27/05/2015 8:09 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Drinks And Memories

MANPREET ROMANA via Getty Images
Indian vendor sells cold drinks on the roadside in New Delhi on May 18, 2010, as temperatures in the Indian capital soared above 45 degree Celsius. A torrid heat wave buffeted northern India with mid-summer temperatures rising above 46 degrees celsius and the northern region of India continued to sizzle under severe heat wave conditions with 22 deaths reported due to the heat wave in some cities forcing resisents to scurry for shade to avoid the sun.AFP PHOTO/ Manpreet ROMANA (Photo credit should read MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images)

When lyricist Gulzar says, 'Bachpan Ki Yadon Ko Phir Se Bahao, Badi Chatpati Hai, Inhe Phir Se Pilao', his raspy voice nudges you to taste memories. Of all the seductions of childhood, the most memorable ones are associated with food and drinks. Like most, my drink memories are rooted in childhood. What drink, after all, could be more decadent than a tall glass of lassi on a sweltering afternoon?

In summer, the answer to, "What would you like to have?" wasn't a choice between chilled beer and wine. It was a choice between Rooh Afza, khas sherbet, aam panna, mango shake, cold coffee or good old nimbu paani - without soda. Funny, how we were able to digest stuff without the urge to guzzle soda-based drinks with every meal.

As kids, the 4 PM drink after an afternoon siesta was Rooh Afza. After a gruelling day at school, we usually woke up to the tinkling sound of the stirring of the glass with a steel spoon. Since it was also time for homework, the sugar surge helped in lifting the sagging spirits. But now when I see the bottle of Rooh Afza, all I see is sugar, colour and empty calories. But then, that's the thing with most sweet beverages, including fruit juice. Moreover, with age calories do begin to resemble those dreadful creatures that sew your clothes a little tighter every night. Which is why coconut water remains a timeless drink. Which is also why bottled water is set to overtake fizzy sodas to become the world's favourite packaged drink.

In the early eighties, glass bottles of Campa Cola, Gold Spot and Limca invaded our refrigerators. I remember wooden crates stacked in the store room, only to be served on special occasions. Who knew that a winky wonky baba was about to rubbish the precious beverages as toilet cleaners? Or that our idea of an exotic drink was allegedly calcium draining, tooth staining and kidney straining.

And then there was bel sherbet considered as a panacea for stomach ailments. Since there was a bael tree in the backyard and breaking the shell by dropping it on the ground was more fun than drinking the sherbet, my job was to break and scrape the shell for its sweet flesh.

As it happens, life comes back full circle. For those who are not alcohol friendly, a range of ethnic beverages have created a buzz in the non-alcoholic drink segment. From Jamun Kala Khatta to Jaljeera, the lost flavours nudged me to dive back in the memory pool. If I close my eyes and try to look back, I see myself sneaking out for fallen Jamuns and idiotically sticking out my purple tongue. However, I can't eat the damn thing today. Too rough for my taste.

The entire beverage matrix has changed in metros today. With more than a dozen booming micro breweries 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 and to tantalise the taste buds but also to ease stress and to intoxicate senses. As Hemingway said, "I drink to make other people interesting." But the magic of childhood lies in the fact that you don't need drinks to make life interesting - the intoxication of childhood is enough.

This post first appeared on Freebird.

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