Thodi Si Jo Pi Li Hai: Why Can’t So Many Indian Men Handle Their Alcohol?


Thodi Si Jo Pi Li Hai: Why Can’t So Many Indian Men Handle Their Alcohol?

Illustration: Akshita Monga

“Lose control.”

From Missy Elliot to Hedley to our very own desi Rang De Basanti, there are many songs out there urging us to lose control and just like everything else, the Indian male takes this very seriously, especially after a peg or two. Earlier this month, a group of gutka-selling, Playboy bunny-ogling men got together and lost control in such a zabardast manner that the poor cruise liner they were on, was forced to refund the money to the other passengers.

This came as no surprise to fellow Indians. We have our own desi version of the cruise liner and it’s called Goa. The beaches of the sunshine state are almost always spotted with drunk men in various stages of losing control. Stripped down to their cotton chaddis that look even tinier because of their protruding tummies, most men can’t distinguish between a beach and a bathroom after downing a couple of drinks. They will prance around, sing loudly (always offkey), rub themselves and sometimes even flash their rear cleavage or family jewels in public without a care about their khaandan’s izzat.  

*Generalisation alert*. Most of these men are your ordinary neighbour or the guy you brush past in the local. They are not alcoholics. They probably studied hard, listened to their parents, married at the right age, don’t even look unknown women in the eye – all the markers of good citizens. But infuse them with a drop (okay, several drops) of alcohol and they totally lose it, and feel completely entitled to do so because of all the perceived compromises they have made in life.

What anger is to The Hulk, alcohol is to the average Indian male. It changes the most mild-mannered, sanskari Raja beta into a raging stud, at least in his own eyes. Once he has consumed this magical elixir, the Indian male believes he has a right to do anything, including poke fun at his wife or any other hapless woman in the vicinity, flirt with the waitresses or send “Hi… How ru?” messages to girls half his age. Add a bunch of friends to the mix, and the level of obnoxiousness rises at an exponential rate. These good men become insensitive and boorish because that’s their idea of fun, but is unbearable if you are at the receiving end.

I can’t help but think of this with a twinge of sympathy. Scratch the surface a little, and it’s evident that being “manly” must be hard.

Weddings, vacations, and pubs are where this kind of creature is in his element. He finally gets to release his inner dragon, much to the amusement of others. Bachelor parties are where this entire thing comes to a head, where folks proceed to get drunk and be at their lewdest best. Baraats are quite similar. The booze combined with the loud music makes everyone think they’re Hrithik, in the looks and dance department. Unfortunately, everyone around is expected to grin and be a good sport.

Most Indian men don’t drink alcohol to discern the fruity bouquet of a robust wine or savour the long finish or grassy notes of a single malt. If they are pretending to do this, they are either trying to impress a woman or their boss. Indian men drink to get drunk. It’s only when they are drunk that they become confident and happy and lose control – because when they lose control, they can pretend they are in control.

I can’t help but think of this with a twinge of sympathy. Scratch the surface a little, and it’s evident that being “manly” must be hard. Stop choking on your spit and rolling your eyes. Patriarchy does make things difficult for men. It must be tough to hold back those tears when you’ve been passed up for a promotion or been dumped for the tenth time. It must take a lot to maintain that air of cheery insouciance about you when you’re constantly being told that you can have fun when you get out of school/when you get out of college/when you get a job/when your kids leave home/probably never. When was the last time you heard a regular guy call his friends over to just hang out and talk without the lubrication of alcohol? It’s enough to make anyone want to lose it.

So dear Indian man, we get it, but being buzzed and losing control is probably not the answer. It’s not the haldi ka doodh that you imagine it to be that will officially cure everything from an upset tummy to a broken heart. So the next time you have a few drinks and feel overpowering and manly, do not hit on the woman to your left, do not do your version of the Macarena, and do not text your ex. Head home as fast as you can. In a cab.