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Take the high road to 2011, but drive safe

Thursday, 30 December 2010 - 2:54am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna
The New Year is around the corner and Mumbaikars have started celebrating already. DNA finds out if citizens are aware of the menace of irresponsible drinking and the resulting dangers

It was a house party and the alcohol was flowing freely. No one had to go back home so nobody bothered about how many pegs they were down. But the six collegians woke up to a nightmare when their apartment caught fire. “My friend woke up and smelled something pungent, but since he had a hangover and was in a hurry to get to work, he didn’t bother to investigate. The rest of us were sleeping when the fire brigade broke into the house,” remembers Dinu V. The neighbours had alerted the authorities on time so no one was injured, thankfully. It, however, led to the tenant being thrown out of the house by the landlords.
 

My friend was visiting us from Dubai and all of us met at a common friend’s place. No one was counting the number of drinks that were consumed. After finishing a bottle or two, we headed out late at night. I tried to convince my friends to take a cab, but being drunk I could not reason with them. Since there were six of us, I took an auto along with a friend while others were in the car. At Juhu, they were caught by police and their car was confiscated. Next day, they had to go to court too. It is one reunion and Christmas that we’ll never forget.

Last New Year’s party left a mark on Sidharth, literally. As a bunch of friends got together to ring in the New Year, there was alcohol, food, everywhere. Too much alcohol led to a fight between him and his girlfriend and without realising what he was doing he broke a glass and cut his hand. He is glad that at least a few people present in the party were non-drinkers as they rushed him to a hospital. A stupid argument in an inebriated state could have cost him his life. Since then, he has vowed to not drink more than two pegs, even if it’s free.

One for the road might be an old adage, but today’s youth does take it seriously —  at least most of them. The New Year is just around the corner and everybody is busy making plans — where are we going to go, what will I wear, whom we should go out with etc. The list is long, but the most important thing is last on the list or ignored completely — when should one say no to yet another drink.
Everyone, well almost, will toast the New Year with their friends. The authorities have been yelling on top of their lungs about the campaign against drinking and driving. So do people in the city practice ‘responsible’ drinking?

“Under the influence of alcohol, people act like children. It’s an excuse to no longer behave responsibly,” says Narendera Kinger, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist at Aashraya Centre. He elaborates that there are two categories of people who drink - one who drink only to let their hair down and the other where people drink to lose themselves.

Taushik Mandal, a 26-year-old manger, agrees and says, “People tend to cross their limit while celebrating. They think ‘letting go of themselves’ is permissible on a special occasions.” He adds, “A few months back, my friend crashed his car and got robbed when he was drunk. Therefore, if I drink, I don’t drive and take a public transport to get home.”

Many people tend to indulge in binge drinking during New Year’s Eve. “Drinking is seen as the best option to forget all worries. People want to enjoy the moment and forget when to stop,” says Sneha Seth, a 22-year-old student who knows a person who was caught for drunk driving and his license was confiscated for six months.

Marita Ferreria, a 27-year-old creative officer, feels that people are aware of ‘responsible’ drinking, but get caught up in the moment without caring about the consequences. “Though people have read about accidents due to drunk driving, they don’t realise that they themselves could meet with an accident.”

According to Dr Chandrashekahar Tulsageri, a chief intensivist at Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, peer pressure is responsible for people getting carried away. “Parties are seen as an excuse to drink. People sometimes consume alcohol to loosen up a bit to socialise.”

“Peenewalon ko peene ka bahana chahiye,” says 30-year-old principal consultant, Kalpana Ganesh who was embarrassed by a friend who in an inebriated state ended up stripping at the end of the party. She adds, “People should keep basic etiquettes in mind while partying. If people think that there are chances of them getting drunk, then they should call for a cab or ask someone who is sober to pick or drop them home.”

Dr Tulsageri adds, “Apart from anti-social behaviour, consuming alcohol beyond a limit can cause damage to the liver and pancreas.”

Alcohol can lead to behavioural changes, financial problems and psychologically affect a person too. “Memory loss, lowering of morality, impairment of judgement and dependence on liquor are just a few of the after-affects of drinking. If a person is under the influence, they tend to do what they might think as immoral or incorrect as their inhibitions are lowered. They lose their power to reason. That is the reason why drunk people display violence behaviour,” adds Kinger.

There are many who also feel that the party organisers too should take charge and refuse drinks to people who are drunk. “To make profits, many party organisers, pubs or hotels don’t put any limit on the drinks a person should consume. If they think that a person is too high to take care of him or herself then they shouldn’t serve them more alcohol,” says a 35-year-old group account manger, Kumar Abhijeet.

However, there are many who disagree with it and feel nothing can prevent a person from taking on his/her responsibilities until and unless s/he wants too. “People cannot blame authorities or others for their behaviour. One has to keep him or herself in check when out drinking,” says a 20-year-old student, Neha Shah.

Also, most people are unaware that alcohol affects different people in different ways. For example, people can drink the same amount of alcohol and react differently because of their gender, weight, and ability to process and breakdown alcohol or their tolerance. “There are a lot of misconceptions around the dos and don’ts of consuming alcohol. Our global initiative, DRINKiQ, helps people drink responsibly and avert mishaps by following few simple tips. We also believe that pubs and lounges also play a pivotal role in helping combat irresponsible drinking. As hosts, they could follow some instructions to make sure that the night goes off without a hitch,” says Devashish Dasgupta, the corporate relations director at Diageo, the company has initiated several initiatives around responsible drinking.

PS Pasricha, a former DGP, says, “One must enjoy, but it should be within limits. Drinking after driving is an offence and one can be punished severely. Most of the time, people feel that they are not drunk and will be able to manage. I would like to ask them if it is worth their and others’ lives?”

He is happy with the precautions and steps the traffic police is taking to curb accidents, but also feels that one should not forget his/her duties as a responsible citizen while ringing in the New Year.




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