In Response to ‘Booze or Fags?’

“What’s more acceptable and tolerable? Being a heavy drinker, a heavy smoker, a bit of both or a teetotaler?”

Mathawaada asks in a recent post.

As the quote suggests, the islanders are a bit “heavy” on their drinking and smoking, and they do not seem to know their limits. We gather around a table by the beach-side and order a bottle. Heck, there’s only two of us, but we still start with a bottle. Then we call our friends to join in. And we order another bottle, and another... until they close shop or the till the sunrise warms our cold butts.

There is no way one could spend an entertaining evening with his buddies drinking plain tea and eating kimbula banis in this paradise. One plain-tea (and a cigarette perhaps); and there will be the waiter slapping the bill on the table and hovering around, worse than the flies that usually occupy the said “hotel” table.

We have an almost zero coffee culture, no hang-out joints and there are no nice Virgins in Colombo for hours and hours of tête-à-tête. Nice Virgin Stores, with lounges, I mean. The rare chill-out joints would be ‘giving the look’ once they see that the time we spent justifies the coffee(s) we bought. Even the Galle Face Promenade has lost its glory, it isn’t a nice hangout anymore.

Where could people like us spend some quality time in peace with the gang?

The only place that welcomes anyone with open arms is a joint that sells alcohol. So we get there and start with a bottle – by default. The moment one has had his first sip, he is in a dilemma. If one is going to get caught drunk, it might as well be worth it, right? So why stop at a quick drink, why not go all the way? Same result: expect trouble from the cops (if one is driving) and trouble from the home-front, both alike, in equal doses.

Besides, hendello’s, fish fingers and the seafood rice are a class apart from kimbula banis, anyway.

It’s nothing else but our social “standards and norms,” our habits and attitudes that contribute to a culture that drinks by the bottle. We don’t allow small shots at home, so we tend to go for large bottles out of home. People don’t order a “round of drinks” in Paradise, and we seem to think that only sissies drink by the glass.

So one drinks by the bottle and he gets drunk. He gets drunk, and he is a menace. Period.

Drinking isn’t bad. Its just the “style” of drinking in paradise that elevates it to a problem. Put that in advertising lingo, consumption of alcohol isn’t a bad concept; it’s the execution that sucks.

People all over the world have a glass of alcohol before, during, or after many a meal. It could be the beer that accompanies the chips, or the wine that compliments the bread and the cheese. Or the mug of “Kvaas” that sits in the middle of the communist soup kitchen. The French consume cheese by the truckloads and still have no cholesterol problems like us, and they owe it to the wines. Yes, there is scientific evidence.

The Black Label Centenary Edition even had the nutritional information printed on the bottle – making it one of the healthiest drinks in the world – in comparison with most beverages that are deemed harmless. See the irony?

Anything beyond moderation (heavy) is a menace, not only alcohol.

One could drive a car after having a glass of wine or a beer in countries that have understood the meaning of the word “moderation.” We, the islanders of paradise who practice and preach Buddhism that’s build on moderation, has no clue what it means; and get pissed-drunk and end up in trouble. Day after day. To the point where our good women wouldn’t marry a man who “drinks and smokes” – even occasionally.

Blame yourself, not the alcohol. Alcohol isn’t a cure for boredom, a solver of problems or a diet. Alcohol isn’t a career – and don’t make one out of it either. My appreciation of alcohol can be found in an earlier post here, if one is looking for some entertaining read.

So, going back – my simple answer the original question: no one tolerates a “heavy” drinker. Not even his own mother. And “heavy” drinking is NOT socially acceptable – not even in a colony of drunks.

On the other hand, drinking in moderation is quite acceptable, and it is quite ok for a “lady” to have a drink or two too. There is a whole culture – an art, almost – based on consumption of alcohol, extending from choosing the wine to fit the menu, to how to hold the glass. A drinking etiquette for the ladies and gents – to drink in a civilised manner.

Knowing your whiskeys and wines are an art; so is the cocktail culture. If you know how to serenade your lover in an elegant style with a fine bottle of French wine, you are a Winner. If you know your way around fixing shots and have mastered the artistry of having them (including the one where the shot is placed in a woman’s cleavage and lifting her up to gulp it), you are a friggin’ champion..!

So, here I raise my glass to the fine art of drinking.


PS: My two cents on smoking to follow. Soon.


  1. well quite with u mate.

    but then again...the definition of moderation could be vague...u kno my belief is that it all depends on the occassion... i mean u cant expect to go off to a freakin big match with ur mates and be moderately drunk...or go to ur annual corporate night and get pitched drunk and blast at ur boss( though i kno quite a ppl who have had that experience..lol)... So i guess it should be a mix of self discipline and overall social acceptance...

    WE lack loads of social acceptance when it comes to drinking and smoking..may be because we who drink lack self discipline...

  2. To much drinking is a social problem. How many hermits ever drank too much? I doubt many of them had cause to follow one drink with many more.

    I used to drink liquor heavily but gave that up when I became older and wiser. Then, for many years whenever anyone asked me if I wanted some alcohol, even wine, I refused. Point blank refusal seems to impress people strangely. You always feel a bit like an outsider if you are the only non-drinker in a crowd. (Gee, what's with so and so, not drinking?) You feel a bit like the drinkers have assumed that you are not OK, somehow. It is also odd if you are a single person and want to be social, but find that the bar is the only place in town that seems good for meeting people--but what bartender likes someone who orders a soft drink or coffee or tea? You feel like you are treading on the establishment's toes.

    I felt good about not drinking, because I knew it is basically better for my health and saves money, too. But now, I sometimes take a drink of alcohol when offered, and use alcohol in cooking. I wonder to myself whether I should now go all the way and totally get rid of the temptation, or continue just having one drink when it is offered, as I am sure will sometimes happen. It does take some gall to say "no" and risk a reputation as a "party pooper."

    Sorry that booze is the only social game in your neck of the woods. It DOES create problems. Total abstinence is one way to totally solve the problem. Light, moderate, or heavy, whatever drinking someone does easily leads to trouble, in my view. You could be one type of drinker and become another (worse) soon, given the social atmosphere of the present day.

  3. realskullzero, on the same page with you buddy.

    Anonymous, I guess the lads in this paradise isle start boozing and smoking at in their teens and they grow out of the habit as they mature. Majority of the Sri Lankan Buddhists are ‘party poopers’ which is quite the norm here anyway. It’s the ones who start drinking to escape from their troubles end up being alcoholics – like anywhere else in the world, I suppose.
    Thank you for your comments.

  4. So true mate.
    The problem, I think, is that we have made drinking a big deal here in paradise.
    But in many other countries, as I've heard and in Japan, as I've witnessed, drinking is not a big deal. It's just another part of social life and everyone knows where their limits are...
    And when things are like that, I think that drinking is in fact quite OK...