Alcoholism and Kerala - Made for Each Other?
The photo to your right is not a queue for a movie or anything like that but a queue in front of a liquor shop in Kerala. Every dawn scenes like this is common in Kerala. No wonder Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in India.
The culture of drinking is so deep rooted in Kerala that it is tough to live as a teetotaler. As soon as I completed my B Tech in Civil Engineering I joined work in a construction company in Central Kerala. We used to have lot of parties sponsored by my company and other contractors. I used to attend most of it but when it comes to drinking part I used to politely decline. One day in one of the parties I told that I am not drinking and one of the senior manager who was fully drunk called me and told "Did you ever go to an engineering college? I am ashamed to tell to every one that I have an engineer in my office that doesn't drink". That has become Kerala culture - whether you are an engineer or a doctor or a priest if you are a Malayali male, you are supposed to drink.
I happened to see a debate about drinking in Kairali, in the program "Cross Fire" presented by John Britas (in Malayalam). The panel consisting of actor N.L. Balakrishnan, a business man E M Najeem, Addict India President Johnson Edayaranmula and an activist fighting for liquor ban in Kerala Arimanur Sivarajan. The entire video is about 45 minutes and brings about some facts that should never make us proud.
In the first part of the video N.L Balakrishanan talks about his drinking habits and his views on why drinking in not that bad. E M Najeem who owns two hotels claims that one can promote tourism even without alcohol. Johnson gives us some statistics of liquor consumption in Kerala that is mind boggling. The per capita consumption of liquor in Kerala is 20 liters per person among people who drink.
Another statistics - the average age one starts drinking dropped from 19 years in 1986 to 13.5 years in 2006! Activist Sivarajan talks about why the movement to ban alcohol in Kerala has failed time and again.
The third part discusses why this is happening and what can be done to prevent the menace.
In the fourth and fifth part of this talk show discussion looses its flow with participation of people.
The drinking culture in which Kerala is immersed need to be changed. Other wise the price we have to pay for it in the long run will be immense.