Kerala is notoriously one of the Indian states with the highest rate of alcohol consumption. For a state infamous for its love of alcohol, its attitude towards the subject of women and drinking is highly split.
Most Keralites consider women drinking alcohol a taboo. Women still wouldn’t drink at a bar or restaurant in Kerala, let alone buy alcohol from a shop. For the same reason, when 43-year-old Shiny Rajeev joined the Bevco retail shop at Puthenvelikara, Kanakkan Kadavu in Ernakulam as an employee, it raised many amused eyebrows.
Shiny won the post of lower division clerk at the Kerala State Beverages Corporation after a long legal battle. At no stage was she deterred by the taboo attached to women and alcohol in the society. All she wanted was a permanent job. She is quite a sport at it, too. On her first day, she learned the names of a few liquor brands. She knows that there is a long list of brand names and prices that she needs to learn by heart.
Her colleagues have been exceptionally supportive so far. She is the first woman to be posted in a Bevco outlet. 'Till yesterday, it was a man’s world. Sometimes the liquor brand names that the buyers utter do not match the names on the bottles. What if they put me at the sales counter tomorrow? I have to be prepared,' quips a smiling Shiny with a twinkle in her eyes.
She is currently given the charge of examining registers to tally the price and tax rates of different alcohols. She also has the responsibility of taking stock of the goods shifted from the warehouse and the number of overall sales.
A graduate in Economics with a Bachelor in Education degree, Shiny originally nestled the dreams of becoming a teacher. She took High School Assistant Tests several times but did not get through. Eventually, she gave up and had already started a job as a last grade sweeper in the Panchayat office when the Bevco job came calling.
The Bevco outlet where Shiny works is just four kilometers from her house. Most who come to the outlet to shop are acquaintances, some shy away when they spot her. The number of working hours is grueling, from 10 in the morning to 9 in the night. But Shiny is least bothered; she has the unrelenting support of her husband Rajeev and kids. Her eldest son Charvakan is a second-year graduate student and daughter Sabari is in ninth standard.