The word ‘bartender’ strikes up the image of a 20-something guy with a slight stubble and maybe a tattoo or two. Very rarely will you see or hear about a female bartender, especially who is 59! But way before we could imagine, Shatbhi Basu made her foray into the gender-skewed world of bartending.
Shatbhi has been a beverage consultant, a mixologist and a bartender for almost four decades now.
HappyAging had an interesting conversation with Shabhi Basu at her Mumbai residence and bartending academy. We tried to dive deep into her life, understanding from her about her passion for life at 59 and what makes her the country’s most celebrated bartender.
You would think that pioneering a way for women into this role would have been a dream Shatbhi must have had since childhood, but the truth is that she actually wanted to become a veterinarian surgeon when she was young. She even joined a vet college, but due to some allergies, she quit the veterinarian line and decided to opt for hotel management since she liked cooking. And then from trying different stints in the kitchen being a chef to managing floor she swiftly made her way to the bar, where initially she found it daunting to make her first drink, but soon took to it like a professional and the rest, as they say, is history! Shatbhi now runs her own STIR Academy of Bartending in Mumbai and is also a celebrated beverage consultant.
“Share more to learn more!”
From being a rookie bartender, to now a teacher, this journey has been a long and adventurous one for Shatbhi. What keeps her going even after four decades of being in the business is her willingness to share her knowledge and the joy she gets from teaching. She is a firm believer in “share more to learn more” philosophy.
Challenges as a woman in the industry
It is not a revelation that alcohol and women are not considered a welcome sight in our society. It’s seen through a judgemental glass and carving a career out of it is all about breaking the taboo. But as Shatbhi puts it, we should make our own rules and live by them. Women should stand for themselves and simply own the fact that when a man can drink, so can a woman. When women evolve, the rest of society will have to evolve with them.
First woman bartender in India
Interestingly, when Shatbhi entered this field, there were not many people she could look up to, for inspiration. The hospitality industry was still dominated by men. But, Shatbhi always regarded herself as a professional who was simply doing her job; she never took her work as a way of proving a point and maybe that’s what gained her a heartwarming welcome in the industry. With her knowledge and dedication, she radiated of intelligence and confidence, of a person with whom people could talk and relate to. She found many women patrons coming up to her and discussing the drinks. And hence she became India’s favorite bartender.
Health as a bartender
“Excess of anything is bad and you need to draw a line of discipline for yourself!”
Shatbhi shares that schedules in the food and beverage industry are erratic and sometimes she has come home at 5 in the morning. Long hours, no fixed meal-timings, tiring schedules often take a toll on one’s health. She herself has suffered from severe acidity due to this. She feels that as we age, we need to be more careful about our choices and prioritize health.
She suggests that excess of anything is bad and you need to draw a line of discipline for yourself. One of the biggest rules she and other bartenders follow is that they never drink while they work.
Aging and passion
For Shatbhi, passion is not a product of age but something one can continue in spite of it. When one can’t continue working anymore, they can always share their attained knowledge in various forms; they can teach and write about it. They can inspire others with their journey and live their passion through others. She finds it silly that because of age people sometimes leave behind their passion and give in to the retirement mentality and at times eventually slip into depression.
Shatbhi has an infectious zest for life and she feels that at 59, her life has just begun. She wants to go out and explore more about what she can do with her life and how she can contribute to the world with her experience and for that, she has vowed to make her health her number one priority. She feels she has a lot more time to do things now than she had when she was younger and she would like to explore her options and stay healthy to be able to do that.
Women like Shatbhi make for the superwomen around us who inspire us in taking that first step towards the path less traveled and follow our passion despite any age.
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