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India could be any food lover’s dream destination, if only it tried a bit and threw out archaic laws


When asked at a recent get together to share our fondest travel memories, a friend immediately quipped it was at a hilltop café just before Prague Castle, where she could sip coffee and enjoy unmatched views of Prague. Picking up the cue, a couple who had just returned from Australia recalled sipping beer at the Opera Bar while enjoying unmatched views of Sydney icons Opera House and Harbour Bridge. What followed was an endless narration of drinks and dinner next to historical monuments or having them as a backdrop.

A deafening silence followed when asked if anyone has ever had a drink or a meal next to Gateway of India, the India Gate, Red Fort, Taj Mahal or Qutub Minar. Similarly, while instances of having enjoyed a wine and cheese platter at street cafés across the world were aplenty, people at the party thought long and hard when asked if they ever sipped wine while watching traffic go by in India.

It isn’t as if our cities lack heritage sites. Nor are we devoid of world class concept restaurants. What we are devoid of are ideas of how to promote ourselves to the new age traveller. While Australia designs its tourism campaigns around Sydney’s restaurants or Melbourne’s coffee scene, we are not yet able to recognise the role played by the bustling food scene of the country in attracting travellers from across the world.

Restaurant weeks and food festivals across the globe are as much a part of the bucket list of globetrotters nowadays as rock concerts or F1 races were till some time ago. Food is becoming the biggest attraction to entice people, but we are not able to promote and project it the way other countries are.

Modern Asian cuisine in Delhi, concept cafés of Mumbai and bars of Bengaluru are at par with if not better than other bustling metropolises in the world. Our cities are as cosmopolitan in their culinary scene as any city in the world. We have it all to be any food lover’s dream destination. That these are not part of our tourism campaigns shows just how out of sync our tourism authorities are with recent trends.

Rather what we have are bar licences being denied in Delhi, limited timings being enforced in Mumbai and regular instances of moral policing in Bengaluru. Food is among the biggest objects of fascination in the modern age. It needs to be conserved, beautified and promoted like any other historical or cultural attraction. We need to shun our regressive thoughts about respect or disrespect to monuments. The real reverence for any such place of historical importance will be allowing the world to admire its beauty while doing what people like doing – eat.
Our cities need dedicated drinking zones and bars and restaurants to stay open till late. These outlets are as much spaces of public entertainment and culture. There is no reason why an individual should be stopped from going out to grab a quick beer or catch up with friends over coffee post-midnight. There is also no reason why any professional should be forced to shell out a hefty amount at five star coffee houses when the same service can be had far cheaper.

The more Indians travel, the more frustration at strict rules about drinking or dining back home will grow. When one has to work till late, stepping out at night is no longer an act of social rebellion but a modern necessity. Drunken crimes are a phenomenon every city grapples with. Strict enforcement of law will curb the menace, not locking people in their homes.

Our country has grabbed global attention due to its young population. Laws made by our great grandparents and applied to our parents’ generation are no longer applicable to us. It is imperative that our government comes out with a uniform drinking law just as it is focussing on other laws. The times they are a-changin’. We need politicians who can answer to our aspirations. Being allowed to cool my beer in the Arabian Sea and have a sip at night while enjoying a well-lit Gateway of India isn’t asking for too much.

Source: Times Of India

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