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Blog: Singh- The Tee-Total True Singh

Posted: Wednesday, 17 November 2010 15:08

Blog: Singh- The Tee-Total True Singh

The spate of recent media reports based on an article from Indo Asian News Service  focusing on my letter to the President of India pleading to allow serving Indian wines at the State banquets for legitimate reasons, especially as several bureaucrats and politicians consume alcohol in private, made an PIO American Sommelier remark about PM Manmohan Singh that needs to be addressed.

“On Twitter, after she commented on the event, I asked Chicago-based sommelier Alpana Singh what she thought the prime minister opened behind closed doors. She replied, “Oh! That’s easy – if he’s a true Singh it’s Johnnie Walker – Blue, Black or red in descending order of preference,” reads the blog at Vino Moda, one of the several blogs that commented on the news report.

I think nobody would doubt that Prime Minister Man Mohan is a true Singh. But I would like to correct Alpana and inform her that he is a teetotaler and now also a vegetarian and does not drink Blue, Black Red or even Yellow or Green label of Johnnie.  In fact, I checked with a few senior journalists, including a top political journalist who has travelled with him overseas who confirms about his simple eating and drinking habits.

At a wine dinner last night at Hotel Imperial a Sikh gentleman who sat next to me, is a very senior congress party official who knows the PM very well personally, has worked under him for years and has shared many dinners with him (incidentally, this Singh loves his daily glass of whiskey though he has an occasional glass of wine as he did at the dinner table last night). He re-confirmed that the PM is an absolute teetotaler and takes only frugal meal- dal with one chapatti and occasionally some vegetables and onions-the popular salad with Indian meals for many. 

Alpana Singh is a highly successful sommelier, TV personality and an author based in Chicago. The 34- year old is a PIO (Person of Indian Origin) American- born and raised in Monterey, California. She became the youngest Master Sommelier in 2003. Her parents are Fiji Indians who migrated from Fiji to California. Apparently, she has more in common with Vijay Singh, the golfer than Man Mohan Singh, the Prime Minister.

Every Sikh is a Singh although every Singh may not be a Sikh- several rajputs also are named as such. It appears she belongs to the lator category-though it is not relevant.

While it is none of my business or anyone else’s, what the drinking habits of any  person are in private, unless he/she wants to be public about it, I think it is in order to correct the stereotype image created of this community-though in general they love the whisky and perhaps love to get drunk too. But Mr Singh the King, a true Sikh is a tee-total and she stands corrected. Interestingly, Aman Dhall, the biggest wine importer whose family business is distribution of beer and liquor as well, basically drinks wine and no Johnny Walker. His father, naturally a Sikh, has always been a teetotaler.

Alpana may be interested to know an anecdote about the drinking habits of some people in Punjab where Sikhs are predominant. Several years ago the infamous Blue Nun Liebfraumilch was introduced in India with much fanfare but gradually started fizzling out in the market. I thought the distributor had stopped importing it. But I was quite surprised when told that the ‘Gold’ version- where tiny, thin flakes of gold float around in the bottle, was extremely popular in Punjab. The reason? People felt that this wine was a potion that improved virility in men! And hence the unexpected popularity in that region.

So when Mr. Manmohan Singh says ‘Cheers’ with water, coke or fruit juice, he is drinking his favourite drinks. However, there is no reason why the dignitaries at the State Banquets are not offered a glass of Indian wine. I hope Alpana would agree!

Subhash Arora

To visit the article that started all this hullabaloo, visit Toast with Wine at Banquets, President told


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