Water Woes

28 Oct

I was born with a nasal septum deviation except that I didn’t know it then.

And, from the looks of it, it seems to be a congenital – but fairly common – defect that my father and son both have. As a child, it went unnoticed and only much later did I realise that my constantly parched mouthed was a result of a breathing disorder that compelled me to sip water more frequently than most others.  It meant that active sports like running and swimming were not my forté (though the son seems to have overcome this handicap with incredible speed). It also led to my carrying a bottle of water with me while travelling (something that the son also does).

As flights became the most-used means of transport in the days when only Indian Airlines existed and terrorists hadn’t yet discovered India, walking through lax security checkpoints at airports was a breeze. You could carry anything, through including water.

Of late, however, water seems to have become Threat No. 1 at all airports: two separate but almost identical incidents in the last three weeks at Singapore’s Chang Mai and Bangkok’s Suvarnabhoomi airports drove home the faux paranoia that security officer have. Regardless of the rule (100 ml is supposed to be allowed) the unrelenting guards wouldn’t let me carry my little bottle of water. At Singapore, the lady on duty was kind enough to let me gulp down the water in haste (most of it jumped out of mouth onto my shirt!) and carry the empty bottle through because it could be refilled at a tap just a few metres inside; in Bangkok, however, it had to be consigned to the trash can where bottles and beverages of all sorts lay awaiting a wet death.

Once you cross Security, however, you can buy as much water as you like (and any other beverage for that matter) and drink or carry it on to the aircraft…which makes me wonder whether the compulsion to discard H2O comes not from fear but from commercial pressures. You can buy beer cheaper than what a low-cost carrier would charge you for in in-flight purchase; you can buy Coke or water…why the premium for something that is essential for survival? After all, you have to pay a premium for bottled water (irrespective of its origin) at any airport or restaurant.  Why, even PVR Cinemas tried it in Delhi and lost a legal battle a few years ago – but then arm-twisted bottled water brands into creating special-sized bottles that are still more expensive than what you’d pay at a retail store. And chance are that the frenzied rush to an airport and the subsequent check-in processes will leave you hot and bothered and thirsty anyway.

So, why this paranoia? Can’t security guards see that I have a slightly crooked nose but my intentions are straight? Do I now need to carry a medical certificate that will get me an ‘all-access water pass’?

Or must I pay through my troubled nose to buy water at a premium? And then for air too in the future?

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