Age No Bar ! Young Kudla Talking Bottles, Pegs, Pints and Shots

Have you noticed, there are more underage drinkers at the pubs and bars in the city than legal drinkers. Although signs are posted of allowing in and serving only the legal age drinkers, but it seems like no one is following those signs nor nobody cares about it. These posted signs at the pubs and other liquor serving establishments are just like our “lovely” city traffic signs-motorists make U-Turn when there is sign posted “No U-Turn”, motorist enter a street although a sign clearly says ” No Entry”, and the funny part is that motorists park right in front of a “No Parking” sign. How ignorant one could be to disobey any warning signs-and most of all the concerned authorities give a damn about it-whether the citizens follow the signs or not on the street or at a “watering-hole” establishment?

Age no bar.. that’s right, anyone can drink illegally; Karnataka “Youth” can have “Liquor” (prolly not beer) at 21!!!! Although the caption says ” Age No Bar’ -yet it follows with ‘Karnataka youth can have liquor at 21’. However, an after thought-Can Karnataka really have it otherwise? I guess not or else Liquor Barron Vijay Mallya will be breathing down indeed very heavily on every body’s neck who even dare to think about it. Are all the pillars of society so drunk that they don’t know what they are saying??? God help us – Welcome to India, where every rule is only to increase corruption!

Yes, Young India/Young Kudla is talking bottles, pegs, pints and shots with the ease of seasoned drinkers, raising a toast to everything: Birthdays to cricket matches, before and after exams, to stave off boredom or the blues. And if opportunity knocks, an unusually high percentage are drinking until they land in trouble. In a country known for abstinence, the age-old notions of who drinks what, where, when and why are changing dramatically.

Yes, there are plenty of drinking (alcohol) laws in this country-but how many people and owners running liquor establishments follow these laws -the answer is : NO ONE ! Nearly 80 percent pub-goers in the India and for that matter even in this educational hub are below the age of 21-20 years of age. Nearly 80 percent occupancy of pubs and bars across the country is by youths below the age of 25 and 67 percent of them are below 21 years of age, according to the survey by NGO Campaign Against Drunken Driving (CADD).

Excise Law bans the sale of liquor to or by anyone below 21 years. If an underage person is caught consuming alcohol or if the vendor is caught, it could mean a fine of Rs.10,000. However, the study finds the laws rather ineffective, as nearly 33.9 percent of those below 16 years of age easily procure alcohol from government authorised liquor shops, bars and pubs while.

Indian law also prohibits any person below the age of 25 years to be employed at any bar or pub. The offence is punishable with a fine of up to Rs.50,000 or imprisonment of three months to be levied on the outlet. But just have a peep inside some of the pubs and bars in town-you will see nearly half of the employees below that prescribed age are serving liquor to their patrons. Have the excise authorities done anything about it -NO ! You know why, money plays an important role in this game- let’s call the term- bribe/corruption.

We have heard about few two-wheeler accidents hat had taken place in Mangalore during few months back resulting in deaths of teenagers, and in these cases alcohol had played a major role – youths under age 21 die from motor vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, homicides and suicides that involve underage drinking – Underage drinking is a prelude to drunk driving and thus it is important to curb it in the initial stages, so that it does not end up as a habit among young individuals.

Coming out of the woodwork are “Happy Hour Kids” in this educational hub. With some city pubs and bars slating early evenings as cheaper Happy Hour, alcohol is within easy reach, after school/college or before tuition. No more tea time, it’s “beer time?”. Even university students at the postgraduate and Ph.D level are underage as far as consumption of alcohol is concerned. But a visit to the pubs in town you’ll be surprised to see many of these PGs in a revelry mood cheering on their favorite booze. Most pubs in the city, in the competition to make money, do not check any age proof before serving alcohol to a minor, which means that a 17 or 18-year-old can easily walk into one and order a drink.

A disturbing trend is early drinking among girls and young women. It seems like one of the outcomes of being encouraged to do the things that boys do. Girls like to make a statement, just like boys ! Some say that some young women typically start to drink due to peer pressure. As I have seen, these young women drinkers start with fast-selling, easy-on-the-pocket pop wines (Breezer), where alcoholic content is about twice as much as beer but disguised by fruity flavours. They then move on to much stronger drinks, vodka being the top choice-this will slowly lead into drinking problem and alcoholism.

Couple of months back I had read a report about a pub being raided in Bangalore, where minors were seen consuming alcohol. But the excise authorities simply wiped their hand off confirming that none of the ‘minors’ caught in the raid – six boys and three girls – were under 18. They were only ‘minors’ because the legal drinking age in the state is 25. However, classifying those who are in the 18-25 age bracket under the same category as under-18s, is unrealistic. Most people admit that they had their first drink at the legally adult age of 18 (or even earlier), and wonder whether the cops would raid an 18th birthday party if their dad offered them their first drink to salute their coming of age? While no one is questioning the diktat of not serving alcohol to a school kid, why penalize a 24-year-old for holding a drink (which could be at his own wedding, perhaps?) if they’re not creating a nuisance?

Yes, pubs in Mangalore do need to be reined in from letting teens walk in, but even those who are adults in the legal sense, should get ready for the possibility of ending up in a police raid, as they are set to increase in frequency. I asked a few young drinkers at a popular pub here in the city about drinking at early age, while they were celebrating their friend’s 19th birthday.( Forget beer, 90% of this young “underage” party crowd were having hard liquor, from tequila shots to Long Island Ice Tea cocktails (Long Island Iced Tea, popular and potent mixed drink of vodka, rum, tequila, gin and triple sec with sour mix and topped off with cola.)

But is expecting that no one touches a drop of liquor before turning 25 or 21, asking for too much? Sashi, age 20, said to me “I don’t know anyone who hasn’t tried alcohol before 22 or 21. Me and my friends have been drinking at home during house parties, and there has so far never been a problem to buy alcohol from wine stores either. Our parents don’t mind either”

Cheryl, 21, says, “I didn’t even know the legal age for drinking is 21. I bet there is no one who has waited that long to have alcohol. Ninety per cent of my friends drink at parties and otherwise. My parents also know I drink on occasions, and haven’t ever had a problem with it.” Nilesh, 19, adds, “My father offered me my first drink on my 19th birthday. From there on, I got addicted to alcohol, and here I am sipping on this rum and coke”.

A minor , who didn’t wanted to reveal her name nor age, tells me “I know that some of my PU classmates drink, and it’s not like, ‘oh, that’s illegal’ or something. A couple of them have parents who are okay with it too. I’ve never heard of any of them having a problem buying booze, especially guys.”

Yes, underage drinking- It’s a new landscape that’s staring India in the face. One that’s likely to unleash a flood of suffering in the near future. Will someone wake up and smell the liquor? It’s time that the government, educational institutes, parents and adults do something about it to bring teenage drinking under control before it is too late. Period.

Author: Alfie DSouza- Illinois