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Posted: Tuesday, 09 November 2010 17:06

No Wine at State Dinner for Obama

Almost a year after the White House held a State dinner honouring the Indian Prime Minister, President Pratibha Patil threw the traditional state dinner for the visiting US President Barack Obama at the beautiful Mughal Gardens at the state edifice- Rashtrapati Bhavan, with no gate crashers as in Washington…and no wine

Photo: TOI

More than 170 people attended the dinner, held at the posh Mughal Gardens at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Indian president's official residence, in New Delhi. Hosted by President Pratibha Patil in the august company were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Head of the Tata empire Ratan Tata and high-profile dignitaries from Indian business and industry.

An opera piece by the award winning Shillong Chamber Choir, a naval band that played AR Rahman's universally acclaimed number “Jai Ho,” Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" and "Part-Time Lover" and Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight," regaled the audience

But as expected, there was no wine to propose a toast to the two Presidents of the biggest, successful democracies in the world. There was no other alcohol either, of course. The Indian protocol bans serving of any alcohol at the State functions even though a majority of top bureaucrats do indulge in a glass or two of the stress-relieving alcoholic drinks-even though the chances are around 98% that it is never wine. Mercifully, they are all allowed to drink in private.

White House, on the other hand, has a decent stock of wine, beer and other alcohols-served at all events- the only rider is that the wine has to be US produced. Based on the US tradition, delWine had made an official request to the President of India to allow serving of Indian wine at state functions- not only to stay in tune with the international tradition (many would insist-the Western tradition), but also to help the Indian wine industry grow, bringing the rightful and respectful place for wine on the dinner table.

President Obama is known to be a beer fan though he is known to have a glass or two of wine occasionally and surely would have loved to taste wines from some of the decent Indian wine producers from Maharashtra and Karnataka.Unconfirmed reports suggest he was served a glass of white wine with his meal at the private dinner though it could not be ascertained whether it was Indian wine.

There has been no response so far to the plea to the President’s office. Therefore, one can be optimistic only and believe that the request paper is moving in the corridors of power and will take its usual course- perhaps a few decades, one might see Indian wines at such banquets, after all.

In the meantime, one can safely assume that mineral water would have been used to propose a toast (it would be curious to find out what sort of glasses were used to propose the toast) and say…


Subhash Arora


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