Drinking Customs in India: Traditions and Superstitions
By: Shyamli Thakur
Drinking in India has always been a social taboo that ought not to be pursued by any individual. However, for centuries Indians have been consuming either few noggins of drink or guzzling a lot despite the religious prohibitions.
While drink culture in India has evolved manifold, drinking out in the open is culturally unacceptable and still frowned upon.
In India, natives hold etiquette at the utmost importance, even while drinking! So familiarizing yourself with prevalent drinking rituals will protect you from any prompt gasp of consternation and disgust.
Also, India being a land of superstitions, there are several interesting drinking myths that natives blindly believe. Here I’ve master-crafted some much nuanced Indian drinking myths and customs to assist you get along with the locals.
Break the bottle
People in several nations across the world believe that breaking the bottle of booze is both disrespectful and impudent. However, in India breaking the bottle is equivalent to saying ‘break a leg’ to someone. The natives believe, if a person loses the grip of the bottle and it breaks, he’ll soon receive good news.
It should be kept in mind that the bottle should get shattered accidentally and not intentionally. Next time, you fortuitously drop the bottle be super happy instead of crying over a spilled drink.
Women can go only go two shots down
Since the dawn of time women are treated inferior to men in several Indian states. And the same is the scenario when it comes to drinking. Although women in India have started drinking in public with their mates, men are always dubious about women’s drinking ability.
While men pride themselves in drinking gallons, they look down upon women thinking they’ve lesser drinking potential. This mindset is because of the myth that fairer sex is incapable of having more than two glasses of drink.
Little do the men realize that women have high capacity when it comes to drinking!
Since time immemorial Indians are considered to be one of the most religious people in the entire world. They firmly believe in the existence of god and fear being a victim to his Almighty’s wrath. Statistics reveal that the majority of states in India have high alcohol consumption throughout the weekdays except for Tuesday.
Why you may wonder? The reason: Indians believe that consumption of alcohol complemented with non-vegetarian appetizer will make Lord Hanuman angry.
The god-fearing people ascertain they don’t taste the alcohol on Tuesday because they’re the true devotee of Lord Hanuman. The natives fail to realize that selective piety never brings goodness but they are quite strict about this religious prohibition.
A sexist legend
Cultural norms play a quintessential role in determining whether alcohol ought to be consumed in India or not. Drinking in the area is believed to be the arena for men and not for the fairer sex. The count of men who drink in the nation outnumbers the sum of women who indulge in drinking.
The credit for this goes to the centuries-old legend that women who drink have little or no moral values. This leads on to another old-wives’ tale that women who drink are the easy picks for men. It’s a mystery when this notion came into being but the natives believes in it and frames their opinions accordingly.
Ladies can’t handle drinks
Another sexist superstition is that women are incompetent in handling drinks; therefore, get tipsy after a few sips. It’s nothing out of the ordinary to see ‘eves’ enjoying drinks with their girl gang and behaving their best.
Still natives believe that women are incapacitated when it comes to handling the drinks that exhilarate them. It’s a wonder where this one originated from but the same could be true in case of men, isn’t it?
Beer gets you less drunk
‘I drink beer but not alcoholic drinks’- is one of the commonest sayings you will hear from many Indians. It might perplex you for a moment but you will soon be enlightened. People firmly believe in one of the myths that’s widespread in India.
The perception states that beer because of its less alcohol content. Therefore it’s not a hard drink that holds power to influence one’s mind and body. Even the educated Indians think that no matter how many glasses of beer you intake, you’ll still be conscious.
Drink to get delighted
A couple of glasses of wine and a few shots of vodka are guaranteed to grant you a euphoric experience. It will take all your anxieties and worries light years away from you. You will get excited, spontaneous and fun to hang out with is what the majority of the Indians believe in.
Many natives assert that once the drinks influence their body and mind, they are blessed with Dutch courage. They do and say anything that their consciousness would not let them if they were sober. The legend thus states: the more you drink, the merrier you are!
Morning coffee to the rescue
Myths concerning hangovers are as wide-ranging as perhaps the choice of drinks today in India. People in the country profess that it is completely ok for one to consume gallons of drinks at night. They just have to ensure they enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning.
Natives believe that a cup of aromatic coffee helps one to get sober and brace up to seize the day. Therefore, if you’ve a jar or some sachets of coffee handy, you can drink as much as you wish.
Beer to prevent a hangover
Drinking would’ve been more fun if there was a sure shot way to avoid getting an irritable and nauseous hangover. Indians believe in the myth that you should start your evening with a glass of beer.
The belief exists that if you first drink beer and then other drinks you’ll not be a victim of hangover. This belief is the panacea of hangover that natives avow to be effective. So next time you can plan to drink until you pass out, start with a pint of beer.
Explore the booziness customs of India
Indians are world-renowned for being extremely respectful to their elders. No matter what the occasion is the natives serve their senior first and then the younger ones. The reverence is maintained even when it comes to drinking. It might come as a surprise to many that Indians toast to ancestors before drinking.
This is done to pay homage to the deceased and in return get a blessing from them. Therefore, the native first sprinkle on the floor before making a toast and then drink guzzle the shot. Also, one should be mindful about drinking decorum and maintain eye-contact while toasting.
A slap on the face
One of the most popular Indian codes of social conformity is to participate when someone makes a toast. Refusing to raise a glass to the toast is a straightaway insult to the person making the salutation.
If you are someone who does not enjoy drinking, you are still expected to raise a glass and clink it. You could later ask someone to drink it on your behalf so you don’t have to go against your consciousness. This is quite an easy way out of the dilemma that many people encounter.
Let’s determine how long your friendship lasts
Another gentleman-like drinking tradition is to never pour your drink. Like the rest of the nations in the world, India believes that drinking together is a gesture of companionship. To respect the friendship they share, the natives pour drinks to others but not themselves.
It’s an unspoken rule that if you pour your drink and not your friends’, the friendship you share is superficial. Therefore, if you wish to ensure that the friendship is not shattered, refrain yourself from filling own glass.
No sharing when it comes to drinking in India
Natives of India are firm believers of the saying that ‘sharing is caring’. However, when it comes to drinking Indians are particular about drinking someone’s leftover drink or sharing a glass of drink. This is one of the signature gentlemen’s rules that people follow all the time- no sharing when drinking!
Similarly, in some areas of India, it is frowned upon if you do not finish the drink in your glass. It is quite improper for an individual to leave some drinks in their glass.
From weird to wonderful ‘Never have I ever….’
You never know what the completion of this sentence would be, isn’t it? But one thing you can bet on is it’d be an interesting one.
In India ‘Never have I ever…’ has become customary to play when they have gatherings and are enjoying alcoholic drinks. It has become an obligation and has become one of the most persuasive customs that natives especially youngster love.
While some may find it weird to start with, once everyone copes with the game it gets wonderful and amusing. Therefore, it’s a no brainer why this drinking shenanigan always gets a green signal from everyone in the group. After all, who wouldn’t like to dig out the secrets that their friends treasure the most, isn’t it?
Drinking can be quite fun with friends; one just has to be mindful not to drink in excess.
By: Shyamli Thakur – also by Shyamli Thakur : Superstitions In India