ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design

57. Drinking guide for women in Kerala

wineshop in India

In Kerala you can’t drink as in most of other countries, sure not as in Europe. Relax chatting over a chill beer on the beach or in an open space pub in the late-hot afternoon? Forget it. Drinking alcohol in India is restricted- but not at all unusual.
Notwithstanding my native place, a wine-producer (and lover) region of north Italy, the first months in India I did not need an alcoholic drink. The image of India forged in my mind simply did not match with beer, wine, whisky etc. Moreover I was living in Benares, holiest of the holy Hindu cities and buying liquor was not so easy.

In Kerala, where I live now, you can find liquor in  government shops (the wine-shops) or in hotel bar with a government license. Each state has different legislation on the matter. Kerala is quite strict, with laws becoming more and more austere. From 2011 only 21 year old people can buy alcoholic drinks, and recently a new rule has been introduced: only 5 stars hotel can get license for liquor– so most of the small bars and restaurants have shut down.
In touristic places (such as Kovalam and Varkala nearby) the situation is more relaxed, even not very high standard restaurants serve beer – and if they don’t have license you may get your beer in a tea mug - a drink on a bamboo chair in front of the Ocean is still possible!

How to identify a wine-shop? It’s very easy, you don’t have to learn the Malayalam alphabet to read the board: whenever you see a huge male queue, any time of the day (open 11 hours per day, 7 days a week), there it’s your wine shop! The queue is long because there are few shops and many drinkers. Apparently, all men. Women can’t go and buy, but they can privately drink.
There is no written law against woman beer shopping, but it’s not proper. A woman has to care for her reputation. This give a big advantage to brave female travelers in search of alcohol, since there are no women, there is no reserved Lady queue and you can cut the line and go directly to the desk and buy, saving time. Everybody will stare and think you should not be there, but it is not dangerous.
The wine shops are usually very ugly. Sometime there are bars between customers and sellers, as in a prison. Liquors are usually served ambience temperature, and the choice's limited. You will miss the supermarket at the corner of your town with huge display of different brands of a variety of drinks.  

These days in Trivandrum situation is better since we have a “modern” ac wine shop, with no bars. You enter, take your basket and do the shopping. The liquors are imported products at reasonable price and you can even pay with credit card.
You would appreciate the option if you were a western woman here. Before discovering this shop I had only two options : cut the line hoping nobody will get angry or approach the security man of one of the local bars, asking to kindly go inside and buy beers for me. I tried to  go directly a couple of times, but every time the guard stopped me saying “It’s not a place for Lady, too dangerous”. Maybe it’s only a strategy to get tips for the commission, anyway it happens regularly.

Don’t think to buy a huge quantity of bottles, in order to store in fridge and forget the queue: there is a limited number of bottles you can buy (5 for beers), and to buy more can be risky. I heard of a foreigner living in Kerala that was expelled, his visa delated, for having too much alcohol in his car …. just scaring gossip, but the limit is real.
Also remember to note down on your calendar the days that Kerala Gov. declares “dry day”, day in which selling alcohol –even in 5 stars restaurant- is banned. The first day of the month (when government pays salary), Gandhi jayanti, Holy Friday, and 5-6 days during election are dry days.
Drinking liquor in Kerala maybe not so easy, but yet Kerala is India’s booziest state. Find friends for a drink is not an issue; yet when I am just at the second gulp, my Kerala friends have already finished their glass… in this part of the world getting drunk is what matters, not enjoy what you are drinking .

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