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The first name you read when you Google ‘Female Bartenders in India’ is Ami Behram Shroff. And as you go down, you see a curly haired girl, playing with fire, mixing drinks, and juggling expensive whiskey bottles like it’s the most natural thing on earth to do.
You become familiar with this lean figure, who grew up in the streets of Mumbai, and made it big in the Bartender world by becoming India’s first female bartending champ.
And there’s this innate drive in you to find out more about this girl who made a career unthought of, as a girl, her passion. In a candid interview with Feministaa, Ami Shroff gets real about her career; from flair, juggling, mixology and the “Indian culture of drinking,” Ami takes us through a variety of indigenous experiences of being behind the bar counter as a woman.
“I never grew up in a certain way, I wasn’t brought up in a typical gender manner. I had short hair, I was playing, I was inclined towards sports and it didn’t matter to my parents. I realized that sometimes the main support you can get is non-interference and that’s how I turned out to be a rebel.”
For Ami, the freedom to choose something like juggling and bartending as a profession dates back to the time when she was growing up and had the freedom to explore the person she wanted to be. Ami grew up in her own way, not being protected by her family as much as the other girls were and not being restricted by certain gender roles.
“I had seen this movie Cocktails where Tom Cruise is a bartender and he does some basic moves of flair. Flair is what pulled me into the profession and that’s still a big part of why I am in the profession.”
Ami started learning to bartend at the young age of 18, which was a time when flair was very rare and women in bartending even rarer. So, she started standing out, getting noticed and work started flowing her way.
Ami has been bartending for 15 years now and yet the drive to come up with new stuff, learn new skill sets and be happier with her work is something that still runs afresh on her. One of the things to keep this spirit alive is her will to travel around the world to incorporate different cultural aspects to her profession.
“To learn about a place, the people and the culture is an amazing college and if I don’t do it I will not be able to expand and come up with new cooler things.”
According to Ami, while working at a bar is the same as any other job, yet bars usually don’t have women in them. The only thing that is different in the bar is that she is in control of her own space and maintains a certain distance.
She explains how falling, puking and yelling are common symptoms for anybody’s who’s drunk and is not something to be bothered about. The actual problem starts when people start interfering in each other’s spaces.
“I have been approached uncomfortably by men so many times. Consumption of alcohol can be moderated according to the need and the quality of the alcohol you’re using, but it should never be the focus of the night.”
Throwing some light on the drinking culture in India, Ami recalls her experience on how she’s seen men huddle around in parties at one side drinking while women were not drinking anything and just taking care of the children.
“This reflects how much culturally warped we, as a country are, where we allow one gender to do whatever it is they want and the other to have responsibilities and be in certain boundaries.”
Ami’s story has often been termed as the story of a ‘rebel’ but in truth, it’s just a story of a woman who believed in her and simply became something she wanted to be; her own true self.