Looking at the season and the occasion, it is entirely possible that you have picked up today’s newspaper with a mild bit of veisalgia: a word that, as a teetotaler I know only the dictionary meaning of, but you may be experiencing it!
Gujarat is a great state to be in, if you have liking for the “foreign liquor”, as not only we have the most admirably managed organization capable of making this health-drink reach your doorstep over a telephone call; we are the only state, probably in the whole world, that has made an amazing scientific discovery about alcohol that has, unfortunately, remained unrecognised by medical fraternity.
I often feel like requesting the civil surgeons of our state to let me in the secret, but have resisted the temptation purely out of the fear of unleashing forces far greater than I can handle by asking this simple question, i.e. How do they medically adjudge and certify that “any person from the State for the maintenance of his health needs the use of foreign liquor” (Health permit, rule 64)?
If I set aside sarcasm, it is absolutely clear that the alcohol scene in Gujarat is a story of collective pretense. Our prohibition may be a joke, but our policy of granting drinking permits based on “need to maintain health” deserves a full scale ROLF, provided you are fond of black humor.
I feel really sorry for the civil surgeons of Gujarat; as, for the sake of public convenience, they are forced to sign on a dotted line as if “foreign liquor” is a medicine. The bitter truth is, alcohol has no medicinal status (and if it had, it should be sold in chemists’ shop) and it has no clinically accepted unique health benefits that can make it a necessity for maintaining health for anyone. If alcohol is a necessity, it is only when one has reached a state such as that of a drug addict who can’t take the psychological impact of substance withdrawal.
Alcohol is actually a psychoactive substance that acts as a depressant on brain. One dimension of this influence is lowering of social inhibitions. This effect makes a shy person open up or an awkward person to dance freely. As social inhibitions weigh down a person in his daily life, drinking provides an escape into a more relaxed state of being. As this process also involves dopamine, the happiness molecule of brain, alcohol has become an addictive companion of humanity across the globe.
Looking at the cultural antiquity of alcohol, humanity or Gujarat should not have much to fear from it, but, there is one aspect more typical to us that I want to point out.
It is no secret that compared to the world; we live in a fairly conservative society. As alcohol helps escape peer-pressure of social inhibitions, it is entirely possible that alcohol abuse-proneness of a culture is directly proportionate to the intensity of social constraints.
Social drinking, a colonial concept probably in place to help the lonely representatives of the Raj escape evening blues of staying far away from home, has found incredible acceptance in drawing rooms of Gujarat. This colonial veisalgia, i.e. hangover, needs a bit of scientific and cultural scrutiny.
We need to have a serious look at alcohol abuse in Gujarat by accepting it as it is, an addictive substance, and not a health-drink or a fashion statement. It is also possible that, if we become more open as a society, the charm of alcohol will be automatically diminished.
Alcohol is, unarguably, the most damaging addiction known to humanity that destroys countless lives. Let us stop celebrating it.