All the economic growth in India has produced a lot of social changes, just as it has in so many other countries around the world. Capitalism is closely associated with conservatism, but many fail to realize just how anti-conservative capitalism ultimately is. Capitalism thrives on novelty and relies on increased efficiencies which always overturn traditional methods of work. As a consequence, capitalism always undermines a community's traditional social mores, for better or for worse.
One of the dramatic changes occurring in India today is an increase in social freedom for women. Traditionally it was taboo for women to drink alcohol at all, much less in public, but today record numbers of women are starting to sip a glass of wine while dining out. Women themselves are becoming financially independent, thus able to make their own decisions about how they will behave and how they will live their lives.
“Wine drinking is classy,” said [Aparna] Bhagwat, who has acquired a taste for red wine in the past year. She has enrolled herself in a wine appreciation course. ...Bhagwat is single and lives in Bangalore. On a recent trip to her parents’ home in the conservative Chhattisgarh in central India, she sipped wine while her father drank scotch and soda. Her mother, she recounts, looked on silently. “Wine is the only drink I can have without offending the family elders,” she said.
Women constitute a big chunk of the growing market, said Abhay Kewadkar, chief winemaker and head of business at United Spirits, which is setting up India’s largest winery, United Vintners. “The sophisticated, cultured appeal of wine drinking is converting many,” he said. ...while the masses scoff at wine as lacking the alcohol “kick” of whiskey, rum or vodka, Indian women like Bhagwat are learning to enjoy their butter chicken with a glass of rose, and their lamb kebabs with a riesling.
Source: Global Post
Wine still isn't a very popular drink in India, with only 1.5 millions cases sold in the entire country in 2007 — that's just 10 milliliters of wine consumption per person for the entire year. Europeans, in contrast, consume 20 liters per person per year and Americans consume 17 liters per person per year. People in India prefer other types of alcoholic drinks if they are drinking, but the choice of wine is gaining bit by bit. It's very possible that wine's growing popularity with women will help wine gain a lot of traction in society overall.
Nevertheless, prohibitionism remains strong in India and there are other powerful cultural forces which could create a backlash against women enjoying these levels of personal freedom. The situation for them might remain good so long as the Indian economy remains strong, but if there is a significant downturn, you can bet that demagogues trying to exploit it for political gain will use things like women's liberty as a scapegoat.
Political and religious demagogues have always used growing equality for women as a scapegoat alongside calls for a return to "traditional" values — values which were more standard back in a time when people imagine everything was better than now. Thus the solution to economic, political, and social ills is believed to be return to a time when some particular class exercised more authoritarian control over society while other classes — women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, etc. — were forced to accept second-class status.
Hopefully that won't happen with India...