Let’s get wasted

Indolink.com carries a good article highlighting a study by Samir Patel, Nausheen Rokerya and Maneka Singh at Cornell University titled, Switchovers: Indian American Drinking Culture at Cornell. The study claims to be the “first academic survey of ‘Indian American drinking culture’ in a college campus [setting].” The study sought to lock in on incoming desi undergrads who saw a particularly significant shift in their attitudes about alcohol (from something viewed as strictly taboo to something very normal and even necessary to have a good time).

Who were the subjects of this study? They were 12 Indian-American Cornell undergraduates – five male, seven female – who began drinking only after their freshman year of college. Demographically, nine were from the northeast, one was from the Midwest, one was from the west, and one was from the south. When questioned about their religious affiliation, three students identified themselves as being Jain, and nine as Hindus. [Link]



Since most of the people that read this site have graduated from college, the rest of this will be a bit nostalgic (and may even make some of you nauseous). If you find yourself getting angry or thinking, “kids these days…” it means you are getting wiser (AND possibly that kids are getting dumber).

First of all the study reveals that all of the freshman students were shocked upon arriving at Cornell and witnessing the heavy drinking atmosphere among their senior Indian counterparts. All interviewees also indicated a struggle between a desire to maintain roots and yet still get the full experience of American college life.

The authors argue that the “switchovers” adopted mainstream American culture and that the “adoption of this culture and consequent ideological shift was caused by a combination of socialization needs, avoidance of fears, and academic pressures,” including the desire to be popular among the opposite sex.

The study begins by claiming that the abstinent culture of the average Desi student can be attributed to the strong Hindu background and their parents’ primarily educational immigration motive.

However, upon entering college, the same Desi students realize that the culture found at Cornell is radically different from that which they were used to at home. They were particularly surprised that this culture, which so heavily promoted drinking and partying, was so willingly embraced by the college Indian community. One student did not “expect that this many Indian kids would drink” and was stunned as to how much Desi students did drink. They found that this new culture assigned significant value to “having fun” and recreation, as well as doing well in school: the “work-hard, party-hard” mentality that many of their non-Indian high school friends embodied, was also a value for many Desis at Cornell. [Link]


p>So let me break down for the researchers what I observed in college. For an increasingly greater number of students (desi and otherwise) “getting wasted” becomes a reward. It is something you deserve at the end of a long week for being an overachieving Indian student (even if your grades suck). Plus, everyone else is doing it and it might make it easier to talk to that girl/guy because, you know, maybe you aren’t that interesting otherwise. Another reason you may want to get wasted is because you don’t know how to tell your parents that you don’t want to be a doctor:

Many of the students apparently altered their life goals between the time that they entered college and the time that they began drinking, the study notes. According to the authors, this indicates a shift in ideology.

For example, one student’s goal during her freshman year was to do well in school so that she could prove to herself and her parents that she could in fact handle a Cornell workload. She never anticipated partying and socializing as being a big part of her life, but “the people [she] lived with went out to parties a lot so she went with them once in a while” and became exposed to alcohol. Similarly another student’s goal was to maintain a primarily academic focus. His goal was to excel academically, compensating for the fact that he did not get into MIT. During his freshman year, he placed “an emphasis on school work, not being social,” going out to parties only occasionally. Another male student said that his goal during freshman year was to “do well academically and get a high GPA.” A third male student’s goals were “not to get kicked out of Cornell, not to drink, to make good friends, to have a girlfriend, and to socialize…” [Link]

In August I attended a conference here in Houston titled, “Alcohol & Drug Abuse Among South Asians.” I was actually there to register people for the South Asian bone marrow registry but I did spend a good portion of the time listening to some of the talks. I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few desi teenagers there with their parents. The better informed these parents are, the less of a chance their children will be shocked when they get to college.

After the students had switched over, they found themselves to be better assimilated into the Cornell culture. Whereas before the students often preferred to stay at home on weekends to study or relax, they now blended in with the rest of Cornell’s Indian drinkers, often starting their weekends off on a Thursday or even a Wednesday night. One student said that now he frequently “goes to the bars on a Thursday. Sometimes, [he'll] even go on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, if [he doesn't] have anything due the next morning.

The study concludes that desi students’ alcohol consumption served as a rite of integration.

A student promptly summed this up in her description of the Indian drinking scene at Cornell. “There were times when people got drunk, but most of the time, people were just buzzed. At a typical party, you’d see a couple of kids that were wasted, and everyone else would be pretty normal.” Another student recalls that even when he thought his friends were very drunk, they could act normal when they had to. He remembers, “Once my friend’s mom called him while we were walking home from a party. I thought he was going to say something stupid, but he played it off pretty well. She still doesn’t know that he drinks…” [Link]

So naturally, you know how this post is going to end. Let’s have it you anonymous commenters whose parents (unlike mine) are not reading this. Tell us about your first experience with alcohol IF it was in college like the students in this study. Let the college students of tomorrow learn from your collective experience :)

208 thoughts on “Let’s get wasted

  1. Well, it helps, but I dont think a woman will necessarily feel attraction, they’ll just hang around for the money, but get their f**k on w/someone else, I have personal experience w/this.

  2. Well, it helps, but I dont think a woman will necessarily feel attraction, they’ll just hang around for the money, but get their f**k on w/someone else, I have personal experience w/this.


  3. i love it when i visit this website after a few days and there is a post of this nature, something we call all get behind and appreciate…………the best of 2nd generation indian culture in north america is the high degree of taboo affiliated to drinking and having sex…………it makes both soooooooooooooooooooo much sweeter, like other cultures just wouldn’t understand…………after years of trying, and having to settle for girls of other cultures–all very hot–i finally got with an indian girl, and let me just say it was 1000X better than anything prior, just because of the taboo associated with it……………i love indian girls, i really, really, really love drunk indian girls……

  4. oh heck. all the kids are having fun in the slush pool, i gots to jump in! it’s my betaness that held me back this long.

    the phenomenon is also corroborated by a female psychiatrist.

    this one? Carole Lieberman, M.D. is an internationally renowned media psychiatrist who appears regularly on America’s top televisionand radio shows, and hosts a show of her own * Lisa Collier Cool is an award winning author of three booksand hundreds of magazine articles for such magazines asGlamour, New Woman, and Cosmopolitan (this from the amazon extract from the blurb on the back of the book)

    they haven’t been wrong on the 467820 ways to please your man (in convenient bite-sized chunks of 10 each!), diet advice (have you eaten today? if so, you have eaten too much) and whether your ecru skirt goes with your beige handbag, surely their credentials on telling women what the issues with them are are impeccable.

    have the ability to send mixed signals (indeed that’s one of the first chapters of Robert Greene’s the art of seduction)… Secondly, DQ also made points that such “assholeyness” guys may get banged every night, but will never succeed in getting married, but as far as evolution & reproduction is concerned… getting banged every night is success

    again, such astute insights into the female character – you know if they use terms like nlp, they must be all scientific-like. while there is nothing that screams evolutionary success than spending every night in a bar, and having one-night stands ad infinitum, there is also another great benefit – it helps to bolster low self worth.

    alright, won’t be able to respond more on this thread, but i am conflicted whether i need to feed my inner beta by watching dr. phil (maybe he will help me to get real) or burnish my alpha credentials and go off to rape and pillage. women (damn, my inner betaness strikes again! i meant wenches!), it’s not me, it’s my genes, that’s what evolutionary bio tells me, so it’s ok.

  5. so it’s ok.

    Somewhere in there I assume there’s some kind of actual engagement of my points, you know that thing which you so kindly and subtly requested from me. Maybe in your follow up, you can elucidate those.

    Or perhaps you can explain how you manage to produce said snide jabs (even cryptic and comicly disconnected ones like yours) but when ones are aimed at you, you turn into the ‘hatefilled spitball police’ and still manage to not consider yourself a dravidian hypocrite (unless you do consider yourself one)

  6. desis have bad genetics that makes them more prone to drinking addiction. so drinking is a bad idea.

  7. wow, after reading this post, i guess it is really true that im one of the very few people who dont drink. as some other people mentioned, my dad does not believe that everyone drinks. it really makes me mad. yeah, im not going to become a doctor, but i dont drink, so im not a horrible person. isnt that a fair trade-off (at least in the brown sense)?