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Bangalore’s Alcohol And Drug Culture

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I have been really pleasantly surprised about the nightlife here in Bangalore.  Aside from the lack of high-end dance clubs, I mean.  So far Coco Bongo is the only place in town where I’ve been able to really go dance my ass off.  But other than that, I love this city!  I think I would have instantaneously cocooned if I had relocated in India to a city like Mysore that boasts only one bar!  I’ve been there, it’s called Fluid and they serve great food and drinks, love the lighting, good tunes and the owners are fantastic guys… but I like a bit more variety than just one bar in town.  Especially after living for the past eight years in a “party all night long” city like Barcelona.

Living here in India, I am very aware that my experiences and what has been “normal life” for me is extremely different to the majority of Bangaloreans.  The first time I realized how different things were was during a chat with my first driver I had when I moved here.  There are so many things that I take for granted that he has never even tried.  Along with him are the majority of female co-workers, especially the more traditional or conservative ones who still wear a sari or shalwar kameez to work every day.  What they do for fun is at times the opposite to what I do for fun.  Not good or bad, not wrong or right…again, just different.

I think my jaw actually dropped a few times as conversations progressed and I would learn more and more about just how different we were.  One man in particular who I really adore is in his late 20s.  He told me about how he has drank whiskey three times but that was the only hard liquor he has ever consumed in his whole life.  He drinks beer but that’s it!  He’s never enjoyed an amazing glass of red wine with dinner, thrown back shots with buddies at a stag night or ordered a cocktail –ever!!  There were no wild spring breaks for him.  Nada!  Man, I suppose I shouldn’t be proud of this but in southern California, before you’re 15, we’ve tried loads more than that.  In fact, I had my first drink and my first smoke with my church youth group back home.  Obviously we weren’t at church or with adults, but I always giggle when I remember that little tid-bit of information!

The young women I spoke with at the office have never tried a piña colada or a margarita.  They generally don’t go out as a group of girls unaccompanied, there would need to be family or boyfriends or husbands with them.  They’ve never been to a pool party with a DJ and open bar.  They don’t know what a kamikaze is.  Not a single one of the girls I spoke to has ever been to a cool dance club to shake their groove thing on a girls’ night out.  OH…and given that I am on a crazy champagne kick lately because I miss it so much and would kill for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot … the saddest of all, none of them have ever heard the sweet “pop” sound of a champagne cork being released from the bottle.

I mention all of this because there are two nightlife’s here in Bangalore.  One, where the party culture is a normal part of everyday life with social circles that are identical to those found in urban jungles all around the world.  The other is free of mixologists, DJs and the Page 3 culture.   It’s relatively innocent, probably quite a bit healthier… and the two groups don’t seem to mix.

People do drink a lot here, that’s for sure.  On virtually any given night there is something going on around town.  A specialty party, a guest DJ is spinning somewhere, some happy hour or ladies’ night special is going on, a promotional event for a lifestyle brand…. You name it, there is always a choice of things to do in Bangalore. My instinct says that people drink so much because the closing time is so early.  Guests enter the bar or lounge and start throwing back alcohol like crazy because they only have 2+ hours to enjoy the music and ambience.  Back in Barcelona we probably drank just as much alcohol as what’s consumed here…but that same amount was consumed from midnight until 6am instead of 9pm – 11:15pm like in Bangalore.  I see so many more drunk people here on a regular basis than I have in years in Spain but I suppose that is to be expected when people are forced to pack all their fun into just a couple of hours.

As far as drugs are concerned, I was again pretty surprised to see that so many Class A and B drugs are instantly available in Bangalore, basically just a phone call away.  What I know is readily available is acid, hash, marijuana, cocaine, and mdma – though to be honest I didn’t ask around so I am sure there must be lots more choices than that little list I’ve observed.  They are consumed pretty openly here as well.  Well, don’t get me wrong.  No one is blatantly doing it out in the open.  It’s not like Al Pacino in Scarface with his big pile of coke on a table with people doing it in front of each other – although I have personally seen that in Barcelona and London.  What I mean is that it’s obvious that some people are taking something or on something and it is generally accepted.

I’m so happy to see that the newer, dodgier drugs like ‘G’ haven’t made their way to mainstream Bangalore yet, well at least it doesn’t seem like they have.  So far I haven’t seen a single person be carried out of a club or bar here and sent off in an ambulance, which is pretty commonplace back home.

Bangalore is a city where anything can happen.  I am fully aware that I am missing out on a ton of “real life” here in Bangalore, including festivals and local events because of my current lifestyle and I look forward to that changing soon.  We live in a city where everything can be found…from a sweet, innocent good time…to a naughty night of mischief.  As for me personally, what I’m hoping for is a few glasses of ice-cold champagne and some amazing music while I’m out with friends this weekend 🙂

XOXO Angela

© Angela Carson, 2011

I started Angela’s Bangalore from my hotel room on the very first day I moved to India in 2011, while struck with jet lag! It was my very first blog, the country’s very 1st luxury travel blog. Now I’m rocking YouTube as @ExpatAngela, hope you’ll subscribe.

This article has 13 comments

  1. abstractpsyche

    People have different ways to enjoy, Angela. I mean, drinking isn’t the only way to enjoy. Well, atleast not in India. But different types of people have different ways to enjoy. 😉 A couple of my lady friends enjoy almost every weekend, and which doesn’t involve drinking but does involve lots of dancing and some girlish games. Although, I’m not sure what they play. And don’t make the mistake of judging the salwar-kameez & sari gals, most of these salwar-clad gals are time-bombs. 😛 Half of the women who look traditional party harder than we can imagine 😉
    Besides the women, many of my college friends (guys) don’t drink. In many families here, drinking is actually considered bad. Well, it is in a way. But you should try hanging out with the guys who don’t drink but have a streak of adventure in them. A few of my college friends are totally into hiking/trekking, a few are into amazing long drives (usually in the night). Nothing like an amazing drive in the cold B’lore night air. It gives a different ‘High’. And the ones I hang out with are adrenaline junkies. People have different definitions for fun, don’t they? 😉

    • angela_carson

      Yep, everyone enjoys life differently…I happen to love to dance and love music so that has sealed part of my fate I’m afraid 🙂 Once I make more friends, once my daughter moves here, once I start to date someone I am sure my party girl life will shift as well… –ang

  2. Amrita

    Hi,

    I understand your surprise at finding that so many young Indian men and women led such different lives than you, but I feel that it’s not proper to EXTRAPOLATE the cultural experiences of one nation or set of nations to another. The idea of “fun” is so very subjective and varies from society to society.

    Traditional Asian and African societies are largely community-based and not individual-centric (and not being judgmental here) and therefore, the activities of the kind you mentioned are not prevalent in most parts of the country. It is only in the urban areas where young people are independent, individualistic, not bound by the traditional cultural norms and share their value with the youth in the West, that you find them indulging in what can be called ‘partying’ in the modern sense.

    If those Indian men and women you spoke about were to write a blog about you, they would express their surprise at so many things that they have take for ‘granted’ in their lives and which you would not have had the chance to experience 🙂
    For instance, there are so many festivals all year round in India that are an occasion for families (and I mean, extended families) to get together and celebrate! There are festivals like ‘Holi’ (a harvest festival where a traditional alcoholic drink called the ‘bhaang’ is consumed heartily) which actually involve the entire community (neighbours, friends, strangers) and not just families. There is a festival coming up next week called ‘Rakshabandhan’ which celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters. It is an occasion for siblings to get together and involves the sisters having to tie colourful, designer threads called ‘rakhi’ on the wrists of their brothers. Western societies hardly observe such festivities and communal bonding – and that comes as a shock to a lot of us 🙂

    Like someone said above, ‘drinking and partying’ are only one of the many ways in which persons can seek recreation. And these practices are largely culturally bound. As India becomes more and more urbanized, materialistic, commercialized, individualistic and traditional bonds give way to ‘modern’ (in the western sense) values, we will see a rising trend of the behaviour you mentioned. Whether it will be a good development or a bad, is debatable 🙂

    • angela_carson

      Hi, wow, thanks for the nice and long — and well articulated — reply. I agree with you and actually really miss the festivals and community spirit of Sitges, the village I just left that was so small you didn’t need a car to get from one side to another. I have never lived in a city this big, and I miss the village life, trust me.

      I am writing from my tiny micro-perspective which is pretty limited to working and going out for drinks until my daughter finally arrives in 10 days (in time for school to start here) …. I’m sure my stories will start to shift to less superficial exploits once she is here and we start embarking on more cultural and touristy pursuits. Take care, ang

      • Amrita

        🙂 Not all Indians go “clubbing” in the way you and I understand but let me give you a slight glimpse into the traditional forms of jovial merrymaking in the country. You may already be aware that every state in India has traditional forms of classical dance and music. Sometime during the month of October-November (depending on the Hindu calender), the festival of Navratri (literally, Nine Nights) is celebrated all across the country – it is essentially an occasion for Goddess worship and fasting. In the western state of GUJARAT, Navratri is accompanied by a DANCE FESTIVAL which involves dancing and singing of the traditional folk dance of Gujarat called GARBA and DANDIYA for the entire duration of Navratri. These performances take place all across the state and sees participation from young, adults and old alike, both men and women! When I say performances, I do not mean some professionals performing on stage while others watch. It is a festival where ALL participate (which is possible because practically all Gujaratis know how to perform the Garba) and it takes place in huge community grounds decorated for the festivities. The dances begin in the evening and stretch for the entire night, for nine nights in a row! The festival is a sort of ‘official green signal’ for young people to find their partners, while they dance the nights away! The dances are performed in a huge concentric circles that can extend upto almost a kilometer (one’s place in a circle depends on how well one can dance!) People wear colourful, traditional dresses. Some are decked up to a great extremes such as this http://www.dandiyazone.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Garba-raas-dance2.jpg. This sticks you see in this following picture are called Dandiya sticks http://www.dandiyazone.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Dandiya-dance1.jpg. Garba is a beautiful, graceful dance, that begins at a slow speed but increases in tempo as the night progresses. There are hundred of videos on youtube but the following are some which I like. Hope you get the time to check them out 🙂 and they may make you want to travel to Gujarat during the festival 🙂 (I grew up in Gujarat as a girl, so I have a special fondness for this festival. Garba dances organized in Delhi and elsewhere but they are nowhere as authentic as in the state of its origin. Also, I wanted to let you know how Indians “party” :P)

        Videos from actual garba ground:
        1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBoi42Pojl0&feature=related
        2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03b6E_lVtFU&feature=related
        3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xulvfu44woQ

        Videos of professional dancers (doing the dandiya dance)
        1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMRWEJ30UxM&feature=related (this one has only men)
        2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2rFPkElqQk

        Garba + Dandiya in Bollywood songs
        1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VBAGMkTjTs (must watch!)
        2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmC86-uX7JE
        3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqPPdyNPK8o&feature=related

        • angela_carson

          Loved the videos … that really was a wonderful thing for you to do, it wasn’t a quick comment and I want you to know I really appreciate it. Independence Day is coming up soon…I hope there are some fun community events surrounding that here in Bangalore 🙂 Thanks again! –ange

  3. Helen Towers

    Wait until you get invited to an Indian wedding – dancing into the wee hours everyone from toddlers upwards, everyone having the best of times, traditional dress and no alcohol! Some of the best parties I have been to, and some of the best laughs I have had have been with my indian girl friends, both here and in the US, totally dry. we should envy them – they can get high on air!!

    • angela_carson

      I do look forward to going to a proper indian wedding as well, can’t wait! 🙂 I used to just get high on air, too, but no more! haha When I was 22 I was a go go dancer all summer at two discos in Spain…had so much fun, hardly ever drank alcohol during my early 20s. I’m just not in the same frame of mind anymore 🙂 Living off and on for 18 years in Spain infuses wine and spirits into anyone eventually 🙂

  4. anonymous

    Look forward to a few glasses of champaigne ? There goes your salary !

  5. Thomas

    Your daughter is probably reading all this and thinking have I the coolest mom or what.

    • angela_carson

      I can’t tell if you are taking the piss out of me or not? I would assume most people view me as a terrible influence on her but oddly our honestly and openness works amazingly. My mom denied me everything, didn’t openly talk about boys or socializing and was so strict when I was young that I snuck out and rebelled and was a pretty naughter teenager. I’ve done the opposite with my lovely daughter. And she has turned out honest and a good girl 🙂 And she’s like any teenage girl and thinks her mom is NOT cool…haha.

  6. Amrita

    Hi Angela! Navaratri festival begins tomorrow! Hope you keep an eye out for all the things I described in my long post above a couple of months ago! Though it pertained mostly to the state of Gujarat in West India, Navaratri is celebrated all across the country in different forms. Many devoted persons will fast for 9 days.

    Cheers and take care

    • angela_carson

      Hi, how are you? Yes, I am more aware of the festival but not sure where to participate here locally. I know that in Mysore there is a massive celbration starting tomorrow as well because a good friend of mine is going down precisely to participate and it sounds wonderful. Will keep you posted 🙂 –angela

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