“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline,” Frank Zappa had once said. Well, we have both in abundance and now it looks like there will be a happy hour meeting of the two. Some MPs have sought permission for airlines to serve beer and wine on domestic flights but not without a little chaser. It is not, they assure us, so people can at last enjoy a snifter of the good stuff while on high but to help farmers in the wine industry. Before you raise a toast to that, there is many a slip between the wine glass and lip given our hypocritical standards on the D word. Many elected worthies are known to down a drop or two in private but sooner a politician renounce his party ticket than be seen in public with anything more than a nimbu pani.
But, of course, airlines are a different matter and you may wonder why domestic flights were dry so far. Well, it seems that the Indian male travelling classes are afflicted with the irresistible urge to study at greater length the geography of the stewardesses. So, the need for them to be kept down a peg or two. A frivolous argument if there ever was one, for as we all know men need nothing more than Ganga jal to make exploratory sorties towards the female anatomy. And women have just had to gin and beer it all these years. An effective antidote to passengers downing one too many cups that cheer would be to make them pay for it. There is nothing quite like a freebie that brings out the free spirit in Indians. So on long-haul flights abroad, we see our compatriots literally falling down on the job until helped out on landing by the hapless crew. Having to shell out would scotch the thirst of passengers. This would ensure that those who really want to keep their spirits up enjoy themselves. It might also get rid of a sanctimonious attitude to drink.
While we pride ourselves on the fact that our Hindu gods would let down their hair now and again with ambrosial intoxicants and did not need the hair of the dog that bit them to carry on with ruling the universe the next day, most Indians are still chary of admitting that they enjoy beverages stronger than tea. We should just be like Winston Churchill who said, “ I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.” And his daily snifter or two, or three, or… didn’t stop him from winning wars or living for longer than most us can hope to. So the new proposal should see our civil aviation industry move to new highs, create a buzz around our fledgling wine industry and make flights more beerable. No one but no one could have any grape with that.