Shaira walks into a bar. She goes up to the counter and tells the bartender, “A blueberry mocktail, please.” She collects her drink and joins her friends, who are dancing to the music, each holding a glass with an alcoholic beverage. As the night goes on, her friends get drunk and jokes fly around. Soon, it is time to leave. Shaira is, of course, the designated driver, but she doesn’t appear to mind.
The 23-year-old Delhi-based special educator at a school is no different from other Gen-Z’ers, except for her complete abstinence from alcohol. “I haven’t had a sip in my life,” she reveals. “I’ve always been a very self-aware person and I like being in control of what I do. All my life, I have seen more harm than good happen to those who drink alcohol, and I’d like to stick to the better odds,” she continues.
Before this is written off as a one-off case — along the boomer-friendly lines of “Oh, but other kids just go nuts drinking these days!” — a recent study by a beer brand popular in India has discovered a drop in consumption of alcohol among 21- to 25-year-olds by nearly 30 per cent. Does this spell a rise in the population of youngsters who would pass on an opportunity to induce a hangover the next morning?
If Mumbai-based photographer Athul Prasad, 24, is to be believed, alcohol is just not worth it. Sure, he is from a generation that is considered independent, but it is perhaps this very pursuit of free will that makes youngsters value a snooze over booze. Prasad says, “That’s what college was — every night an occasion to drink. I hopped on the bandwagon too, but as it turned out for many of us, I started losing out on schoolwork and my overall mental health. I never drink now, and I am certainly happier.”
Indeed, a generation with a lot of exposure, as Gen-Z is, can be expected to navigate through the perils of alcohol consumption to the point of being jaded and sensible about it — more than other generations. 24-year-old corporate worker Punisha Sangla fuels this theory by saying, “The access to alcohol during my teenage years may have kept me away from its consumption, other than on birthdays or special occasions. I took one sip from my granddad’s whisky as a kid, and I hated the taste. Why should I drink what tastes so bad?”
Akanksha Dean, chef-manager at Imperfecto Shor café, and a Gen-Z’er herself, may not have observed youngsters hold back on tipple at her restaurant, but she feels that, “The trend is more towards a glass of wine or gin-based cocktail owing to fitness reasons. And my friends have always been responsible towards alcohol.” She also highlights that the drunk driving is another deterrent, but the ‘responsible drinking’ is something that gen-young seems to understand well.
And, finally, what about the infamous ‘F’ word — FOMO (fear of missing out)? Well, seems like youngsters have that figured out too. Shaira continues, “Normal is what you make normal for yourself. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any fun because my high is different than that of a drinker. I meet new people, I talk to them, I build my network, and I dance. I do everything that a person who has made alcohol their ‘normal’ does, just without the alcohol.”
Really, there’s much more to life than the drug. You just choose to look at things in a different way, and there’s enough fun to be had. Sober on booze, of course, but high on life.