Pub culture – the down sides

Last week I went to visit a friend in the hospital after an accident. My concern turned into anger as he narrated the events that led to the accident. Apparently he was riding back home after an evening at a pub and heavy drinking and he had no idea what hit him. He remembers falling down and then opening his eyes in the hospital. The hospital authorities later told him that he had been found lying on the road (for god knows how long) when a passing motor cyclist arranged to have him admitted.
An article in the hindu gives alarming information of the rise of drunken driving among two wheeler drivers.

The famous “pub culture” of Bangalore seems to have a lot of scary fallouts.
A study taken up by the Psychiatry De-addiction Unit of Nimhans in 2003 revealed that an increasing number of young women in Bangalore may be heading towards the peril of alcoholism, starting as young as 15 or 16. The young women who took the survey cited Stress, peer pressure, and loneliness are the most common reasons for their drinking… Psychiatrists say these are also the reasons which go into the making of an alcoholic.

Bangalore has the highest number of bars, pubs and wine shops in the entire country which has earned it the monikers “Beer capital” and “pub city”.

In any popular, crowded pub in the city on a Saturday night, especially during summer, as much as 400-600 litres of beer are consumed. If one considers the number of bars and pubs in the city, the figure would be astounding. One figure puts the number at 200 and this does not include the hotels which serve liquor.

The growth in the pub culture began in the early 90s with the opening up of the economy and subsequent higher income levels, a metropolitan crowd, an increasing in the youth immigrant population as a result of the Software industry, salubrious weather and low crime rates. “Pubbing ” was the natural choice for young people with no relatives in Bangalore and few friends ( mostly from other states) a lot of money to spend . This was an easy way to meet people as well as relaxing after a long hard week. Over the years it has become an inevitable part of youth life style rather than being one of the avenues for diversion. For the young, Pubs are the destination if it is weekend time. A recent newspaper report revealed that many young people admitted to starting Mondays with a hangover. It is worrisome to think of the effects on their health when this becomes a regular habit. As the frequency of drinking increases, the amount consumed also goes up. Even those who are not inclined are drawn into it through peer pressure and for fear of being left out. There is an increase in the number of women and young girls drinking. Although there are rules about the permissible age for being admitted into pubs, enforcement leaves much to be desired. Although most of the pub frequenters are not seriously affected by the expenses involved, there are a few for whom it burns a huge hole in their pockets. In the recent years there has been an increase in the crime rates too around the late evenings and on weekends.

It is evident why one cannot hope for any official intervention in curbing the menace – it is the highest source of revenue for the state’s coffers and many of the pubs and bars are owned by people in power or close to them. There is money in the licensing rackets too.
Any change has to come through social action.
Healthier forms of entertainment need to be considered and promoted vigorously so the youth have alternative avenues to unwind. May be revival of the live bands which were a rage at one time or varied cultural activities of the variety promoted by the Alliance francaise, Bangalore or other youthful forms of entertainment could help in weaning young people from the addiction to pubs. It is such a waste to allow so much of youth energy to be thrown away in intoxication, inaction and exposing the system to alcohol- induced ailments. The common perception is that a few mugs on the weekend do not translate to alcoholism. But the effects of prolonged consumption will slowly take over the system and habits become evident once they have crossed the safety line. Before one is aware, the line has been crossed from social drinking to habitual consumption. Let the young not be forced into this choice for want of alternative sources of healthy entertainment. I think youth organizations and corporates which gain so much through this youth energy should actively explore alternative sources of cultural entertainment.

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