Friday, 7 July 2017

FB Discussions : Villages, Drinking, Gandhi

When Gandhi brought in a new inmate some Ashram people protested saying, 'But he drinks'.
Gandhi asked sternly, "Is he drunk all the time ?". When they demurred, he continued, "Then use him productively when he is not drunk.".
Raghunandan Tr My kind of Gandhi. There is a huge difference between drinking and getting drunk.
Aparna Krishnan Yes. And people can get drunk on various things - name, fame, possessions. Liquor is just one of them. It took a Gandhi to question all those addictions unforgivingly, in himself and in others.
Raghunandan Tr Absolutely. I always feel that the tendency to interpret Gandhi literally is actually an insidious way to marginalise him, to make him sound like an extremist, when he was actually logical, liberal and tolerant.
Aparna Krishnan This modern day Gandhi baiting could do with a deeper psycho analysis. I think it indicates deep unfaced insecurities in the 'baiters'. Gandhi had his failings and made his mistakes, but more than almost anyone else, he faced them and also tabled them. Somewhere maybe his demand of a deep personal honesty unnerves. And his demand that we face ourselves, failings and all, is too much for many.
Raghunandan Tr But we must question the literal interpretations. Let me give you an example. I dislike drinking and am absolutely intolerant of drunkenness. Yet, I enjoy an occasional drink of beer or wine, particularly when it is recommended to go with some kinds of food, and with certain personal friends alone, who know how to enjoy a civilised drink.
Years back, when I started working for the first time, I was posted to Gujarat. I saw the deep rooted hypocrisy when it came to the question of drink. On the one hand, there was the formal policy of prohibition, but the reality was that you could get a drink anytime. Besides, because of prohibition, there was a flourishing hooch business and everybody profited from it. The system has made the police one of the most corrupt in the country. Besides, hypocrisy, when it is part and parcel of daily like, then spreads like a virus, till in infects every behaviour.
Those days I never drank and developed a deep revulsion to it, because I saw how people drank in Gujarat, furtively, guiltily and with a certain triumph at having beaten the law. They drank not to savour the feeling, but to get drunk. They drank to find alibis for their unconscionable behaviour afterwards.
Aparna Krishnan I agree completely. I would only widen the definition of liquor to include power, money, personal ambition, fame. Regarding prohibition though, I would tend to ask for it. Because the years AP had prohibition, drinking was certianly far less, and it also became a furtive sneaky affair. Now my village and all villages are deeply damaged as the easy availability of drink has made addicts of the whole youth community. The women are clear that the years of prohibion were better.
Raghunandan Tr I see that point, but I am against, in the long term, against governments which do the thinking on the part of citizens. I don't much care for nanny governments.
Aparna Krishnan The price women pay is simply too high. And it was the women who demanded and achieved prohibition in AP in those years. Today I see them demand it in small groups, but that collective voice is not rising. It is needed.
Raghunandan Tr Yes, the price women pay is too high, because there is a dominant macho narrative that makes it the norm for men to drink to get drunk, and then to beat their wives. But is the answer only prohibition, though I do agree it offers an immediate panacea? There is a deeper underlying problem. It is the emptiness in peoples' lives, that is often satiated with drink. Let us imagine what men do if there is no drink. There are no facilities for sports, games, for reading, for other entertainment in rural areas. People get terribly bored. This is what men say. And reasonable men I know, who live in rural areas.
Aparna Krishnan Village people have their ways of spending time usefully. After all traditionally we had 2-3 village drunks, and the rest of the men were the usual festival/ death day drinkers only. Now it has become a menace, with three 'belt shops', implicitly supposted by the administration, in a village of 70 households. But yes, regarding the present day youth I agree. Schooled into hopes, and into a reality of emptiness and unemployment. Thay havem each one of them, got entrenched in drink. Sridhar Lakshmanan from his experience had also long back said bringing back games into villages is the way. I agree, because when the village boys organize and play inter village cricket matches I see the focus and passion that is established. And the systematic way in which months of tournaments are conducted by then. Whatever it is, a response is urgently needed, because we have a youth generation well into drink, to a level where we may need deaddiction camps also.

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