'Drunken' Memories

  • Alka Gurha
  • India
  • May 29, 2015

‘Bachpan ki yaadon ko phir se bahao, badi chatpati hain, inhen phir se pilao’, rasps lyricist Gulzar, nudging you to ‘taste’ your childhood memories. Of all the seductions of childhood, the most memorable are those associated with food and drink. What could be more decadent than imbibing a tall glass of lassi on a sweltering afternoon? In our childhood summers the answer to ‘What would you like to have?’ was a choice between Rooh Afza, Khas Sherbet, Aam Panna, Mango Shake, Cold Coffee or good old Nimbu Paani (without soda). And we were able to digest our food without the need to guzzle soda-based drinks with every meal. The 4pm drink after an afternoon siesta (following a gruelling day at school) was mostly Rooh Afza. We were woken up by the tinkling sound of a glass being stirred with a steel spoon. The sugar surge helped to lift one’s spirit, just in time for the evening homework. At times there was Bel Sherbet, considered a panacea for stomach ailments. There was a Bel tree in the backyard and my job was to break and scrape the shell, to prise out its sweet flesh. For special occasions there were the glass bottles of Campa Cola, Gold Spot and Limca, housed in wooden crates and stacked in the storeroom. But now when I look at a bottle of Rooh Afza, all I see is sugar, colour and empty calories – in fact that’s the ‘discovered truth’ for most sweet beverages, including fruit juices. Who knew then that our idea of an exotic drink was allegedly calcium draining, tooth staining and kidney straining? Moreover, with age, calories do begin to resemble those dreadful creatures that sew your clothes a little tighter every night. Thankfully, coconut water remains a timeless, ageless drink. Bottled water is set to overtake fizzy sodas to become the world’s favourite packaged drink. Life seems to be coming back full circle. A range of ethnic beverages - from Jamun Kala Khatta to Jaljeera - have created a buzz in the non-alcoholic drink segment. The alcoholic beverage matrix has also changed, especially in the Metros. With more than a dozen microbreweries booming in Gurgaon, locally brewed beer and sherbets, combined with liqueur, are a hit with the newly minted lot. Which is great, for beverages have evolved not merely to quench the thirst but to tantalise the taste buds, ease the stress and intoxicate the senses. As Hemingway said, ‘I drink to make other people interesting’. But children need none of these. The magic of childhood is that you don’t need any drink to make it interesting – its energy itself is so intoxicating. 

I would sneak out to eat fallen jamuns and then idiotically stick out my purple tongue for all to see. However, I can’t eat the damn things today – they seem too rough for my ‘developed’ taste.


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