India isn’t good at bars

I don’t have a picture of an Indian pub, but I have a picture of an India mall! – From Blore Walk to Work

I’m in a pub in Cambridge, UK, typing this up on my Macbook right now, 1.5 Guinness pints deep, enjoying the atmosphere around me.

The pub is called Alexandria Arms, and it is a Tuesday night. It could seat about 50 people, but the layout has many nooks and corners so that no area could really seat more than 20 at a time. I am the only guy by myself. There is:
– a couple that looks like they’re on a date.
– two 50-ish guys bantering about shit.
– a group of 8 folk about my age. If I work up the courage (more Guinness) I might try to flirt with one of them in a bit.
– an older couple, finishing up a dinner
– two 30-ish, low-end professional-looking guys, having a more serious conversation.
– Two bartenders, about 40.
– A long-haired regular. Bartender referred to him by name.


In this area of town, the bars are more frequent than corner stores. Bars are a social institution. Most people are here to hang out and meet, rather than to get drunk (except the cute giggling group distracting me from this article). This serves the same purpose as the coffee shop I’m used to in Canada, except there is proper meaty food here, and alcohol. No one is really drunk, and things are made of wood. The “pub” as an idea of a place is still slightly unusual to me. It is well-lit, and there are books on the walls.

In Canada, the bar doesn’t exist much in this form, but has been split in to the pub and the coffee shop. Coffee shops, or cafés, fucking suck. The atmosphere is uptight, and there are too many caffeinated jackasses with headphones typing furiously into their laptops. I don’t know why anyone would want to go on a date in one of these unless they wanted to feel uncomfortable and uptight. Going on a first date in a pub/bar in Canada is sometimes considered sleazy (except by awesome cool people) and the lighting is never that great, so, you know.

So, I’m a fan of the British pubs so far. And their habit of buying drinks in rounds. However, I would feel like I was disrespecting the place if I was to get obnoxiously drunk in here. Maybe I’m just used to less light.


Let’s talk a bit about India. India isn’t good at bars. Every fucking bar I went to in Bangalore (which they call pubs exclusively) was loud, dark, and made me unhappy the entire time. They played loud, angry rock, and I would often have young India men who couldn’t handle their alcohol falling on me.

British pubs have a very strong social purpose. Canadian bars and coffee shops have clear roles. (There are, like, Starbucks in Britain, which are similar to Canada, but they are less common than pubs, which is a good thing). The purpose of these wonderful places is to socialize outside of your home, and meet future mates.

Indian is very strongly family oriented. You’ve heard about the arranged marriages. You’ve heard that marriage outside the caste is disapproved of. Nowadays, in modern India, this is only somewhat true, but the role of family still massively affects society. The Family is through where you meet new people. The Family is where you meet mates through.



The pub came out of nowhere in India, powered by the emergence of alcohol and the necessity of a place to serve it. The bars I saw in Bangalore were little more than depressing taps to dispense alcohol from. Bangalore is the city of well-off, intelligent, socially inept men recently moved away from home. Encountering bars and alcohol for the first time is about extravagance, it is not about socializing. Bangalore has more money that it knows what to do with, and the bar is a place to spend the money you get from working your lucrative day-tech job. The American rock music is fucking loud so talking is impossible, and sweaty India men in white collared shirts dance at inappropriate times while fist pumping to no-one. No one meets anyone new and I want to leave.

On a road trip (to Mangalore, not to be confused with Bangalore) I saw the most depressing thing ever. A roadside liquor store, with 50 rupee mickeys of liquor. It was a hole in the wall, with iron bars over the window that sold liquor and no seats. Sad looking people drinking from tiny whiskey bottles.

I understand why Indian popular culture thinks alcohol is evil (there were many such articles in big newspapers while I was there) if alcohol is the alternative to normal, healthy socialization. I’d go so far to say that alcohol is disastrously bad for anyone who has moved away from home for the first time.

It’s just that they don’t get the purpose of pubs yet.


4 responses to “India isn’t good at bars”

  1. […] Pub culture At pubs, people order beer in rounds. This is very relaxed and no one worries about having spent more than anyone else. Amazingly organized transit system; public infrastructure really seems to have its shit together. Adorable vocabulary (banter, cheeky, cheers, etc.) Very easy to have conversations with strangers. British attitude of having your shit together, ready to be a gentleman in any situation. Pre-cooked but otherwise ready-to-eat meals (i.e. a bag of stirfry) are very common in supermarkets. I barely saw any urban sprawl: urban and rural space is used very efficiently. […]