By Rafique Ali
The previous article was about intricacies of drinking, there is another elephant in the room; social behavior of Pakistanis towards alcohol. Today is the day to talk about it, so let’s open can of worms.
Not too long ago, a tweet from a semi-retire secular journalist now settled in London summarized social response of Pakistanis toward alcohol. He was probably exchanging pleasantries with a friend in a light mood, posted a picture of bottle of beer and wrote ‘No Comments’. Do you find anything intriguing? I don’t. It still carries an underlining tone, a message of reluctance.
The 1980s was darkest decade, beginning of an era of suppression of ideas in Pakistan; Afghan war brought Kalashnikov & Zia brought political Islamism. Yet we ignore heroine import as by-product of Afghan conflict which created two million addicts during same decade. Alcohol haters allowed highly addictive heroine, a destroyer of individual’s life and family; sneak into culture. Not so addictive alcohol was out of the public scene. Itni kiya dushmani hay angoor ki beti say (what’s the enmity with wine).
Pakistanis, living in a dry or a wet country; their reaction to alcohol is identical. Their social behavior towards alcohol is divided into four categories. Some drinks openly, some drinks discreetly, some doesn’t drink and always curse at anybody who drink and some who don’t drink but respect the choice of people who drink. Put one person from each category in a room with a bottle of wine/whiskey or case of beer; lock the door and enjoy the show.
Most open drinkers belong to upper middle class or elites, their social strata allow them to drink freely in family or friends parties without being bothered by non-drinkers. My heroes are Deewaney from middle or lower income group who challenges social order and say Cheers or Salute. Open drinkers always face wrath of non-drinkers, whether you lives inside or outside Pakistan. To be intellectually honest, I must include myself as an open drinker too; though my consumption is way down as against years ago. Some (not all) open drinkers in Pakistan has dilemma, they drink like there will be no tomorrow. Principle of moderation requires drinking as a pleasant experience, hold your liquor and try not to embarrass yourself. Nusrat Javed came drunk on TV twice and embarrassed himself. Though I admire his courage to come out as an open drinker but drink at your own private time, when you are at work then your time belongs to your employer. Very brief some tips to open drinkers; don’t mix drinks, experimenting different drinks in one session isn’t good. You may vomit in the end. Stay with one type of drink if you can, if you can’t then some advice through idioms.
Beer on Whiskey Mighty Risky (Meaning: Don’t drink beer before whiskey)
Liquor then Beer, Have no Fear (Meaning: Whiskey or hard liquor before beer is fine)
If you have many choices then start with drink of higher concentration and then move to lower.
Open drinkers in western societies do compromises. To maintain cordial relationship, avoid unnecessary argument with conservative section of family & friends – they avoid drinking or serving alcohol in a mix environment of drinker vs. non-drinker.
Discreet drinkers are everywhere; Celebrities, sports personalities, journalists, TV anchors, politicians, bureaucrats, police officers, army officers, Judges and general population. There was a sense of genuine pity for Hasan Nisar at one time. In 2014 during Imran Khan’s dharna there was a seminar in Chicago about Pakistan & its political situation. Hasan Nisar was on Skype, whereas Husain Haqqani and Suhail Wariach were present. During question answer session, a self-righteous stood up. Instead of asking a question, he started ranting started about Hasan Nisar’s drinking habit. How a person who drink can be morally correct was his point? Hasan Nisar didn’t responded and left. I can’t confirm or deny his drinking habits. Question is, why a drinker needs to apologize or lie to the society? Imran khan in an interview once said he never had a drink, who is he kidding? Here is the problem; people inside Pakistan (unless they belong to an insulated elite group) cannot publicly admit their drinking habits. Even elites with public face have to lie, otherwise it would ruin their career, family and social life.
Nondrinkers with an opinion are the loudest and in majority, they are equivalent of Saudi religious police. ‘Na Pee-aen gay na peenay deen-gay’ (neither I will drink nor will allow you to drink), is their slogan. Are they from conservative section of the society? Ladies and gentlemen, answer is ‘Hell No’. Conservatives are easy to identify and avoid, don’t invite them to a drinking party and case close. Liberal non-drinkers are party poopers, you don’t know about them as apparently they look like a tolerant breed. You sit with them and they will tell you for hours how Zia destroyed Pakistan and how Ansar Abbasi is threat to Quaid e Azam Aug 11, 1947 speech. They are biggest proponent of Secular Pakistan but they are closeted alcohol haters. If you go out with them or attend a party where alcohol is served, you consume few rounds and next day they will break all relationship with you. Or otherwise type of relationship with them would change forever. Be vigilant, identify them and don’t invite them at drinking sessions; or they will spoil your mood.
Fourth category is sweetest and kindest; they are your designated drivers. They will go out with you for session of drinking. Will drink water or any other non-alcoholic beverage, would joke and laugh with rest of the drinkers and would never utter the word of criticism. Then they will drive and drop everybody home. These are western society non-drinkers. Tolerant non-drinkers in Pakistan are even much better, they are best of the best.
Prohibition can’t stop somebody from enjoying a glass of beer; conversely availability of booze didn’t push to drinking either. It’s a matter of personal choice; boot-camp style alcohol ban is outdated. Alcohol and isolation of Pakistan are inter-connected; prohibition started the isolation. Doesn’t matter improved security situation; visitors won’t spent their dollar if watching Victoria Tanga from Nadia Coffee shop at Marriot Karachi or watching pristine mountains from Shangrilla, Skardu isn’t blended with a sip of wine or beer. Bring back alcohol in public space and see how quickly Pakistan tourism and trade will flourish. Think about it.
Writer can be contacted or followed on twitter at @GoToMtns