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Fancy a national drink?

lifestyle Updated: Aug 09, 2013 16:07 IST
Serena Menon
Serena Menon
Hindustan Times

Following a silly debate about India’s national drink, I turned to Google to settle the matter. Unfortunately, it only threw up a few blog posts —
some proclaiming, “Duh, it’s obviously tea bro” — and five other links to news stories. One blogger even suggested giving Old Monk the title; although whisky and soda would come a close second, I feel, but the options in this case are purely non-alcoholic.

The debate eventually came to an end. Seems like we don’t have a national drink at the moment. Or at least that’s what the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s words in a report implied. He said, “The drink (tea) would be accorded national drink status by April 17 next year to coincide with the 212th birth anniversary of first Assamese tea planter and Sepoy Mutiny leader Maniram Dewan.” He said this in April 2012.

This news sparked off a series of expected agitations. Supporters of nimbu paani, jaljeera and masala soda prepared their cases, but only coffee stood strong as the real contender, and with good reason.

Then in May this year, a report catalogued this war ‘brewing’ between the two hot pots. Commerce minister Anand Sharma felt giving one beverage this honour would eat into the other’s market. But the conversation got really interesting when someone brought India’s national fruit (mango) into the ring and made an analogy using bananas and oranges. “Did people stop eating bananas or oranges because mango was declared the national fruit?” North Eastern Tea Association chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty asked, in all seriousness perhaps.

What’s comical, however, is not the lack of a ‘national drink’ — it’s not like mangoes get special treatment you know — it’s the amount of effort wasted, panels set up and time invested in settling on one.

Tourists around the world are still clueless about what our national drink is. Some who don’t assume it is tea may even go on to the site people
often visit to clear suspicions — Wikipedia. Now, call it a happy coincidence or not, when you search for ‘national drinks’ the site throws up a long list of “national liquors” because the link to “national drinks” seems defunct.

And there, in the long list of many countries and their liquors, sits India. Not with tea or coffee against its name, but “Bhang (Cannabis), Feni (Cashew or Coconut), Toddy (Palm Wine)” supporting it with pride. I guess some people have already made the decision.