At Interviewing India, we stress on personal experiences, and as long as it is a true and personal account, our interviewees can share anything under the sun with us. After taking a look at all our topics, our interviewee Mrs Parthasarthy, decided to talk about the menace that country liquor has created in the economically weaker sections of society. But the problem of alcoholism goes beyond social classes. Read this interesting interview because it will remind you of your grandmother sitting you down and talking to you of a problem that plagues her.
Vanamala Parthasarthy, 74 years, Researcher, Visiting Professor and Social Worker, Bangalore
Interviewed by Poorva Dinesh
Why did you decide to give us an interview on alcoholism?
Well, I have found that alcoholism is an evil habit. I call it an evil habit because your human emotions are completely gone; you become more like an animal in your approach and as a result of that, you are not in your senses. Alcoholism is prevalent in a very large scale particularly in the lower strata of society.
Alcoholism is an addiction, where no matter how much money you get, you still want more, and no matter what your wife earns, you want to take away all the money. Whatever problem she goes through, you are not bothered, because you just want the desire to be satiated.
Is there a case you would like to share with us?
My maid’s husband spends his money either on drinks or goes to hotels, and takes away the pay his wife gets to spend it on whatever he wants to. His wife is expecting now, but she does not get any kind of concern from her husband. Sometimes when he comes home – drunk or not drunk – and finds his wife has eaten before him, he gets very angry and throws things at her and beats her up.
How according to you does the problem start?
Unfortunately, around 60% of the lowest strata of society give to drinks. It starts at a very young age. Probably at some point of time, someone says, “have a glass of liquor; you will feel good.” This also includes country liquor. My husband, who was a police officer, has gone on raids where it was found that people actually boil lizards, shoes and things like that in the liquor. They boil the whole drink and then it is served to people. That’s why we see deaths occurring…you can imagine what alcoholism can lead to.
How do we deal with the problem?
The question is whether we approach this problem at a spiritual level, or do we approach it at a philosophical level, or do we approach it at an authoritarian level. What one can do is maybe four days a week you have no drinks at all, and maybe two days a week you have drinks. You need to slowly decrease the number of occasions when they go for drinks. It’s like weaning a child. The wife should take the responsibility to take the alcoholic husband to treatment centres, where they get rid of this habit.
It’s easier said than done isn’t? Do you think the change can happen only when the person admits there is a problem?
Usually men never admit they have a drinking problem. It’s like a psychological case. If a person is suffering from a psychological problem, he or she will never say “I have got a psychological problem. Please take me.” That will never happen. What happens is when he drinks, he becomes violent, he sleeps off the whole thing; when he gets up he is normal, he says, ”I am so sorry for whatever I have done”, and he again goes back…It’s going to be very difficult to change the man’s attitude. I think the woman needs to take responsibility to help the husband get rid of the habit. I have very strong views about alcoholism.
Most domestic maids are victims of domestic violence because of alcoholic husbands. What can people like you and me do about it?
It’s a very difficult question to answer. In case you have a domestic help who is prepared to listen to you, keep encouraging her to talk to her husband and put it across to him in a nice way. First, she needs to understand the importance of her husband giving up alcohol, and from her side, she should work on the husband. But it is very difficult.
What does love mean to you?
Love is a feeling that comes from your heart. Nothing stops love. It is an ever-flowing kind of thing, and no dam can stop the flow. Love is something you give even if the other person is nasty to you.