if she was doing the same job but rather wanted her workload increased to be paid more!

Wow! So I offered her a job that was being done by another person at that moment. Though the money would do her good, she refused as this would mean stealing somebody else’s job and causing him a loss of job!

Wow! Folks! I do believe this woman would have made it big in the world had she continued her studies and married at a more appropriate age. But if you ask her what really went wrong, her quick reply would be, “It’s the bottle that did all the damage. We were happy, until he started drinking.”

I couldn’t agree with her more. Today, drinking is taking a devastating toll on family life in so many homes in India. A chronological look at accident deaths and crimes committed will reveal that consumption of alcohol has been the root cause. In modern societies, many people claim they are not binge alcoholics and are in absolute control of the intake and intoxication level. But in reality what starts off as ‘just a casual beer in hostel’ or ‘just social drinking at an office party’ eventually leads to alcoholism, breaks up a family and shatters peace at home. Opening the door to a drunken husband and getting beaten up every night is a curse for so many women and children today. I ask myself, “Is that the life a woman was born to live? Certainly no!”

Sadly, it is not just the lower stratum of society but also the elite, learned and educated world that is a prisoner to alcoholism. The beginning and end of events like launching a ship, winning a game, getting a job, completion of projects, bachelor’s parties, office parties, club parties are all marked by the participants hitting the bottle. To say that the government is taking an uncompromising stand against drinking is only a travesty of truth as all the Army, Navy, Air Force, police, railway and administrative services have recreational parties where liquor is served in surplus! The saddest of them all is seeing medical professionals and doctors getting drunk at conferences despite knowing full well about the ill-effects of alcoholism.

It is a shame. I do believe that a number of youngsters, especially in college and hostel settings, are influenced by cinema and hence I do not understand the callous attitude of the film industry in dealing with this killer vice. For many years, movies portrayed only villains sporting a glass of alcohol in the hand and the censor board ensured that there was a scroll of statutory warning against drinking at the bottom of the screen at least in small print. But recent movies have even the most macho heroes drinking after a silly and minor quarrel with the heroine. Things get worse if the heroine forsakes him or dies. The hero immediately turns into an alcoholic, acts like a foolish clown in the inebriated state and waits for the second heroine to rescue him from the addiction with her love! After a crisis, a hero is always shown hitting the bottle with his friends, whereas, the distressed heroine is shown running to a god and crooning a melancholic song.

Having come from a family of teetotallers, I say this with a lot of faith and conviction. It is possible to have a good time, enjoy life and be extremely happy without an alcoholic drink. It is also possible for college students and officers to stand up to peer pressure and say ‘no’ to drinking. In my family, my father set the example himself. He was perhaps the most ideal candidate to become an alcoholic, having lost his father at a very young age, having to shoulder family responsibilities without any financial backing, living as a bachelor alone for many years and having served in government service. But he never look to the bottle. My mother often recounts a party where every officer got drunk and there was tremendous pressure on my father to drink too by his boss. He was ridiculed as being “afraid of the Mrs.”, “unmanly”, “anti-social,” etc. But my father would not succumb to the temptation. I know that day, he made my mother very proud and happy for, he was really the only man in that party, courageous enough to stand up for his principles.

If only my housemaid’s husband had stood up and said ‘no’, in the very first instance, she would have had a chance of a better life. Alcohol kills. In fact, it is the mother of all killer vices. It kills slowly, silently, in decaying evolution everyday, not only the alcoholic but also those around him. In the last two decades, I myself have attended the funeral of two doctors, aged 23, who died in the prime of life, meeting with accidents under the influence of alcohol. Their parents, who should have been really proud of their sons, are inconsolable today.

Ask a man dying of alcoholism in his deathbed or a man whose wife and children died as a result of his drunken driving what he would have liked to do differently in his life. Be not surprised to get the same answer in regret, that he would have liked to stay away from alcohol. “If only I had not been reckless and not taken that first drink ...”

I wish that everyone of my countrymen march out in whirlwind campaign and take a joint stand against hitting the bottle and that he would hit the bottle……..out! Then, there will be happier, more secure and peaceful families. Above all, women and children will live free of fear and my country will be truly free.

(Dr. Satya Sudhir is an architect. Her email:

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"Then, there will be happier, more secure and peaceful families. Above all, women and children will live free of fear.".....Hilarious! This confirmed that the author knows nothing. Like any other anti-liquor activist she seems to be under the impression that alcohol is a threat to women and children. Why? Because your neighbour is a wife beater? Go to a pub in a city (not Chennai) and tell me how many women you see drinking? Are these women a threat to women and children?... And what do you mean by "my country will be truly free"? If you think alcohol is the reason India is not free and not dynasty rule, religion, ignorance, conservatism, or the censor board which you love so much (Guess how many democracies have censor boards?), then you must be drunk!

from:  Rohit
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 16:53 IST

My only problem with these articles is that they ignore reality, and generalize all alcohol drinkers as the same. Approximately, 120 million Indians drink daily. And way more than that drink occasionally (few times a week/month). How many violent alcohol-related crimes do you hear about? The statistics on all drugs whether alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, heroin etc show that the vast majority of drug users never get addicted to a drug. It is always the minority that becomes dependent. Please feel free to help them. You can use my tax money to do it, too! But stop this backward mindset towards hard working taxpayers who just want to have a cold beer after a hard day's work. I, and hundreds of thousands of Indians like me, am not the same as some village drunkard who wastes his 3/4th of his income on booze and beats his wife all the time. I dont get violent after consuming alcohol, and I dont drink and drive. Leave me alone.

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 16:42 IST

This is in response to EK's view. Apparently, he sees no ill effects
of alcohol. I wonder how he wants us to quantify. How does one
quantify that because of alcohol personal relationships have suffered
to the point of no return, because of alcohol attention has not been
given to thriving businesses which eventually floundered, because of
alcohol career progression suffered.

Perhaps EK's has not come across any such personal observations in his
circle of friends and relatives and looking around the community that
he lives in. Or then may be he has simply not looked around and been
for me and myself.

from:  balbir singh khattar
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 10:07 IST

While Satya's article does sound emotional, and is sure to strike sympathetic chords, her solution to shun alcohol is very facile!
I wish she had done more research; she'd have known then that alcoholism is a disease, which cannot be cured! Yet, one can arrest the disease for the rest of his/her lifetime. Alcoholics have a genetic predisposition to addiction.
Please search Dr. Virginia Davis on Google, and learn all about THIQ.
For your information, I am an alcoholic, who has been TOTALLY sober for over 31 YEARS, One Day at a Time!
Alcoholics Anonymous works, where no pill, medicine, detox, or treatment is given; yet a spiritual awakening does miracles!

from:  Mohan
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 09:46 IST

Throw the bottle out' by Satya Sudhir depicts in depth the story of many hapless women of the economically backward society in India. The story is narrated in a simple smooth language. Alcohol trade through government run outlets brings record revenue to the government. As such not many may 'throw the bottle out'. This article is sure to touch the hearts of many to carry out awareness programmes to stop the killer disease of drinking to death.

from:  Sumathy Dennis
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 08:11 IST

Very recently I have to see the tamil film Thalaiva again with friends. The usage of local liquor by the hero screens with a dance and song. The kid of my friend who also accompanied enjoyed the song and dance immensely and repeated the song through out our return journey to home. The song and dance sequence has made a good blow in his mind. I really pity of the child and taken a promise not to see such films which exhibits alcoholic inebriated scenee which is social menace for ever.

Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 19:51 IST

The article is touchy. Many problems in our society can be solved if people desist from consumption of alcohol. My article ' Alcohol too is injurious to health ' appeared in open page on March 26'2011.Our country needs Total Prohibition

from:  araveeti.ramayogaiah
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 18:10 IST

I could not agree with more with the author. So very rightly observed
amongst our youth. At one time, women would refrain and if at all they
indulged in a drink, it would be behind closed doors. Nowadays it has
become like the 'in' thing...slowly making inroads in to the middle
class as well.

Our bollywood movies are a great influence and the actors in it remain
role models to many of our youth. So directors/writers need to ponder
over how they are contributing to the degenration of our society and
our value system. Recently, I saw a movie titled Yeh Jawani Yeh
Deewani starring the current heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor. Throughout the
movie the hero and his friend plus other buddies were shown drinking
irrespective of the time of the if that was the only way one
could celebrate. Surprisingly that movie was declared as one of the
top grossers of the season. Is this what we want and can our average
person afford to lead a lifestyle like that?

from:  balbir singh khattar
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 14:16 IST

At least one can say that alcohol is fair in its treatment all around. The poor drown their misery, the rich float in its luxury. Both end up in the same dead pool.

Everyone can't be a Winston Churchill, I've gotten more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.

from:  Yunus Sait
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 14:13 IST

Keeping the examples of the fate the alcoholic people have met, in front of the public (esp. generation YOUTH)can be a great awareness campaign in itself.
Nice article. The causes of why people at a very young age are falling for alcohol are very well defined in this article.

from:  Abha
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 12:27 IST

This article paints a very myopic view of alcohol and its effects, and does not back it
up with science, statistics or facts, but hearsay and anecdotal evidence. To make a
sweeping statement and paint anyone who consumes alcohol as a drunkard and
being violent towards women is rather naive and ill informed, and does not hold
water in this day and age. It is rather sad The Hindu carries such articles, something
that should've been on a personal blog, on its pages. I mean, why would anyone
make a grandiose statement that suggests we all take visiting the statue of liberty for
granted ?

from:  EK
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 09:18 IST

there is a difference b/w being an alcoholic to drinking alcohol

from:  tiasa
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 09:17 IST

Worth preserving this nice piece to be read or re-read or it should be in a school text book.What I had in mind and not poured out this article carries in every sense.
I blame the Governments for milking money from the poor though all claim to be Gandhians white clad with topee.What is the use of giving freebies to the poor when backbone of families drink and become useless to family or society.The liquor shops are open right through 18 hours a day.Daily wage earners make a beeline before and after work.their families would get only a kick in turn and not his earning.The evil should stop and I bow to the Governments in Gujarat for enforcing prohibition come what may.Gujarat is the most advanced state of India and set an example for rest of the world to ponder.

from:  b sriram
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 09:11 IST

Really good article and portraits issues clearly. Well written by author. Thank you

from:  Vinoth
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 07:39 IST

A good article.As expressed, drinking destroyed life. It is a pity that
the Government is running Bars , encouraging the people to drink. Unless
the government is taking serious steps to curb this habit,nothing will
happen and in the near future, all the youngsters will become slaves for
this habit and finally we will lose a bright India.God saves our

from:  k.janaki vallabhan
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 05:10 IST

I hold similar views as that of the author. But, unfortunately, thanks to our politicians who only thought about short term, plunged in to open TASMAC shops in every street corner and made a generation of youngsters to take to alcoholic drinks. Movie makers show every alternate movie with scenes of drinking bouts with even the hero participating in drinking - while for legal purposes, they project a card in the beginning against the ills of drinking. Do they have any conscience left? Would they like their sons acting the way that their heroes are portrayed? The government could at least enact a law to ban such scenes glorifying the drinking habit and also just close down maximum number of TASMAC shops - notwithstanding the loss of revenue. We need politicial leaders who could think of the next generation - in Tamil Nadu, Kamaraj was the last leader who, in my opinion, left a lasting legacy.

from:  Chandra
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 04:37 IST

superb...first time in my life such a great author shown/explain the
lively hood of lower stratum that higher stratum can help
atleast one to one ..charaag se charaagh jalti hai..

from:  Syed Qaleel
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 04:20 IST
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