The high and low of addiction
Egging herself on to new heights
The high and low of addiction
Today even in conservative societies like India, the problem of drug abuse and alcoholism among women is raising its ugly head, says Ranjita Biswas
Drug abuse and alcoholism cut across all sections of women but it is seldom talked about. These are things that men indulge in, goes the belief, thus sweeping under the carpet a growing problem. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), nine million women have used illegal drugs in the past year and 3.7 million women have taken prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. In India, illicit liquor consumption is estimated to cause about 800 deaths and 3000 disabilities every year, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Women show symptoms of intoxication sooner than men, and chronic use of cannabis, heroin and cocaine causes menstrual dysfunction and contributes to obstetrical complications and foetal loss for pregnant women.
However, the problem of drug addiction among women is largely related to social conditioning. Studies of women who seek treatment for alcohol and other drug problems have revealed a dramatic connection between domestic violence, childhood abuse, and substance abuse. Women substance abusers have high levels of depression, anxiety, and feelings of powerlessness, and low levels of self-esteem and self-confidence.
The wish to remain anonymous among women is understandable. The social consequences attending to women who are drug abusers are very different from the consequences experienced by their male counterparts because of social norms that define appropriate female behaviour. As NIDA observes, "Women who abuse drugs often face a greater social stigma than men because they fail to fulfill our society’s standard for female morality as well as their traditional role as the stabilising force in the family." This is more than true in countries with patriarchal social norms, as in India.
In this country the number of women, especially in the urban milieu taking to alcohol and drugs, is increasing though reliable statistics are not available. Women in the fashionable jet-set are said to be routinely into drug abuse. Vijayan Pavamani, who started Calcutta Samaritans, Kolkata, an NGO which works extensively in the field of drug use, recalls, "In the 70s when we began, starting with a helpline for the distressed, we found that the many girls from the fashionable Loreto College were into Mandrax, which was very popular then. But today people have gone for more dangerous stuff, like brown sugar or heroin." Mandrax was the trade name of a barbiturate type sedative drug commonly prescribed as a sleeping pill by doctors in the 60s and 70s. It was also used as a street drug and there were many fatal overdoses.
Says Dr Pratima Murthy, associate professor, Psychiatry, De-addiction unit, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (Nimhans), Bangalore, "Economic independence, changing roles in society, entry of women into male-dominated areas, greater acceptability of social drinking and easy availability of alcohol have strongly contributed to rising incidence of alcohol consumption in women. Adolescents hit the bottle because of reasons that could range from depression to peer pressure, glamour and disappearing stereotypes about femininity."
Kripa Foundation of Mumbai which works with addicts has found that there has been a steady increase in the number of women who drink. A sizeable number of homemakers have taken to alcohol due to loneliness as their spouses get busy with their careers.
It is a cause for concern that brown sugar, which is very addictive, is becoming more popular while cocaine which is very expensive is less in use. Cannabis, Ecstasy, Ketamine, etc are widely used. According to studies, women are introduced to the drug or alcohol by boyfriends or husbands. For many men living a life on the high street, with more money and more options to spend, a ‘smart’ companion connotes a woman who can share the same lifestyle. In the process many women get hooked for life. In many instances substance abusers resort to prostitution to pay for their living expenses and also for the drug they consume as families more often than not throw them out of the house when they find out the truth.
A year ago, the Calcutta Samaritans started a detoxification and rehabilitation women’s wing at its Arunoday Midway Home with 10 beds. So far 22 women have gone through the programme and the rate of recovery has been a 58 per cent, it is claimed. Some of these women have been driven out of their homes, they live at the Home and work outside. Some of them work as counsellors themselves.
It is not enough to de-addict but also to give an alternative livelihood or occupation. Prevention programmes specially designed for women, and treatment and appropriate rehabilitation, are needed for effective prevention and control of substance abuse among women, UNDOC points out.
Recognising the problem is the first step to recovery, experts say.
(Names have been changed to protect privacy)
Egging herself on to new heights
The poultry industry has traditionally been dominated by men but a revolution in the poultry industry in India is being spearheaded by a young woman Mrs Anurada J Desai, daughter of the father of the poultry industry, Late Dr B.V. Rao, who received the Padma Shri.
Her career started in 1984, when she joined the Venkateshwara Hatchery (VH) group headed by her father. In 1996, after the death of her father, she took over the reins of the group.
In an interview to Priya Chadha, Desai talks about her achievements, both professional and personal.
How did you cope up with the pressures of heading the Venkateshwara Hatchery (VH) group?
The sad and untimely demise of my father came as a shock to me. Suddenly, I found myself in a situation where I had to take over the reins of the group. Emotionally, no doubt, it was a difficult situation, but professionally, I had no difficulty in assuming responsibility. From the time I joined the VH group in 1984 till my father’s demise in 1996, both my brother Venktesh Rao and I had trained under Dr Rao. We got tremendous help from employees, key executives and other bussiness associates and lots of emotional support from members of VH group, my family, my brothers, my husband and my in-laws. I faced no major problems in coping with the pressures.
What has been the contribution of your group to the growth of the poultry industry?
The group today commands a market share of 90 per cent and 70 per cent in the layer and broiler segments, respectively. The egg production in our country today is 4500 crores per annum, up from 300 crores in 1975. The indigenous genetic research program established by the group resulted in the acclimatisation of the breeding stock to our agro-climatic management and marketing conditions, thereby leading to high levels of productivity, unheard of even in the developed countries. The VH group is committed to providing every input required by the farmer under one roof.
Our group also established the National Egg Co-ordination Committee (NECC), with the aim of freeing the farmers from the stronghold of traders and middlemen, giving them the option to decide their own selling price for their produce
What does the future hold for the poultry industry in the subcontinent, especially in India?
The per captia consumption in our country is about 40eggs and 1.6 kg of poultry meat per annum. The National Institute of Nutrition recommends a per captia consumption of 180 eggs and 11 kg of meat. There, is hence, a wide gap between what is recommended and what is consumed. This gap needs to be bridged. Compared with other non- vegetarian foods, eggs and chicken meat are the cheapest source of protein. The eating habits of people, particularly the younger generation, are changing fast and infertile eggs are acceptable to even vegetarians. The industry has been growing at an average of 8 per cent in egg production and 15 per cent in broilers per annum, and this rate is very encouraging.
How does our country’s poultry industry compare with world leaders in the industry?
Quantitatively, India is the second largest egg producer in the world. Qualitativly, our advanced technology and productivity are rated amongst best in the world.
What has your group done to promote the consumption of eggs in the country?
I agree that our per captia consumption of eggs is far below than in countries like the USA, Japan etc, where it is more than 300. We are committed to increasing the consumption. A campaign that endorses the nutritive value of eggs is being carried out through print and electronic media and is further strengthened by participation in events in schools, celebrity endorsements by leading Bollywood stars and cricketers etc.
How do you strike a balance between professional commitments and personal life?
My mantra for time management is an effective delegation of work to my executives. I do not monitor them as far as day-to-day operations are concerned. I step in only when there is a marked deviation in policies and targets.
On the home front also, my family fully understands my need to devote considerable time to the group’s management and they make no undue demands on my time. Nevertheless, one feels the pressure sometimes. I de-stress by reading, listening to music or just watching movies and cricket, which I try not to miss.
Kenya-born British Indian director Gurinder Chadha is yet again in news. While her film Bride and Prejudice featuring Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai in the lead role is scheduled for world premier on October 8, she has already declared that her next venture would be the movie version of the 1960’s hit television series I Dream of Jeanie.
Her Bride and Prejudice reinvents Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in a globally connected world. Elizabeth Bennet is transformed into Lalita Bashiki performed by the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai, who is the eldest of the four daughters. Though her parents are eager to arrange a match with a desirable neighbour, Lalita wants to marry for love. She believes that she has found love when she meets American hotelier Will Darcy played by Martin Henderson.
Her forthcoming venture, I Dream of Jeanie, centres on a young girl who is a master sword-fighter in Arabia in 200 BC. A king turns her into a genie after which she ends up spinning in the space and then turns up in year 2004.
The film, which will use lot of special effects and action, is based on her adventures. Although the cast of the film has not yet been made public, the grapevine has it that she will cast Aishwarya Rai again for the movie, which will be produced by Sony Studios.
She was recently crowned Woman of the Year at the GG2 Leadership and Diversity Awards in London. Speaking on the occasion, Chadha said her Bend it like Beckham was a tribute to her father. The movie went on to become very successful, grossing about $75 million.
The semi-autobiographical film established Chadha as one of the most sought after directors in Britain. In fact, no British film since The Full Monty has caught on around the world as has Bend it like Beckham.