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Monsoon of Memories: A Gulp of Memories Formed over Desi Summer Drinks

By Purva Grover Email By Purva Grover
May 2022
Monsoon of Memories: A Gulp of Memories Formed over Desi Summer Drinks

It was the early ‘90s. Colas of the world had arrived in the grocery stores in the neighborhoods. They had also invaded the refrigerator shelves in homes of many of my friends. In our home, though, they were unlikely to get an entry, forget popularity.

When thirsty, we were spoilt for choice. We scoured through the many glass bottles in the cupboards in the kitchen, or the ones chilling in the refrigerator. Mum, grandma, and aunt made sure that our home was stocked up, especially in the summer months beginning with May—the month that, in our home, was dedicated to liquid goodness.

My summer was defined by large sips, bigger gulps, taller glasses, and yes, “drink mustache” of different colors. The season started with Kaanji, the traditional drink made by fermenting black carrot in mustard water in the last leg of winter, giving way to wholesome, flavorsome choices for the summer.

On returning from school and dropping my heavy bag on the floor in my room, I’d head up to consume a tall, cold glass of Shikanji. Call it Nimbu Paani, and the drink, to date, retains the freshness of lemon, mint leaves, and rock salt. Call it Indian Lemonade, and somehow it loses its humble, homegrown charm. The sight of ice cubes floating in the glass and recharging me for the whole day ahead of playing, attending to homework, and more, is still as fresh as the lemon drops.

In close competition with Shikanji was—and still is—the ruby-colored summer drink, Rooh Afza, a name which translates to “soul refresher.” This easily-recognizable bottled drink dates back more than a century to 1906, and is as popular now as it was way back when it was formulated by Hakim Hafiz Abdul Majeed and launched in Old Delhi. At our home, we often debate over whether this concentrate, made of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and rose, tastes better when diluted with water or milk! And then someone suggests that we dilute it with water and freeze the cubes for the hotter days, and all debate ends there.

Just as refreshing was the soothing Aam Panna, made from the pulp of unripe mango, that mum served with a dash of mint leaves and jeera, the cumin seeds, when we returned home after cycling for hours in the summer vacation. Aam Panna’s combination of tanginess and sweetness, with a hint of black salt, was our go-to healthy drink to deal with loo, the gusty hot winds of the Indian summer. It was years later that I learned how good it was for building our immunity.

And how can one not mention the range of fruit shakes, from mango to banana. The reason we never refused a glass of milk was these yummy shakes. There was also always a bottle of Thandai made of almonds, milk, sugar, saffron, rose petals, and more. While I never developed a taste for it, it remains a popular summer drink and I recall it being served in khullads, the earthen clay cups, at restaurants.

When commercial drinks with synthetic ingredients, like Mazaa, Frooti, and Appy Fizz, were starting to gain popularity, in our home, they failed in comparison to Bel Ka Sharbat as the stone apple-based drink ruled the sunny days! Yet another drink was Nani’s Kharbuje Ke Beej Ka Sharbat, which, of course, no one ever believed was made of melon seeds! Such was the magic of their hands that a glass of Chhaachh, the buttermilk, was enough to calm the tired nerves and bring one good sleep.

Of course, today, our homes are packed with a variety of Cola, Tang, and even water—from sparking to sodium-free. But if you were to ask me what quenches the thirst, I’d say any beverage that wears the label: Made by mum, at home.

Purva Grover is an author, journalist, poet, playwright, and stage director. A postgraduate in mass communication and literature, she is the founder-editor of The Indian Trumpet, a digital magazine for Indian expats in the UAE. She can be reached at grover.purva@gmail.com. To comment on this article, please write to letters@khabar.com.

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